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Basics on the Voting Rights Act

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: August 7, 2005
Latest Update: August 7, 2005

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Index of Topics on Site Discrimination:
The Voting Rights Act of 1965

This piece was triggered by the March in Georgia on August 6, 2005, led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Thousands marched to pressure Congress to extend the anti-discrimination protections of the act. The march was designed to draw attention on the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act to the need for continuing vigilance and protection in guarding the rights of all Americans to vote. ">In Georgia, Thousands March in Support of Voting Rights. By Shaila Dewan, New York Times, Sunday, August 7, National News, at p. A 16. (NYTimes URL for article)

Steps to Understanding

Now, suppose you really didn't know much about the Voting Rights Act. Most of us don't. How do you use Dear Habermas to bring you up to speed as a citizen? Remember that as a voter you are complicit if you pay no attention to legislation that harms Others and just let the government do what it likes. This is your government. Accountability demands that you keep yourself responsibly aware.

  • First, check the concepts that are defined for the topic. (That's a hot link under concepts. Just click and your screen will jump to the concepts. Use the Back key of your browser to come back to where you were on this essay.)

  • Then browse the article that prompted the piece. (In this case, Backup for In Georgia, Thousands March in Support of Voting Rights or NYTimes URL for articleSometimes I write these essays months before we use them in class, and the NY Times version is no longer available free. The backup allows me to comment within the article for teaching purposes, and preserves the article for future teaching reference.

  • Finally, use the instigating article to find language that will pull up any additional information you need or want on the Internet. For example, the article mentions the support of Nancy Pelosi:
    "We must be sure that every vote that is cast is a vote that's counted," said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader.

    This line suggests that Nancy Pelosi may be a good source in support of the Voting Rights Act. Run a Google or any other search you prefer for "Nancy Pelosi" and "Voting Rights Act".

  • Always remember that if you are using this material for academic purposes that you should search beyond a newspaper article itself. Usually the article will give you clues as to how you could do that, as we've just illustrated. It is not academically acceptable to rely on newspaper accounts alone for information to be used in general scholarly work.

Concepts to Review or Grasp

  • answerability - Based on Bakhtin's concept of answerability - that the Other has feelings like us and is able to express those feelings, a human characteristic. Thus, when we speak to the Other, the Other answers our communication in some way. He may vomit, run in fear, shout in anger, or present an opposing validity claim, according to the sophistication and talent of his own skills and learning. (Jonathan Lear, Love and Its Place in the World) But it is the human gift to "answer" that which interacts with you. Especially in the global world of today, we can no longer pretend the Other has no answer by oppressing or silencing the Other.

    Justice as fairness requires that we listen to the validity claims voiced by the Other in good faith. If we are more sophisticated or practiced or skilled in some area in which the Other is not, for whatever reason, it is then incumbent upon us to use our own skills to aid in the expression of the validity claim the Other is trying to make. Only when all who are members of our community are permitted to voice their validty claims in good faith can we meet the demands for governance discourse in a democracy.

    Bakhtin is said to have asked himself "What shall I say when I know the Other can answer?" That is a very different approach from "What shall I say to persuade the Other?" Good faith in answerability does not mean that you agree with the Other, only that you recognize the importance of a good faith attempt to understand the Other's validity claim to democratic governance.

  • accountability - accountability involves holding someone responsible for their actions that result in harm to others. Unfortunately our criminal justice system thinks largely in terms of retribution and punishment. But complicity in failing to maintain accountability to the Other is endemic to many levels of our society. We will talk of finding other more effective means of accountability.

  • complicity - complicity is responsibility for results in some measure. Maybe we didn't do anything wrong to hurt the U.S. worker. Maybe we even supported the workers' rights. But if we fail to keep a reasonable awareness of how and when the worker and the poor are being hurt by our present government strategies and laws, then we are complicit in some measure for the resulting distress and poverty amongst those who have been harmed by those strategies and laws. Health care, aid to dependent children, education in reasoned and ethical thought are all harms that affect us as a society. Wringing our hands in distress or blaming Bush, or blaming the religious right, or blaming the unreasonable liberals does not excuse us from a responsibility for finding workable solutions to these social issues.

  • justice as fairness - Justice as fairness - john Rawls, Harvard philosopher

  • The Voting Rights Act of 1965 - The Voting Rights Act of 1965 United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Voting Section, Introduction To Federal Voting Rights Laws.

  • Supportive Views - Search under Nancy Pelosi and under the Rev. Jesse Jackson

    Nancy Pelosi Press Release
    The Voting Rights Act's 40th Anniversary The Democratic Party
    Roberts was part of legal team eager to shift course of civil rights law.

  • Opposing Views - Search under "opposed to voting rights act"

    Roberts Helped to Shape 80's Civil Rights Debate By ROBIN TONER and JONATHAN D. GLATER, New York Times. Published: August 4, 2005

Conceptual Linking to Discussions and Theory

  • answerability - The Voting Rights Act of 1965 attempted to guarantee that widespread and racially motivated refusal to count votes cast (as occurred in the 2000 Presidential Election in the U.S. in the State of Florida) could not occur. Supporters of the stregthening and renewal of that Act believe that such discrimination still occurs in the U.S. and that it must be stopped for the sake of democratic governance.

    How would Lear, Buscaglia, Fellman, Loeb, . . . link love, the helping professions, governance discussions, and statistical understanding to the Voting Rights Act concerns? I'll put up notes on this soon. jeanne

    If a given group of blacks are prevented from voting by voting lists inaccurately eliminating felons, has their been discrimination. Is that discrimination racially based? What does your conclusion mean in terms of blacks right to be heard? What does that mean for answerability? for democratic governance?

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