In her first major policy speech since leaving her position as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton passionately defended the Voting Rights Act by denouncing the "deep flaws in [the] electoral system" the other week. She urged lawmakers at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting to recognize that a number of the 80 bills introduced to restrict voting rights this year alone present an underlying subtext of discrimination. Millions of young voters, Latinos, and African Americans are likely to be affected by the “sweeping effort to construct new obstacles to voting,” which is often addressed under the “phantom epidemic of ‘election fraud,’” Clinton said.
It should be no surprise that her remarks became a top story on the evening news. Her words were bold, shocking, and in tune with a controversial issue. However, news anchors and commentators criticized her for being too vocal this early in her quest for the presidency, instead of focusing on her core message. Strategists from the left are afraid her strong rhetoric and added publicity will lower her high approval ratings in the long run. Those on the right suggest her comments were an attempt to appeal to minorities groups whose votes the Democratic Party relies on. Yet, neither side was able to acknowledge the problem she wanted lawmakers to take away from her speech — that racial discrimination is embedded within legislation in this country today.
This includes the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Brignoni-Ponce. In 1975, the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional for police to stop a suspicious driver who seemed to be of Mexican descent. Even though appearance cannot be the driving factor to conduct a traffic stop, the Court justified it as a relevant factor stating, "The likelihood that a given person of Mexican ancestry is an alien is high enough." The legacy of the ruling allows states to draft tough immigration laws that inevitably target those whom are preconceived as illegals.
While Congressmen and women from both sides have raised their voices against such laws, as well as discriminatory practices, it is still an issue that is greatly overshadowed.
Many will argue that in order to protect a majority of people or secure a more democratic process, a minority will inevitably have to deal with subsequent consequences. Being content with this assertion will not lead America to become a more perfect union in the future. A reason why such laws continue to be implemented is because politicians are hesitant to comment on race.
Even though President Obama’s election was a historical feat for minorities, the administration has not made it a top priority to tackle racial injustice. The president’s greatest attempt to address discrimination was after the Zimmerman ruling, in which he called for a reexamination of "stand your ground" laws and offered hopeful remarks for future generations.
Yet, relying on the next generation of politicians to have a lesser tendency to suppress minorities is not enough, nor fair to say. More political leaders are needed to vocally address racial injustice. With more public attention and less media scrutiny on the politician saying it, people can continue to account for change with activism. Needless to say, citizens can elect a new representative who rejects supporting racially based laws in the following election, but it is less likely to happen unless the public hears the "real life impacts of race-based law" from their leaders more often.
In her dissent of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Shelby v. Holder, Justice Ginsburg said, "Throwing out preclearance when it has worked is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet." Her words ring true to the call to action necessary today for the continual need to reexamine laws that hinder a majority of American people.