"Character, not circumstance, makes the person." -- Booker T. Washington
The Supreme Court's narrow 5-4 decision to strike down a central component of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, "freeing nine states, mostly in the South," writes The New York Times, "to change their election laws without advance federal approval," is a welcome recognition that times have changed and that especially Southern states must not forever bear a "mark of Cain" for past discrimination against racial minorities.
The Washington Post, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) accused the Court of plunging "a dagger into the heart of the Voting Rights Act." It's more like removing a dagger from the back of nine states and numerous counties, including Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan.
The conservative Project 21 black leadership network, which was largely ignored by the media, had a different reaction. It maintains, "increased fairness" had accompanied "evolving racial opinions of the American people" and thus the Voting Rights Act, as written, is no longer necessary.
Cherylyn Harley LeBon, a former senior counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, said, "This ruling recognizes that people can change, that America has changed and that a law that presupposes guilt must be reformed to reflect the beauty of human nature."
Curt Levey, president of the Committee for Justice, said the law was a form of "geographic profiling" and was based on "outdated stereotypes."
The New York Times reports, "The decision had immediate practical consequences. Texas announced shortly after the decision that a voter identification law that had been blocked would go into effect immediately, and that redistricting maps there would no longer need federal approval."
Unlike in 1965, today there are numerous anti-discrimination laws on the books. If someone can prove they were denied the right to vote based on race, legal remedies can be pursued. Selma today, is not the Selma of 48 years ago. America has changed.
In another decision involving race, the Court "punted" on an affirmative action case, ordering lower courts to re-examine whether race-based admission policies at the University of Texas violate the rights of white applicants. Abigail Fisher, who is white, sued the university when she was denied admission in 2008. She believed the denial was based on race. The University of Texas argued its policies are designed to achieve greater "diversity." ABC reports, "The justices ruled that the lower court should have required the university to prove that its program was narrowly tailored enough to produce the diversity objectives it was designed to achieve. They said 'race-neutral' options must be unworkable for race-based affirmative-action policies to stand."
The subtle bigotry in all of this is the attitude by too many liberals that racial minorities are in constant need of government help in order to achieve anything. The fact that the "war on poverty" was lost long ago has been lost on those who seem frozen in time. That many born into difficult circumstances have overcome by hard work, avoiding teen pregnancy and not committing criminal acts never seems to be looked on as a lesson for others, but rather as an anomaly.
One element of the Supreme Court's ruling on the Voting Rights Act offers some hope when it comes to an equally outdated and wrong decision -- abortion. If the Court recognizes the need for updating the Voting Rights Act, shouldn't Roe v. Wade be re-examined? In light of medical advances that have made it possible for a child to survive outside the womb at much earlier stages, sonograms, born-alive legislation to protect babies who survive abortions and informed consent laws requiring full disclosure of abortion alternatives, should we really hold on to a ruling based on a 40-year-old legal case?
If the Court sees at least one of its past decisions in need of updating in light of progress on civil rights, shouldn't the greatest civil right of all -- the right to life -- be re-visited?
(Readers may e-mail Cal Thomas at email@example.com.)