Matthew Cohen, MSW

Matthew Cohen, MSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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Supreme Court’s Votings Rights Act Decision Is A Challenge For Social Workers

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Story Courtesy Of CRISP

When the news broke about the Supreme Court’s decision to declare Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, reactions ranged from outraged on the left to slaps on the back by those on the right.  Many of us who have witnessed this society trying to desegregate over the past several decades, while disappointed with the ruling, were hardly surprised by the outcome.  The battle for the heart and soul of America has been going on for a long time and it will continue.  By electing a black President of the United States twice, Americans have demonstrated that we have come a long way in the struggle for racial co-existence.  There is still much to be done, but we must acknowledge that significant progress has been made.

Yes, nearly all restrictions that prevented black people from voting in the past have been eliminated and certainly the Voting Rights Act was the primary mechanism that helped right those injustices.  Are we to believe without those protections, states will do the right thing going forward?  Chief Justice Roberts blamed Congress for not developing a new formula based on more recent data, but can we expect this Congress to arrive at a consensus on pre-clearance when they have not demonstrated the ability to get anything done?  I am not optimistic.

I saw this coming because I watched how ferociously conservatives have fought over the years to limit the power of the federal government to redress the wrongs perpetrated by various states.  I watched as the Supreme Court was transformed by Republican presidents with modest resistance from the Democratic-controlled Congress.  What we are experiencing now began with the election Ronald Reagan—rising economic inequality, the emasculation of labor unions, and the assault on social welfare.  The politics of the past is shaping the present.

The Supreme Court’s decision presents a challenge for all people of good will—particularly for social workers who claim the mantle of social justice.  We should be more motivated today to become involved in politics because the politics of today will shape the future.  The march to racial fairness may have been slowed by today’s decision, but its progress is inevitable.  The new struggle is economic inequality.  And while economic inequality has racial overtones, it impacts all people regardless of race and ethnicity.

If you are thinking about influencing policy, you must think long term.  If you are looking for instantaneous results, then you will be frustrated and ineffective.  We must be working now to ensure a more just future for coming generations.

Written by Dr. Charles E. Lewis Jr.
President of The Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy

Twitter: @CharlesELewisJr.

Dr. Charles E. Lewis, Jr. is President of The Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy. He has served as deputy chief of staff and communications director for former Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns and was the staff coordinator for the Congressional Social Work Caucus. He was a full-time faculty member at Howard University School of Social Work prior to joining Rep. Towns’ staff and now is an adjunct associate professor. As staff coordinator for the Social Work Caucus, Dr. Lewis helped to plan and to coordinate numerous briefings and events on the Hill and in the 10th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York.

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