As the planet enters the second year of the pandemic there is a natural tendency to want to look away – at least for a moment, at least for something like respite. Shiny objects sparkle in the storm of news and it is understandable that people will be distracted. And that is very dangerous.
Consider that the nation – and the United Kingdom – were literally transfixed by the Oprah Winfrey interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – a.k.a. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. In the middle of a global storm the American public took time to listen to the travails of two very privileged individuals who were shocked – shocked – to discover that racism was alive and well in the English monarchy.
What is shocking is that anyone should be shocked since England is the fountainhead for the entire phenomenon of white supremacy. If racism and white supremacy is a vile Nile River, then England – and the monarchy – are Lake Victoria (irony is duly noted). So why are the Duke and Duchess shocked? And why do so many Americans care enough to watch the shiny object of their distress?
Watching the Oprah interview can be considered a harmless distraction. But while the shiny object of celebrity trauma distracts the rolling miasma of New Age Racism rolls across the land. And this time there are no hoods or burning crosses because we are now witness to the Rise of James Crow – the only son of Jim Crow.
James Crow (or Joanne Crow) now wears a suit and tie and has attended schools like Harvard and Yale and Dartmouth. James Crow doesn’t lurk in the woods, noose in hand, looking to lynch yet another unsuspecting Black man or woman like his father did. James Crow doesn’t print up No Colored signs in the manner of his dad.
James Crow is now a governor, or a state assemblywoman or a United States Senator. James Crow isn’t worried about Black people moving into his neighborhood because decades of redlining and unspoken segregated development have made his neighborhood. Joanne Crow doesn’t worry about denying the vote to Black American citizens, she just makes sure that it is so damn difficult that the number of Black voters is substantially reduced – no muss and no fuss.
As this is being written some 43 states have passed bills, or have legislation under consideration, that will substantially make voting more difficult – limiting polling sites, setting more obstacles to absentee voting – and that’s just for starters. What we are actually watching is the rearmament of Jim Crow era voting rights restrictions so that this country will remain a white minority rule nation for years to come.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Act which is now before the House could, if passed by the Senate, become a weapon against this theft of democracy. But it is very clear that James and Joanne Crow are not going anywhere and that minority rule will be their aspiration for as long as they live.
The moral of course is that it is dangerous to be distracted by bright shiny news objects when democracy in this nation is under serious attack.