Relatedly, a view from Mississippi, that racially egalitarian paradise:
“I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I think McComb would be all right,” he said, contemplating the prospect of Section 5’s demise. But the law is still essential, he said, saying, “There are other places around here,” before deciding to remain discreet about where those places may be.
“I’ll tell you if he won’t,” said Johnny McCray, 37, overhearing the conversation from his haircutting station. “Amite County and Tylertown.”
Amite County, which is spoken of in similar chilled tones by black residents in McComb, sits next door.
Redistricting and poll watchers have such a history in Amite County that the older white men sitting around at the drugstore in the county seat, Liberty, can swap their favorite election stories, many of which tend to have punch lines showing federal involvement as misguided and ineffectual.
The Justice Department is not amused. As recently as 2011, it struck down the county’s redistricting map, charging that county leaders had decreased the number of black voters in one district in favor of another, while fully knowing that black turnout in the latter district had historically been very low.
The district belongs to Max Lawson, a 60-year-old rancher. Sitting in his sun-filled kitchen, Mr. Lawson, who voted against the proposed map along with the one black county supervisor, began to detail his objections to federal intervention, which mostly involved the fact that roads he arranged to have paved were now in another district. On the question of race and the need for voting controls, he seemed puzzled.
“That was generations ago,” said Mr. Lawson, adding that many of his supporters are black. “It wasn’t us.”
Percy Pittman, who as a teenager spent nights keeping an armed vigil at his church to guard against firebombers, differed in his recollection of just how far away the bad times were. But he expressed similar sentiments.
“I don’t want stay angry because of something that happened a long time ago,” said Mr. Pittman, for nearly two decades the Pike County coroner and for now the sole black countywide elected official. “I don’t even allow my children to watch ‘Roots.’ ”
Now 65, Mr. Pittman, believes that people in McComb, the largest city in Pike County, think in terms of personality rather than skin color. That is, he clarified, most of them do.
Asked what he thought about people’s claims that racially motivated politics were completely a thing of the past in the South, Mr. Pittman hesitated for a moment.
“I think they’re full of it,” he said.
And don’t kid yourself, without the federal government and its meddling “racial entitlements,” Mississippi wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.
In fairness, the Scalia/Roberts states’ rights reading of the 15th Amendment does have precedent. White supremacist 19th century precedent, but precedent.
…I also can’t resist quoting this, from bmaz’s follow-up to his argument that arguing that sexual orientation should be subject to heightened scrutiny is — unlike a decision striking down the PPACA that would effectively overrule McCullouch v. Maryland — a “states’ rights” argument: “Honestly, with the tide of momentum headed in the direction it is, I am less and less convinced John Roberts wants to be on the wrong side of civil rights history either.” Sure, that’s plausible, if you missed Wednesday’s oral arguments, Parents Involved, etc. etc. Hell, maybe Sam Alito doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of history either — Stuart Taylor swears that he’s a moderate!