February 14, 2014
In a speech at Georgetown University, Mr. Holder described today’s prohibitions — which in some cases bar those convicted from voting for life — as a vestige of the racist policies of the South after the Civil War, when states used the criminal justice system to keep blacks from fully participating in society.
“Those swept up in this system too often had their rights rescinded, their dignity diminished, and the full measure of their citizenship revoked for the rest of their lives,” Mr. Holder said. “They could not vote.”
Mr. Holder has no authority to enact the changes he called for, given that states establish the rules under which people can vote. And state Republican leaders made clear that Mr. Holder’s remarks, made to a receptive audience at a civil rights conference, would not move them.
“Eric Holder’s speech from Washington, D.C., has no effect on Florida’s Constitution, which prescribes that individuals who commit felonies forfeit their right to vote,” said Frank Collins, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican.
The speech by Mr. Holder reflects his role as the president’s leading voice on civil rights issues. Mr. Obama has spoken only sporadically about race during his presidency, approaching the subject gingerly.
But Mr. Holder has made racial inequities a consistent theme, and in recent months he has made it clear he sees criminal justice and civil rights as inescapably joined.
He has sued Texas and North Carolina to overturn voter-identification laws that studies show are more likely to keep minorities and the poor from voting. He is pushing Congress to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. And he has encouraged low-level drug criminals sentenced during the crack epidemic to apply for clemency.
“On all the issues that he’s framed, he’s put these two themes together and he sees them very much as intertwined,” said Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a research group that favors more liberal sentencing policies. “The criminal justice system is the civil rights issue of the 21st century. He hasn’t used those words, but that’s what I hear when I listen to him.”
Mr. Mauer said Mr. Holder was the first attorney general to advocate repealing voting bans. The Justice Department said it knew of no other attorney general who did so.
So, is this an admission that black people tend to be criminals? It appears so. What’s more, it is a claim that the individuals that commit these criminal acts are not responsible for them, and that any attempts to hold them responsible are due to a vague hatred of them due to “the color of their skin.”
It is really unbelievable. How empowering it must be to not be able to blush.