Colorblind Injustice: Minority Voting Rights and the Undoing of the Second Reconstruction

Colorblind Injustice: Minority Voting Rights and the Undoing of the Second Reconstruction

Colorblind Injustice: Minority Voting Rights and the Undoing of the Second Reconstruction

Colorblind Injustice: Minority Voting Rights and the Undoing of the Second Reconstruction

Synopsis

Challenging trends in Supreme Court decisions on civil rights, the author of this book criticizes the Court's postmodern equal protection and seeks to demonstrate that legislative and judicial history still matter for public policy.

Excerpt

I nstitutions and institutional rules -- not customs, ideas, attitudes, culture, or private behavior -- have primarily shaped race relations in America. The most important and longest lasting influence, of course, has been that of the "peculiar institution," slavery -- conditioned by law, sustained by law, and, after being devastated by war, finally dispatched and interred by law. More than a generation after slavery's end, segregation and disfranchisement, which maintained white supremacy and largely excluded African-Americans and Latinos from white society and politics, were accomplished or solidified by law (see, e.g., Woodward 1974; Kousser 1974). But other institutions and rules have also had profound impacts on the struggles for and against racial equality: the Constitution, the methods for aggregating votes into legislative seats, the structure and internal organization of political bodies, the regulations issued by the executive branch of government, the actions of political parties, and the pronouncements of the judiciary. The effects of these institutions on minorities have been most favorable when instants of transformation were followed by long periods of gradual change. While liberty may arrive or depart in a moment, equality requires not only eternal vigilance but also consensus and incremental improvement. Institutional stability -- with the right kind of institutions -- is a prerequisite for minority success. Knowing that their numbers will ultimately preserve them, large groups in a democracy can accept fluctuations in political outcomes and rules. Smaller, more isolated minorities, however, need protective institutions, which cannot be rapidly rebuilt if they are destroyed. Marx was wrong. The poor have much more to lose than their chains. Only the powerful can afford to be radical for long.

This book, which grew out of papers originally produced as part of the struggle to protect minority voting rights, examines distant and recent his-

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