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Civil rights era voting laws evolve

Laws that where passed during the civil rights movement are now being reviewed by the Supreme Court, because some officials have argued these laws are outdated and not applicable to today’s time.

One of the laws that the Supreme Court reviewed back in July of 2013 was the 1965 Voting Rights Act. According to the Huffington Post, the court declared Section 4 of the law outdated. Section 4 states that parts of the country with a history of “minority voter suppression” must clear their voting regulations with the federal government.

This was the center point of the entire Voting Rights Act. It prevented southern states from creating unfair thresholds, like poll taxes, that would target and prevent the minorities from voting. These states had to have all of their voting requirements approved by the federal government.

President Obama during January’s State of the Union expressed his desire for the Supreme Court to retract their decision.

“We can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American,” Obama said.

This means that laws that made it difficult for minorities to vote can be reestablished. States such as Mississippi and Texas, which were required under the Voting Rights Act to have their regulations cleared by the federal government, are now requiring people to have a government issued photo ID to vote- a law that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was blocking, according to Huffington Post.

The question that is circulating as to why the Supreme Court is second guessing this law: Is racism still such a problem in this country that we need laws to protect certain citizens? Is racism still an issue for us living in the 21st century?

“Our country has changed. While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure the legislation it passes speaks to current conditions,” said Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. about the Supreme Court decision, according to Washington Post.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg expressed her disagreement with her colleagues from the bench, by reciting the words of Martin Luther King Jr. On that day the public and justice had been “disserved” by the decision, Ginsberg said.

Gary Oliver, a resident of Mississippi in 1967-1968 during the Civil Rights Movement in his early 20s, said he believes racism sadly still exists.

“Racism is definitely still alive today,” said Oliver, “Whenever you bring different people together you will experience some form of racism.”

He was a part of a gospel team that shared the message of Christ to black elementary schools and high schools. Oliver worked with civil rights activist John Perkins during his time in Mississippi.

“In ’67 as in ’68, we were followed by the KKK and a number of times we would have to spend the night 40 and 50 miles away from where we going to be speaking,” Oliver said.

“We were aware of the danger that would be there because we had received threats, but it just seemed like the right thing to do. And while we were there we were embraced by the black community.”

Oliver recalled watching first-hand as the tension escalated in the area where he lived.

“In ’68 we went down there again, and while we were there, Martin Luther King had been shot,” Oliver remembered. “The day after his death, John Perkins took us behind the barricades in Jackson, Miss. where we were the only white folks there. He took us to Charles Evers’ office, the brother of Medgar Evers, and he was on the phone with LBJ. Johnson was calling all the black leaders and encouraging them not to riot.”

Medgar Evers was a civil rights activist and a field secretary for the NAACP when he was shot to death in the driveway of his home in Jackson, Miss. on the night of June 12, 1963.

Oliver said that there is a memory that stands out to him that he will never forget.

“One day John couldn’t take the kids to school, and I said I would take them. He said, ‘are you sure? It could be risky,’ and I said, ‘yeah’ and kind of laughed it off. So we popped the kids in the car, and as I took them to the elementary school I heard this yelling and screaming. I looked across the street and saw these first, second and third grade kids. I rolled my window down and I heard so much profanity…like the sewer system opened up,” Oliver said.

“In the musical South Pacific it has song that says you have to be taught to hate,” Oliver said.