Among the many things that can be gleaned from Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision eviscerating the Voting Rights Act is this: we live in an era of American history which is, if not actually post-racial, then officially post-racism. Race may still exist as a social reality—and so may racism—but no amalgamation of facts, studies, or disparities is sufficient to the cause of proving that there exists a system which produces inequality. In short: we have overcome whether the data agrees with us or not. As Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion:
In 1965, the States could be divided into those with a recent history of voting tests and low voter registration and turnout and those without those characteristics. Congress based its coverage formula on that distinction. Today the Nation is no longer divided along those lines, yet the Voting Rights Act continues to treat it as if it were.
Americans tend to imagine that the racial history of their nation is a steady line sloping upward; in truth, it looks more like an EKG. In that context, it’s unsurprising that a decision hobbling the Voting Rights Act could come in such close proximity to the first Presidential election in which the percentage of eligible voters who went to the polls was higher among blacks than among whites. Peaks in racial progress tend to come in concert with valleys of backlash.