With the Supreme Court expected to strike down a key piece of the Voting Rights Act later this year, now is a crucial moment for discussing Section 5's inarguable successes both in terms of civil rights and in improving the economic lives of Southern blacks.
Gavin Wright, a professor of American economic history at Stanford, has spent his career studying the economics of slavery, segregation, and the historical Southern economy. His recent book, Sharing the Prize, documents the economic impact that the civil rights acts of the mid-1960s had on Southerners, black and white.
The following column accompanies a special report in the July-August issue, taking stock of America's progress in fighting poverty on the 50th anniversary of Michael Harrington's The Other America."Ever since the 1960s, many of us have measured progress by how far America has gone in fulfilling the ideals of that era: guaranteeing equal rights, preventing unjust wars, safeguarding the earth, ending poverty.
Yesterday, Republican Senate candidate from Kentucky Rand Paultold NPR's Robert Siegel that he was opposed to the 1964 Civil Rights Act provisions that outlawed discrimination in businesses "of public accommodation." Rand also said, however, that he would have marched with Martin Luther King, Jr.:
What I’ve always said is that I’m opposed to institutional racism, and I would’ve, had I’ve been alive at the time, I think, had the courage to march with Martin Luther King to overturn institutional racism, and I see no place in our society for institutional racism.
A rising number of states are asserting their authority over that of the federal government, making states' rights or nullification arguments in anticipation of policies like increased gun control from the Obama administration, even though there’s no evidence stricter gun policies are coming. There’s also anticipated resistance to health-care reform, though the legislation will likely allow states to opt-out if they want to. According to TheNew York Times:
This slipped under my radar, but David Kaufman at HuffPo has a stinging diatribe against Andrew Sullivan for suggesting that the fight for marriage rights is equivalent to the Civil Rights Movement. Part of me agrees that it's somewhat problematic that the "separate but equal" analogy has become a gay-rights orthodoxy. I have argued vigorously that the marriage issue does not compare in scale to segregation, where blacks were barred from attending certain schools, restaurants, etc. -- not just the institution of marriage.