I tried to watch the BET Awards tonight, but after seeing T-Pain's dumb ass go on stage with what was literally a "big ass chain" (yes, a big ass chain that said "big ass chain" on it) I just couldn't watch anymore. I decided to come and do some work and blog, instead. I will let you all tell me about it. That is, of course, if you are still watching and didn't decide to turn it off like moi.
Anyway, tonight I want to talk about a fellow member of the Pennsylvania Bar, Christine Flowers, who wrote an article comparing our rights to vote in this country with what has been happening in Iran. She started off alright when she said the following:
'WHERE is my vote?" screamed the protesters in the streets of Tehran. Bloodied opponents of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made their disenfranchisement public and demanded that the world pay attention. And we did, using the magic of the Internet, logging on to Twitter and YouTube, and sharing, in real time, the agony of the Iranian people. We watched, horrified, as one young woman was murdered by government thugs and we witnessed the beatings of countless others.
Votes are precious currency. We pay for democracy with each ballot, each inked finger, each raised hand. The right to self-government isn't free - it's purchased from citizens at a sometimes monumental price. And when those votes are stolen in any way, tyranny takes root. That appears to be what happened in Iran. And it's also what happened in this country at times in our history when huge swaths of our citizens were denied a voice in governance.
It was the days of Jim Crow and gerrymandering, when voting districts in the South were structured so that the black vote was watered down or, in the worst cases, eliminated altogether. A time when men in white sheets did their dirty deeds with ropes and crosses at midnight.
Eventually, we found a way to dismantle the hateful oligarchy of the racists. It was called the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and gave the federal government unprecedented power to oversee local elections to ensure that every citizen of the Deep South, especially those once counted as three-fifths of humanity, could cast their ballots.
It worked. And it deserves to be recognized as one of the pillars of evolving social justice, along with the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th Amendment, the Civil Rights Act and Brown v. Board of Education. But this doesn't mean that, 40-plus years after the fact, it can't be revisited to see if perhaps some of its provisions are dated and no longer relevant. Of course, don't tell that to the New York Times editorial board, the American Civil Liberties Union and many other groups for whom the mere notion that you could even think of revisiting the VRA is heretical.
And it's exactly why they trembled when the Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to Section 5 of the act, thinking that the conservative justices would be able to overturn four decades of progress with a stroke of their mean-spirited pens.
Surprise! It didn't happen."
Okay Christine, so it didn't happen, (no thanks to Clarence) but you shouldn't be gloating because the fact that you folks on the right think that Section 5 of the act should even be revisited at this particular time in our history, just goes to show how out of touch you really are.
Anyway, I said Christine's article started off okay, but then it ended like this:
"...Back in 1967, my father spent a summer in Mississippi registering black candidates for office and black citizens for the vote.
He came back with stories of little children using the "n-word" and "Yankee lawyers" dodging spit - and worse. He wrote in his diary that "It made me feel very ill to know that there were people in America who differed very little in my judgment from those who manned Auschwitz in 1944."
And that's why, 40 years ago, that law was a godsend. But as Chief Justice Roberts noted in his majority opinion, today "minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels." He also observed that when Congress renewed the act in 2006, it relied on data more than three decades old. Talk about back to the future.
You'd think we could sensibly judge for ourselves whether in 2009, with a black president sitting in the Oval Office after a serene and glitch-free election - and a black woman being one of the richest and most influential figures in the country - the Voting Rights Act could withstand a sensible critique - especially in utility-district voting in Texas.
YOU'D also think that, given what's happening in Iran, we could look at ourselves honestly and say, our votes, once threatened, are now safe. At the very least, if we want to maintain the fiction that black voters are still denied their full rights at the ballot box, we could also acknowledge that white voters who are intimidated by Black Panther thugs at Philadelphia polling places should get the same federal protection.
But when the Justice Department shelves the prosecution of those thugs, you have your answer. I guess the times are indeed a-changin' - in some unexpectedly interesting ways."
"Our votes...are now safe"? Christine, of course, makes the classic mistake that so many whites make when the view the achievement of black folks as a collective: They cherry pick the few of us who have achieved to extraordinary levels in this country, in spite of racism.
And finally, she ends her article by telling a flat out lie. Those "Black Panther thugs" intimidated no one, and they were at very few polling places on election day in November of 2008 here in Philadelphia.
So what started out as a decent article which seemed like, for once, the issue of race was going to be given fair treatment by a wingnut, pretty much turned out how I suspected it would: Wrong.
I am sorry you didn't surprise me, Christine. But I am sure you are not.