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Took a while for it all to really sink in as to how this could happen. Edward Blum: After I guess about a week of this, we realized that n- n- neighbors w- had been separated, h- h- almost house by house, because of their race. Katherine: He comes to believe that the reason this was done was for the explicit purpose, to create a majority African American district. Lyndon Johnson: Millions of Americans are denied the right to vote because of their color.

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Katherine: This act was a giant step forward in civil rights. You know, one of the primary things it did is eliminate barriers to voting like poll taxes and literacy tests, all these w- you know, strategies that had been used to keep minorities from voting. And then this other thing it did, um, sort of in a roundabout way through a series of interpretations, is it encouraged the creation of districts where the majority of voters were minorities, and that's because, you know, one of the strategies that had been used previously to, um, sort of dilute the minority vote was to take minority communities and, they called it cracking, they, they sort of split them apart into many different districts so that they were never, uh, in the majority enough to elect a representative.

Katherine: So, the Voting Rights Act tried to correct that. The 18th Congressional District was one of these majority minority districts. Edward Blum: The district was drawn by the Texas legislature, uh, to have a slight African American majority. I think about 51 percent African American. Katherine: But this was the problem, according to Blum.


The way they got to that African American majority was by creating this district that zigzagged all over the city and cut through neighborhoods. Edward Blum: I c- I could not understand. People live close together. They sent their kids to the s- neighborhood schools. They shopped in the neighborhood shopping centers. They were worried about neighborhood issues.

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To break these neighborhoods apart by race seemed so wrong to me. Katherine: In his mind, this law was actually not limiting discrimination but actually perpetuating it. Katherine: And I don't know what an av- the average person, upon realizing this, would have done Kept looking and looking and looking until I found a lawyer that I could afford. Katherine: The basic charge was, yes, the Voting Rights Act was good in its day, but now it was being used as this excuse to segregate people into racially polarized districts.

Edward Blum: It worked its way through the lower courts and, to my shock and surprise, in Speaker We'll hear argument now on number , George W.

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Bush v. Al Vera Speaker At issue in this direct appeal is the constitutionality of three congressional districts Speaker That the court below erroneously ruled were racially gerrymandered.

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Speaker The Texas legislature has the obligation to satisfy federal requirements, and the Voting Rights Act is a federal requirement. Katherine: Like, remember the Voting Rights Act? We're trying to make sure that there are enough minorities in this district so that they have a chance to elect a representative. Katherine: Blum's lawyer basically said, "But look at the map. The map is bizarre, and the only reason it could've gotten this way is because you're only thinking about race.

Only race. Think about it. That seems messed up.

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  5. Isn't that messed up? Troy: It doesn't matter what your ultimate goal is. You cannot use certain forbidden tools. Race is forbidden by the 14th Amendment to be used as a tool [crosstalk ]. Troy: [crosstalk ] do you know any other situation in the law in which we allow race to be used as a surrogate for anything?

    Speaker [crosstalk ] racism, how is this done?

    I thought that's how you said this was done. Speaker [crosstalk ] did you concede that, or did you say it would require strict scrutiny? Katherine: So, in the end, the Supreme Court gives out this very laughs s- uh, hair-splitty decision that I think gets at this deeper question that, in our society and in our discourse, we just haven't figured out how to talk about, in a way. And it basically said this: "You know, look, if you're defining race just as the color of someone's skin, the government cannot use that in any way. That's against the constitution. On the other hand, if you take this wider view and you look at race in the context of history, social context, then how can the government address discrimination without taking race into account?

    You, they have to. You can't look at race, but you have to look at race. Katherine: And the Supreme Court says to Texas, "Look, all you're doing in this case is sorting people based on how they're labeled on a census. You're not looking at that wider context. You're not looking at if these communities live next to each other, if they share common interests. You're just sorting them based on race alone, and that's not good enough. You can't do that.

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    Edward Blum: When the opinion came down, the Supreme Court ruled in our favor five to four. That was quite a day, the day that we won that lawsuit. I was hooked forever. Edward Blum: The legal team was taken on the road. I recruited plaintiffs in New York, Virginia, South Carolina, to challenge congressional district plans, and we won in each of those states. Speaker Today, Houston could become the first city to kill affirmative action.

    Speaker It's considered one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation ever passed.

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    Katherine: Shelby County v. This decision gutted the Voting Rights Act. Specifically, there was this part of it that said states and counties with a history of discrimination have to check with the federal government first before they go about changing their voting laws. Basically, the federal government was saying, "Look, you've been up to all this stuff. We're, now we're watching you. That list was made a long time ago, and it's outdated. Edward Blum: This decision restores an important constitutional order to our system of government. Speaker I am deeply disappointed, deeply disappointed with the court's decision in this matter.

    Sheila J. Lee: I would like to have the Supreme Court Justices go back in time, go back in time and march with those who marched after Bloody Sunday, uh, from Selma to Montgomery.

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    Ed Blum has a right to his opinion. It doesn't mean that it has to be the opinion of the United States. Edward Blum: I, I understand that people were, you know, gravely upset. I also know that there were people who were gravely relieved, and gravely gratified. Jad: Yeah, but I think what gets a lot of people is that you look at these civil rights videos and you see tens th- of thousands, 40, people in the streets marching, and you hold that and, if you make a split screen in your mind, you hold that.

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