Friday, June 28, 2013

Don't Let the Distractions Fool You (Paula Deen, Rachel Jeantel and the Voting Rights Act)

If there's anything I gained from seeing all the news this week, it's a reminder that we're surrounded by a lot of distractions and not enough direction to focus on what matters.

Case in point, Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court Tuesday. Section 4 says that certain jurisdictions in nine states have to get federal approval on changing voting conditions suggested in Section 5.

So in other words, the Court decided 5-4 that now all states have the right to change up their voting practices without asking for federal approval because we've made so much progress since 1965 and those provisions are irrelevant, according to Chief Justice John Roberts.

That was the words of Chief Justice John Roberts. As shortsighted as that was, it was nice compared to Justice Clarence Thomas saying he would've eliminated Section 5 as well.

But the dominant conversation isn't about the impact of this or how states are already trying to take advantage. No, we're talking about Paula Deen's racist words and Rachel Jeantel's appearance on the witness stand in the Trayvon Martin case.

I don't care about what Paula Deen said. She's said nigger a few times. We already know how bad that is and if you don't know why she's lost her endorsements, go ask Michael Richards if people still see him as Kramer or the guy who said nigger at the Laugh Factory five years ago.

She's on her media tour her trying to explain herself and the sympathy card from the backlash. She lost her sponsorships, lost money and has nobody to blame but herself. It's simple. The rest is all emotion and people playing their respective roles in this drama.

Discussing her more means not discussing the impact of the Voting Rights Act being tampered with. If you remember 2000, 2004, seen this movie or watched the shenanigans last year with voter ID laws, you know how important the right to ensure fair voting practices is.

Congress now has to reconstruct the Act but already we're seeing states take advantage of it. That's more important some celebrity chef trying to save her backside.

As for Rachel Jeantel, the last person to hear Trayvon Martin's voice on a phone, she's had to testify to what she heard that night and relive the painful memory of losing her friend.

Unfortunately, some of the reaction I saw was of scorn. They mocked her attitude, appearance, accent and even track star Lolo Jones joined in the foolishness. People are evaluating her personality, not her testimony

The defense attorney brought up her tweets, whether or not she and Trayvon were dating, along with evaluating the validity of some of her statements. That's the nature of famous trials - witnesses become "stars" and pseudo celebrities. But rarely does a teenager fit that role.

Jeantel is 19 and was visibly uncomfortable doing something she probably didn't expect. I've seen articles discuss the uproar to put people in their place from shaming her. It's appropriate but you know what we're not talking about? What she actually said that was relevant to the case. Or that the prosecution poorly prepared her and that's their fault, not hers.

The defense attorney has done his job. He's got people focusing on the peripheral instead of what she said about George Zimmerman chasing Trayvon down. And folks fell for it hook, line and sinker.

Don't forget what's at stake here - not just the credibility of a witness but justice for a kid who was pursued and killed by somebody who was told to stand down. If we lose sight of that, we fail Trayvon and his family by falling for the okey doke.

In this era, we should be aware of when the distractions are coming since they occur more and more. Especially in important matters. What's more important? Paula Deen crying for sympathy or the Supreme Court ignoring the can of worms that could come up from their decision. Rachel Jeantal's youth or her words that could help or hurt George Zimmerman's trial.

It's easy to be distracted. It's harder to see them coming and avoid them for what really matters.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. The voting rights act is provided for under section 5 of the 14th amendment.

    "Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article."

    The appropriateness of legislation is determined by the Supreme Court. Section 4 carried a series of bailout clauses that were requirements to get off the list.

    No test or device has been used within the jurisdiction for the purpose or with the effect of voting discrimination;
    All changes affecting voting have been reviewed under Section 5 prior to their implementation;
    No change affecting voting has been the subject of an objection by the Attorney General or the denial of a Section 5 declaratory judgment from the District of Columbia district court;
    There have been no adverse judgments in lawsuits alleging voting discrimination;
    There have been no consent decrees or agreements that resulted in the abandonment of a discriminatory voting practice;
    There are no pending lawsuits that allege voting discrimination; and
    Federal examiners have not been assigned;
    There have been no violations of the Constitution or federal, state or local laws with respect to voting discrimination unless the jurisdiction establishes that any such violations were trivial, were promptly corrected, and were not repeated.

    This is the kicker:
    "There are no pending lawsuits that allege voting discrimination".

    Mckinney sued the state of Georgia because they had an open primary, and she argues that she lost the election because republicans were allowed to vote in the democratic party primary, thereby tipping the primary. She attempted to use the voting rights act as a vehicle to argue against a legitimate practice guaranteed to states under the 10th amendment. There is no constitutional requirement for states to give special restrictions on voting based on political party. Political parties are not even discussed in the Constitution.

    The voting rights act, especially section 4, places unconstitutional restrictions on states by mandating that they cannot be free from federal oversight if a case has been brought against them. Under a federation, the central government cannot dictate to states how they ought to conduct their elections, so long as they uphold the constitutional requirements, such as the 14th amendment.

    There is no way to determine if open primaries, or other legal practices will result in societal discrimination. However, cases can be brought to the courts, and these cases can prevent states from being bailed out from section 5. If there is no meaningful way to get out of section 5, and a perpetual state of federal oversight can be propagated by endless law suits, then states could be bound to it indefinitely. That is a fundamental violation of the 10th amendment.