Conservatives sometimes worry that America has gone too far down the road of political correctness—that equal protections under the law are, somehow, too robust.
While civil rights are relatively well-established today, the problem is not that they need to be watered down—quite the opposite. The absurdity of asserting otherwise is materially clear: to take only two examples, sexual orientation discrimination is still widely legal, and women still earn less than men. There are also symbolic indications of the all-too-real weaknesses in our legal civil rights infrastructure, and they are no less chilling. These signs give the lie to any assertion that our country is over-committed to equal opportunity, and not the opposite.
For example, South Carolina didn’t recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as an official state holiday until 2000. Another illustration is all too fresh: Mississippi didn’t officially ratify the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, until this month.
This article in the Jackson, MS Clarion-Ledger, while charming, casts the state’s generations of delay as a clerical oversight. But like South Carolina’s aforementioned tardiness, Mississippi’s history as a slave state makes it impossible to regard their resistance to change as innocent. Kentucky ratified the 13th Amendment in 1976; if you lag more than 30 years behind Kentucky in embracing racial equality, something is seriously wrong.
One hundred forty-eight years after three-fourths of the states voted to approve the amendment, Mississippi’s legislature finally took steps to fix the glaring oversight last month. According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, the decision was inspired by the Oscar-nominated film “Lincoln,” which depicts the 16th president’s efforts to enact the amendment.
After University of Mississippi Medical Center professor Dr. Ranjan Batra saw the film last year, he was inspired to look into what happened after states voted on the amendment. He found that while the state had originally rejected the slavery ban, the state legislature eventually voted to approve the amendment in 1995. The measure cleared both legislative chambers, but was never sent to the Office of the Federal Register and therefore never made official.
The “oversight” has finally been fixed. Hopefully, injustice like this is corrected more quickly.
Don’t miss the rest of this blog’s coverage of civil rights. If you have questions about your rights in the workplace, or have been subjected to discrimination of any kind, our expert attorneys can help. Contact The Harman Firm today.