The VRA and Pagan commitment to racial justice

Reading the dissenting statement from the Supreme Court Justices who opposed the dismantling of the VRA, Sec 4, this caught my attention:

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) has worked to combat voting discrimination where other remedies had been tried and failed. Particularly effective is the VRA’s requirement of federal preclearance for all changes to voting laws in the regions of the country with the most aggravated records of rank discrimination against minority voting rights. 

It is dangerous when prejudice is allowed a seat at the table, especially when a great deal of evidence suggests that the use of power to support prejudice is far from uncommon in this country. The removal of Sec 4 of the VRA shows us that the Supreme Court of this land, while opening the door toward greater equality for some, is still willing to leave others degraded and disenfranchised. The racism that created the need for the VRA is still visible overtly on a daily basis in society, and the attitudes that inform overt racism are also present in more subtle currents that permeate many unconscious or barely-conscious parts of peoples' attitudes, feelings, reactions, and actions. There is so much work yet to do to create racial equality, and the dismantling of the VRA feels like a huge, conscious, deliberate backward step. It is crucial that we do not allow this regression of justice to pass by unchallenged or to cause America to lose ground on this important Civil Rights issue.

Though in many cases I favor a more streamlined Federal government and more robust state and local governments to deal with unique geographic and regional concerns, I see the ideal role of a healthy Federal government as providing the baseline expectations and laws that uphold the dignity, equality, fundamental rights and access for all residents of all backgrounds. Since we are not all starting from the same level of institutional access, this necessitates giving extra protection to those populations within the country who have been systematically degraded or victimized at a profound level. This means acknowledging that a wrong was perpetrated upon them, analyzing the vulnerabilities it has left in their communities, making reparations of an equal or greater value to what damage was done, and providing further protection, correction, or accommodation, as needed. The VRA was designed to provide protection for vulnerable voters because, as the quote above suggests, state and local governments could not be trusted to do so. Now, it is up to "we, the people" to do so.

The dismantling of VRA protections opens the way to great potential abuse of state and local power. It allows for further possible institutionalization of overt and subtle racism by authorities representing and protecting the highest-paying or most privileged voices in any given landscape. This may end up leaving many voiceless. It represents the very real threat that the picture of racial politics and racial justice in our nation might slip backwards into a state more closely resembling the Civil War era than any of us cares to envision.

Racism has its roots in an untrue, unfair, illusory, ill-informed story that caucasian people have been collectively, blatantly, and insidiously telling ourselves as a means to justify our cruelty to people of color for a very long time, despite ample evidence that the story is wrong. As Pagans and Polytheists, many of us understand the power of myth and story to shape reality. It is our responsibility to each question our own stories about race, to discuss them, to peel them apart and investigate them, to critique them heavily, and to help write new stories of equality, dignity, reparation/rectification, and access for all the distinct races as well as the many diverse combinations of races we see growing in our population. This has the possibility of being an amazing magical wave of change, a gift of collective growth from our community to the nation, if we each choose to take it up with a full heart and willingness to really learn and grow, to refine ourselves, to commit to improvements for ourselves and for our future descendants who will still be working on this issue for many generations.

We have to be vigilant at the local level by keeping the pressure on our state and local governments to create fair, transparent, and ethical voting laws and procedures. Those of us who are not disenfranchised, who are able to vote, can listen carefully, research thoroughly, and vote in large, organized numbers without fail for local representatives who truly reflect the diversity of our communities. We can actively build local governments and lobbying/support organizations that seek to uphold the greatest good of all, not just some. Most importantly, we must remain committed to keeping the subject active and awake in our thoughts, words, and actions. We cannot turn away when we see something prejudicial happening, either within our own inculturated minds via hatred toward self and others (hatred of others IS self-hatred, in that allowing hate and ignorance to thrive where knowledge and care would be better is a form of self-harm), or in the wider world on the institutional level. All of these things require attention and effort, so we MUST be focused and very committed to the truth that equality is going to be the only workable means from this point on. We must call out anyone, especially those in power, who stand in the way of equality for all, and we must call them on each infraction, with diligence. This is especially important in the geographic areas where racism is already known to be rampant among those in power. 

There is more we will be able to do as we see the longer-ranging effects of this decision...if we choose not to look away. May we choose to walk with integrity, individually and collectively in the Pagan and Polytheist communities, about matters of racial justice. May we see a firm and ongoing commitment to racial justice (as well as sexual justice, gender justice, and economic justice) established at all levels of society, in these bodies, in these 
lifetimes. May we be the change.