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Scalia and racial entitlement

3:45 PM EST, March 6, 2013

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The Sun has published several commentaries, including one by Leonard Pitts Jr. ("Wrong about racism," March 3), discussing Justice Antonin Scalia's recent remark during oral arguments about the Voting Rights Act being a "racial entitlement." None squarely address the justice's claim that this subject has been written about. Out of curiosity, I did a bit of quick sleuthing and discovered that Mr. Scalia "wrote about it" himself using the term "racial entitlement" in a 1979 law review article written before he joined the Supreme Court.

Referring to affirmative action in the article he writes that it "is based upon concepts of racial indebtedness and racial entitlement rather than individual worth and individual need[; thus it] is racist." I discovered this article because it has been mentioned by a few legal and American Studies scholars as an example of a belief held by some Americans in white entitlements. Thus, it seems perverse for Justice Scalia to use the term "racial entitlement" to condemn the Voting Rights Act which is grounded in the 15th Amendment's guarantee that access to the ballot should not be denied based on race. In doing so, he implies, perhaps unconsciously, that the franchise is a white entitlement.

Taunya Lovell Banks, Baltimore

The writer is the Jacob A. France Professor of Equality Jurisprudence at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

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