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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

One day, many years ago, I was working in my college bookstore when this guy walks in wearing a T-shirt. “White Power,” it said.

I was chatting with a friend, Cathy Duncan, and what happened next was as smooth as if we had rehearsed it. All at once, she’s sitting on my lap or I’m sitting on hers — I can’t remember which — and that white girl gives this black guy a peck on the lips. In a loud voice she asks, “So, what time should I expect you home for dinner, honey?”

Mr. White Power glares malice and retreats. Cathy and I fall over laughing.

Which tells you something about how those of us who came of age in the first post-civil-rights generation tended to view racism; we saw it as something we could dissipate with a laugh, a tired old thing that had bedeviled our parents, yes, but which we were beyond. We thought racism was over.

I’ve spent much of my life since then being disabused of that naivete. Watching media empires built upon appeals to racial resentment, seeing the injustice system wield mass incarceration as a weapon against black men, bearing witness as the first African-American president produced his long-form birth certificate, all helped me understand just how silly we were to believe bigotry was done.

So a chill crawled my spine last week as the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could result in gutting the Voting Rights Act. That landmark 1965 legislation gave the ballot to black voters who had previously been denied it by discriminatory laws, economic threats, violence and by registrars who challenged them with nonsense questions like, “How many bubbles are in a bar of soap?”

One of the act’s key provisions covers nine mostly Southern states and scores of municipalities with histories of such behavior. They must get federal approval before changing their voting procedures. The requirement may be stigmatizing, but it is hardly onerous.

Yet Shelby County, AL seeks the provision’s repeal, pronouncing itself cured of the attitudes that made it necessary. “The children of today’s Alabama are not racist and neither is their government,” wrote Alabama attorney general Luther Strange last week.

It was rather like hearing a wifebeater say he has seen the error of his ways and will no longer smack the missus around. Though you’re glad and all, you still hope the wife’s testimony will carry a little more weight in deciding whether the restraining order should be lifted.

  • charleo1

    Am I just being paranoid? Or, does this seem like a really bad time to start cutting back on the
    Federal oversight of voting laws? I have a deal for the Republican Right Wingers. We’ll remove
    the extra supervision they claim they no longer need. When they stop using racial stereotypes,
    and, dog whistle, racial remarks, when courting their 98% White Southern base.

    • Do remember Charleso1, that all Southerns do not vote Republicans and many will write in a person name if the only candidate they have to vote for is Republican. There was a small town in my home state that had an election for mayor, the only person that ran for the office was a Republican who lost the election. The people of the town had written in the name of guy that wanted to run for the office but he didn’t have the funds to do so with no campaigning , no money spent the guy became the mayor of the town. The town no longer exists, they turned in their charter that formed the town because they didn’t enough people in the town to have a big enough base of people that paid taxes that were needed for police, fire and other thing a town is expected to have for their citizens. But there are many such places in the South that do vote Democratic, The Republicans have gerrymanded a lot of states in the South in such way that it makes hard for Democratic candidates win an election. This Southern woman votes either Democratic or Independent, does not vote Republican

      • charleo1

        You’re right. I must be more careful, and not make too many generalities. Current T.V.
        is showing a piece on the KKK, who claims Harrison AR. as it’s national headquarters.
        It is virtually a place that could have been Montgomery AL. fifty years ago. Then, of
        course there was the Police Chief of Montgomery on Rachel Maddow, airing a film clip
        of his apology to Congressman John Lewis, for the Police not protecting him, and other,
        “Freedom Riders,” who were testing the Federal position on equal Rights, governing
        interstate travel. As opposed to State, and local policies, that enforced a culture of
        oppression aganist the Black, in the 1960s South. Of course, things are changing.
        Mostly due to the natural winnowing effect of death on the aging population. Big cities
        like Atlanta, GA. Columbia, SC. or New Orleans, LA. are consistently Democratic, and
        Progressive. People are better educated, and tend to stay better informed. And are not
        a slave to ideology, whether it be Conservative, or Liberal. I really like to converse with
        people. Because, they are forever divesting me of my preconceived notions, that I can
        tell which side of the so called, “Great Divide,” they are on by their age, or the way they
        dress, etc. My opinion on gerrymandering is, I’d rather it not be done. But, it has served
        what I consider a positive role in helping elect minorities, so they have a way to be
        represented in government. But, it seems Republicans are now using the tactic as a way to
        protect some very unpopular, even discriminatory policies. And not be required to answer
        to the population at large. So it cuts both ways. Still I believe good policy makes for
        successful politics. And sooner, or later bad policy is going to hurt their politics, regardless
        of any district’s line, or the prejudices that may or may not be held by the people within a
        particular area. But that, again, is just my own feeling. People who are a lot more
        knowledgeable of such things than I, (some of them,) say it’s very serious. But, let’s see
        if the Republicans can’t make themselves look even worse in the next year, and a half.
        I have faith, they are completely capable of doing so!

  • I wish Justice Scalia had been more specific and stated which ethnicity was he talking about. Was it his? I doubt it. The efforts to cut back Federal oversight laws governing voting rights, and Civil Rights in general, as well as the efforts to deregulate, and the centerpiece of the GOP agenda and are focused on extreme ideology rather than what is best for ALL Americans. The long term strategy is to transform our democracy with a plutocracy, where the middle class and the poor are nothing more than pawns in a world dominated by the elite.

    • Ed

      Actually Dominick, the PC term is “The better class of people”> And you are very right.

      • I guess that makes me “the worst class of people”. 🙁

    • jarheadgene

      SCALIA is an A$$HOLE. Can you believe his thinking re voting rights? Give me a break these guys are further removed from REAL people than Congress…and that says a lot !!!

  • Ed

    Alito, Roberts and Scalia ALL come from a HOT BED OF RACISM. Trenton NJ>.

    • 1EdMeadows83

      Of course they’re racists. I wonder what you’d call “Uncle” Clarence Thomas? I suspect if Scalia were to die, Thomas would have to die also.

  • nanc35

    I believe it is high time that we initiate FEDERAL standards for voting and enforce them, and put an end to gerrymandering and needless voter ID requirements. A few years ago I was working the polls when Ohio put in place new ID requirements. It proved to be a real hardship to many voters who were elderly and living in senior living apartments, of which we have several in my town. They no longer drive and so have no drivers license, they don’t pay their own utilities and thus have no utility bills to show, and would come out to vote (these are good citizens who have voted all their adult life in many cases) and have nothing except maybe credit cards or membership cards to show, which having no address on them, were not acceptable. The only good thing was that most probably would have voted Republican. I think this is when we elected a Democrat as govenor!

  • We’ll take the niggahs & the Chinks…but we WON’T take the Irish!

    “Mel Brooks”

  • I was born in LA stayed in CA after my military service, where I voted in 1960 six yrs before my parents. A better historical point to make is that both FREDRICK DOUGLAS AND HARRIET TUBMAN saw slavery end and Jim Crow become public policy before they died. Justice Roberts sited Miss. as having more black people registered to vote than Mass. and they have more elected official then any other state. Miss. have more black folks living in all black community then any other state. If you’re black in Mass. and don’t won’t to vote you don’t have too. Mass don’t have a history of Jim Crow laws, like Miss of old, are voters suppression laws of the new south, and the rest of the republican control state. Miss had the first black US senator Hiram Rivals, that didn’t stop them from enacting Jim Crow laws. With very few blacks voting according to Justice Roberts, Mass has a two term black governor WHAT POINT WAS HE TRYING TO MAKE.

    • 1EdMeadows83

      Someone mentioned in another thread that one of the questions asked of black people trying to vote was, “How many bubbles in a bar of soap?” Of course the answer should have been ‘none’, but that answer might have gotten you lynched.

  • Redistricting, gerrymandering, hard to get ID cards. These are just some of the newest tactics to hold down the minority voter. Pennsylvania wants to take away the voices of minorities in the major cities by their new scheme. Scalia should be impeached, he constantly prejudges important issues before the court. Justice Thomas should be ashamed to go along with that group of rightists on the court, enabling the further denigration of the poor and underpaid, so often members of his own race. Do you have no shame, Scalia, after all?

    • jarheadgene

      THOMAS is an A$$HOLE….he never fought for any rights of his own people…he was too busy making lewd comments about pubic hairs on a coke can(unrequitedly) to Ms. Hill. He thinks he is ABOVE any racial inequalities. and therefore they don’t exist. He is a known AYN RAND lover…sound t0o familiar. He used draft differments during vietnam and has been trying to prove his “whiteness” “inner whiteness” ever since. Take a look at his history. For Crying out loud ! HE was even the corporate hack lawyer for MONSANTO. Gee, think that has anything to do with his appointment ???

    • Vea’ Barksdale

      Scalia, like so many other people who came from immigrants, believe that all you have to do is work hard and success will come. But the rest of us who can not pass as ‘white’ because of the color of our skin, know that regardless of how hard you work or how far you go for higher education and no matter what success you achieve, acceptance is not guarantee. That’s why one should never try to gain the approval of others. As for Justice Thomas, he has always felt he alone is responsible for any success he has achieved and we all know that is not true!

  • Canistercook

    It’s too bad that it doesn’t at least require a High School equivalent level of education at least to vote and that one pay at least $1.00 in Federal tax to the IRS!

    • ralphkr

      Better yet, Canistercook, we should return to our Constitutional roots and only allow property owners to vote.

      • Canistercook

        You suggested that not me! If you cannot achieve a HS diploma and don’t work and contribute nothing to pay for what you vote for why should you get to vote to take what others work for.

        • ralphkr

          Well, Canistercook, why only a HS diploma being required? Why not insist upon a masters? Considering educational requirement then my father would not have been allowed to vote because he was pulled from school upon completing fourth grade. His father was from Prussia and did not consider further education was needed by the second son. With only a 4th grade education he was a successful farmer and businessman (actually, you have to be a lot smarter to be a farmer than to only run a business) and was once approached by a committee of the Republican Party to run for governor because of his reputation for honest dealing. (they had run out of candidates who had not been caught stealing money but they should have realized from his reputation for honesty that there was no way that he could be a Republican). I would not be allowed to vote because I do not work since I was forcefully retired in 1982 and joined Raygun’s army of those who “won’t work”. On the other hand I do pay from $10K to 21K in Fed income taxes on my modest pension plus investment income so perhaps you would allow me to vote even though I am one of the leeches who doesn’t work (like Romney). I have noticed that the good news is that my income taxes go down when we have a Republican prez and go up with a Democratic prez but the bad news is that my taxes reflect the fact that my investment income drops precipitously during Republican prez and climbs when we have a Democratic prez which directly reflects the historic fact that the US economy always does better with a Democratic President and stagnates with a Republican President.

  • I was raised DixieCrat, if not Confederate. Not so much anti-black as anti-Yankee. But while integration of public schools at times seemed a major problem created by limousine liberals whose children were all in private schools, but it seemed obvious that the civil rights laws of the 1960s were vitally needed. Never more so when I read a study of the Klan trials of upstate South Carolina, and realized that the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s were in some cases nearly identical to those of the late 1860s! The Civil War (or, as we were raised to call it, The War Between The States) preserved the Union. But it took over 100 years to achieve emancipation.

    • ralphkr

      Hmm, Patrick,”The War Between The States”? Interesting, I learned that it was “The War Of Northern Aggression” 70 years ago. No, I am not from the South but was born & raised in a solid Republican state a couple hundred miles from the Canadian border.