Response to United States Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Decision by Long-Time Civil Rights Activist, Dr. John Salter

The late Aaron Henry, longtime Mississippi Voting  Rights and Civil Rights Activist speaks before a group at the University of Mississippi.(UM Photo)

Dr. John Salter, aka Hunter Grey, who is a Civil Rights Veteran and Sociologist, was asked for his opinion on the recent Supremem Court decision over Voting Rights. Here’s his response:
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It’s trite to say that the USSC decision on the Voting Rights Act was extremely regrettable (to put it mildly.)  To anyone even reasonably “in the know,” that is obvious.  “Pre-clearance”via the U.S. Justice Department of electoral policy by states and counties with a long history of voter discrimination has been, and is, absolutely essential.

Plenty of civil rights victories were won in places like Dixie before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of ’64 and the Voting Rights Act of ’65 — but that legislation has been of tremendous value in the on-going struggle for social justice.

It’s true that, in the last half century, much has changed in those jurisdictions covered by the Act.  African American voter registration and political participation are very widespread — and the same holds true in those settings where historically the Native population and often Chicanos have had much difficulty.  But, under the surface, there’s still plenty of shrewd and self-serving use of racism. And this is definitely true of economic pressures against low-income people. Economic poverty and marginality are obviously endemic in Dixie and in many other parts of the United States.  Capitalism in its various manifestations still rides high.

And let’s be broadly honest: human politics, anywhere and in any time, are often noted for chicanery — frequently very creative in nature.
Personally, I don’t look for the sky to fall — pervasively.  And I really don’t see Klansmen as such sprouting up like corn in Iowa. There will be the increased presence and nefarious activities of “sheet-less” entities, many pretending to be functioning “under color of law.”  But, and even with the full Act in force, there were still plenty of voting rights issues and now there will certainly be more — ranging from serious mischief to outright Machiavellianism. Literacy tests and interpretations of the state constitutions are out.  But there will be issues ranging from “voter qualifications” to racial gerrymandering / re-districting and more. 
“Minority” people and communities in the “dark” corners of the South and some other places — the “out of the public eye” locations — will now be at increased and special risk.
And the burden of securing redress will now rest mainly on the victims.   There are, usually costly money-wise for individuals and ‘rights organizations, legal remedies in the Federal courts.  In some instances, the Justice Department can likely still be maneuvered into providing assistance. While an appropriate Constitutional Amendment would be difficult to effect, it’s possible that, at a future point, Congress will do an effective “fix.” 
But it’s a certainty that increased grassroots organization and mobilization and vigilance, if always important, are now absolutely critical.
Hunter Bear

St. Francis Abenaki / St. Regis Mohawk
Member, National Writers Union AFL-CIO
(much social justice material)
See the new expanded/updated “Organizer’s Book,”
JACKSON MISSISSIPPI — with a new substantial
introduction by me. This book is a full, very detailed
discussion of the rise and development of the Jackson
Movement of 1962-63 — external life and internal dynamics.
And this book is also an organizer’s how-to manual.  
And see the related
 (“Militant and Radical Organizer”: — and also “Fifty Years:
Remembering Medgar Evers”)

See the Stormy Adoption of an Indian Child [My Father]:
(Many photos.)
Our very large page on Community Organizing: