Thursday, February 28, 2013

They're whistling Dixie again

Have they really put Jim Crow behind them?

Now the segregationists and Dixie T-Party types believe they have enough backing in the Supreme Court to roll back all or many of the gains made during the Civil Right Movement. They're probably right.

Even as a new statue of Rosa Parks is unveiled in the Capitol rotunda in D.C., the foul aroma of Alabama's Jim Crow laws is wafting through the same building. There's a new move afoot to overturn important provisions in the 1965 Voting Rights Bill that forced states like Alabama to end their denial of equal voting rights to African-Americans.

Shelby County, Alabama, is contending that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Bill  is unfair to its residents and other jurisdictions that it requires to obtain federal pre-clearance before changing their voting laws.

Sorry Alabama. But you're the state that just recently drove out thousands of immigrant farm workers. And now you're claiming that race is no longer an issue? That we've moved into the post-racial era because we have a black president?  Really?

Most likely Justice Scalia and his faction on the Supreme Court, who see voting rights as a "racial  entitlement" will agree and overturn Section 5.

But why? Has Alabama and other affected states moved beyond their Dixiecrat past? No way.

Remember this story?
Birmingham, Ala. -- Latino students have started vanishing from Alabama public schools in the wake of a court ruling that upheld the state's tough new law cracking down on illegal immigration. Education officials say scores of immigrant families have withdrawn their children from classes or kept them home this week, fearful that sending the kids to school would draw attention from authorities. -- AP Wire
They're even deputizing school bus drivers to identify undocumented immigrant students based on the new state law. But federal law, The McKinney-Vento Act, mandates schools to teach all students, regardless of legal status.

Last November, Alabama voters had an opportunity to remove racist language still embedded in the State Constitution by passing Amendment 4. 61% voted against this amendment which would have removed language calling for racial segregation in schools and the imposition of poll taxes. In the same election, Alabama officially became a right-to-work state.

Is this the "post-racial" era?

Obama at Rosa Parks statue unveiling
No it's not!

 While things have certainly changed since 1965 due to the hard-fought battles of the Civil Rights Movement, and Alabamans like Mrs. Parks, plus the many who sacrificed their lives in the face of KKK terror, make no mistake. Without the Voting Rights Act, with all its provisions, that change might never have happened.

Also, the color of real economic, social and political power hasn't changed much. It's is still white. And it's not just in Dixie.

Take Chicago, which recently had its own deseg agreement thrown out. Its school system is still among the most racially segregated in the country.  And check out the make up of the corporate elite in the city. According to an article in Wednesday Sun-Times: "African-Americans make up just a tiny fraction of Chicago corporate boards"
African Americans make up only 6.6 percent of the 1,527 board members at 160 public companies in the Chicago area, according to a KPMG survey commissioned and released by the Chicago Urban League.
If anything, Section 5 should not just be kept in place in Dixie, but should be expanded to states like Florida, Ohio and Michigan, and wherever the hours-long voting lines and other Republican tricks were sprung last November.

 You can read overviews and  more analysis of the Shelby case on Bill Moyers,  SCOTUSBlog (Made Simple | Symposium),The AtlanticThe New YorkerThe New York Times: Room for Debate Blog and the Washington Post.

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