Back to the future: remembering “interposition”
Shortly after I left Handley High School in Winchester to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the era of “massive resistance” to public school integration grew into a public battle cry among Virginia’s leaders.
Elected officials, led by U.S. Senator Harry Byrd, called for a state constitutional convention to legitimatize their efforts to resist the 1956 Supreme Court decision declaring “white only” public schools illegal.The Virginia leaders closed public schools in order to prevent African-American students from attending. In some localities public schools remained closed for several years, while officials promoted “separate but equal” classes and schools for black and white students.
An intellectual leader of the movement, James J. Kilpatrick, editor of the Richmond News-Leader, promoted a theory of “interposition” to allow a state to resist unpopular Federal court decisions. Kilipatrick, who later became associated with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, drew in part from the secessionist writings of John C. Calhoun prior to the Civil War and claimed that a state had the authority under the U.S. Constitution to “interpose” its will between the people and Federal government to block Federal action.
After years of bitter legal and racial conflict, public schools in Virginia opened again, but scars remained. For me, some of the unpleasant memories came back as bills introduced by Delegates Cole and Bob Marshall that heath care, ammunition and other goods manufactured in Virginia be cannot subject to Federal interstate commerce laws.
As it is, Virginia refuses to enforce Federal gun laws that prevent people guilty of stalking, family violence, including torture of a child, unless a judge finds them guilty of a felony-and many of these offenses are misdemeanors unless the guilty party repeats the crime. My bill to require Virginia to enforce those Federal prohibitions failed again in the House Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety.
Today I received a letter from the Virginia Society of Accountants that these anti-Federalism bills will also cause people to lose a tax deduction. I suspect that problem will be solved, but it merely reflects the lack of foresight these sweeping changes reflect.
Delegate Scott represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at [email protected]