On her Sunday morning programming live from the Essence Festival in New Orleans, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, the namesake of her show, entertained a panel of African-American leaders to discuss several contemporary issues including the recent 5-4 decision handed down by the Supreme Court that declared Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional because it used, to quote Chief Justice Roberts, “a formula based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relation to the present day.” Harris-Perry scoffed at Roberts’ decision and claimed that this decision caused the advent of a “third reconstruction” in America. [Link to the audio here]
Clearly, this is a ridiculous comparison. The current social climate and culture of our country does not even hold a candle to the kind of suppression of rights that took place during Reconstruction or even during the civil rights movement, or so-called Second Reconstruction.
During these two periods, there was rampant activity by extreme white supremacist groups to try to prevent both blacks and whites from voting if they did not hold the same views. In fact, several presidents had to use military force to try to protect voters from the intimidation tactics of these groups. Even, Shirley Sherrod described that she was physically barred from voting in 1965 by a county sheriff. Nothing even remotely close to that type of obstruction of freedoms currently takes place or will take place despite Marc Morial’s claim that “this decision by the Supreme Court, make no mistake about it, will cause the South to retrogress.”
In the panel’s commentary, they made the Supreme Court’s decision seem like it stripped minority voters of the right to vote altogether when in fact it left most of the most protective sections of the act intact. It is not like the states can now just make any law they want to in order to suppress voting without repercussions. If a citizen or group believes that a law has been passed that infringes on their right to vote based on race or any other prejudice, they can sue that the law be removed in federal court. All the decision did was force Congress to reconsider how the states or counties are selected for further scrutiny of voting laws instead using outdated statistics on minority voting turnout.
In addition to the ridiculous comparison of the present day to Reconstruction, MSNBC demonstrated its strong liberal leanings through its selection of its discussion panel. Every one of the panelists were extremely liberal which provided no balanced coverage to the issue that was being discussed. In fact, instead of being a discussion of a controversial issue, it merely regressed into a concert of concurring opinions trying to be passed as factual news.
For reference the transcript of the context of the Harris-Perry comment is provided below:
July 07, 2013
10:10 a.m. Eastern
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: I've been feeling very much like that post-civil rights generation in my
wringing of my hands saying, it's so bad, and my dad keeps saying to me, you think the 113th congress is bad, you should have seen what we faced. I guess part of what I'm asking of you, Ms. Sherrod, how do we at this moment now say, this is bad but not the worst that we've ever faced?
SHIRLEY SHERROD: Well, I can tell you back when I went to register to vote in 1965 just before the voting rights act passed, I went to the courthouse and the sheriff literally pushed me and others back out of the courthouse. I couldn't register the first time I tried. I could only register after the voting rights act passed. Now, I feel like we've gone back. In my home county, baker, where I first went to register to vote, they are closing, since this, since the Supreme Court ruled, they have decided to close all but one polling place. That means that…
SHERROD: The attorney for the county told them, you can do anything you want to now. There's no oversight by the federal government. So can you imagine people in the rural area having to drive 15 and 20 miles to vote? They won't do it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yep of course, that point is such an important one. It's about this third reconstruction in which we find ourselves.