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Opinion: Supreme Court exposes South’s lingering issues

Kevin Griffin

Kevin GriffinNo matter how far away the South moves from the days of segregation and extensively institutionalized racism, that dark period still continues to dog this part of the country.

A case going before the Supreme Court this week provides a reminder of the still relevant nature of these issues. The Supreme Court began hearing the case Shelby County v. Holder on Thursday concerning the Voting Rights Act of 1965, according to The New York Times.

The legal issue for Shelby County, Ala., is its belief that the 2006 Congressional reauthorization of Section 5 of the act, the notorious “preclearance” section that requires districts – mostly in the South – to check changes to election laws by the Department of Justice to ensure that civil rights are not violated.

This case combines the history of racism with another perennial issue in Southern consciousness: the issue of states’ rights.

In the Writ of Certiorari for the case, the court mentions considering the possibility that Congress “exceeded its authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and thus violated the Tenth Amendment and Article IV of the United States Constitution.”

The key here is the Tenth Amendment, which states that those powers not held by the federal government are reserved by the states. It is a favorite of states’ righters who insist it strictly limits the federal government.

However, past Supreme Court cases have made clear in the past that the amendment does not exempt states from many sorts of government regulation.

Just as important as the legal question is the social question.

Much of Southern history involves a contradictory notion of fearing limits to independence while simultaneously repressing others.

This tendency has given rise to a number of faulty arguments about freedom and government, the worst of which is the claim that federal involvement in matters is oppressive or tyrannical.

Especially in the area of civil rights, the federal government has done a great deal to correct the times when black individuals were abused and repressed without legal recourse.

The idea that the federal government is the sole source of tyranny is misguided.

It is sad that we still have these regulations, and I would certainly like to see the laws change as times change, but it is clear that some standards must exist.

Griffin, a freshman journalism major from Madison, is the opinion editor.

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