Minn. Rep. Tweets 'Uncle Thomas' Quip; Didn't Know it Was Racist?
Many of us disagree with today's Sheby County decision. Many feel that the neutering of the Voting Rights Act could lead to backsliding in the progress that has been made towards ensuring that everyone has access to the polls and that their votes actually count.
Few of us, however, would respond to the opinion by tweeting a quip about Justice "Uncle Thomas." The not-so-proud producer of that tweet was Minnesota State Rep. Ryan Winkler, who, according to the Minnesota Star-Tribune, tweeted that the Shelby "VRA majority is four accomplices to race discrimination and one Uncle Thomas."
Unsurprisingly, that tweet was deleted shortly thereafter.
Now, he pleads ignorance in other tweets:
I didn't think it was offensive to suggest that Justice Thomas should be even more concerned about racial discrimination than colleagues.-- Ryan Winkler (@RepRyanWinkler) June 25, 2013
But if such a suggestion is offensive, I apologize.-- Ryan Winkler (@RepRyanWinkler) June 25, 2013
Deleted Tweet causing offense regarding Justice Thomas. I apologize for it, but believe VRA decision does abet racism.-- Ryan Winkler (@RepRyanWinkler) June 25, 2013
@atrupar I did not understand "Uncle Tom" as a racist term, and there seems to be some debate about it. I do apologize for it, however.
-- Ryan Winkler (@RepRyanWinkler) June 25, 2013
Oy.Ironic, isn't it? Concerned about the racism that may flow free from today's decision, the man calls a Supreme Court Justice an Uncle Tom? Yeah, it'd be funny if it wasn't so sad. And if it's not clear from the thumbnails, the Minnesota lawmaker is Caucasian, which shouldn't make a difference, but thanks to that 1960s-and-earlier legacy of American racism (which necessitated the VRA), it will matter to some. To many.
For those unfamiliar with Justice Thomas' jurisprudence, today, in his concurrence, he expressed his opinion that the provisions of the Voting Rights Act that allow federal oversight of local election procedures should be overturned. The provision that allows litigation, however, would presumably remain. The majority neutered the Voting Rights Act, but did not strike the provisions from the law.
In a wider context, Justice Thomas generally is opposed to racism remedial measures, such as affirmative action. Yesterday, in a stern twenty-page dissent in Fisher v. University of Texas, which upheld (and arguably restricted) the Grutter precedent and affirmative action in general, Thomas argued that affirmative action itself was racist.
"Slaveholders argued that slavery was a 'positive good' that civilized blacks and elevated them in every dimension of life." Later, he stated, "The segregationists likewise defended segregation on the ground that it provided more leadership opportunities for blacks." He then argued that affirmative action is another "straight-faced representation that discrimination help[s] minorities."
His feelings are pretty clear. And he is entitled to make those arguments, as well as arguments against the VRA, just as Rep. Winkler is entitled to disagree. But stooping to name-calling, especially racist name-calling, then pleading ignorance, is beyond ridiculous.
At time of writing, Rep. Winkler has just issued the following statement, per KSTP 5 Minneapolis:
"I was very disappointed today in the Supreme Court decision to roll back key provisions of the Voting Rights Act because I believe the Voting Rights Act is one of the most important steps our nation has taken to eliminate racial discrimination.
In expressing that disappointment on twitter, I hastily used a loaded term that is offensive to many. My words were inappropriate and I apologize. The implications of this Supreme Court decision are serious for our state and country and I regret that my comments have distracted from the serious dialogue we must have going forward to ensure racial discrimination has no place in our election system."
- Lawmaker directs racial tweet at Justice Thomas after court ruling (The Hill)
- Non-Decision Decision Hints at Affirmative Action Future (FindLaw's U.S. Supreme Court Blog)
- Voter Registration, Pay-for-Delay and Proof of Sentencing Factors (FindLaw's U.S. Supreme Court Blog)
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