Point of View Columns

Voter Suppression in the Era of James Crow

The pandemic days continue inexorably and the country has now reached the point where 1,000 Americans dying every day to be part of the so-called New Normal. There is no national day of mourning. There are no words of condolences from the White House. There is no resolution of mourning from Congress. It seems that 1000 Americans dying every 24 hours is considered not worthy of note.

And this obliviousness to this massive and continuous loss of human life may be one the worst residual effects of this pandemic – hopefully not the longest lasting.

As the voting in America continues it is now clear what voter suppression looks like. It is important to note that we are now in the second now in the middle of the second national election since the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

It is important because in the 2016 election, a noticeable decline in the Black vote was observed. Many observers attributed the decline to the lackluster campaign of Hillary Clinton combined with the absence of Barack Obama on the ballot.

But those many observers failed to observe that the purpose of the Voting Rights Act was to protect Black voters and that when those protections were suddenly removed the racist tendencies of the right wing of the right wing were immediately released and the ensuing New James Crow policies most certainly suppressed the Black vote.

Having had four more years to refine the James Crow policies and procedures it is clear that voter suppression is different from the Jim Crow policies and procedures of a half century ago. In the days of Jim Crow Black voters had to risk their jobs, their homes and in many instances their lives for just trying to register, much less vote.

In the days of James Crow, the polling sites have limited hours and a limited number of locations. Black voters are no longer concerned with losing their jobs because they voted. Black voters are now concerned with losing their jobs because they had to stand in line for ten hours to cast a vote – an excuse which might not be acceptable to many employers.

And those Black voters who are self-employed or are business owners have to be prepared to lose a day of income during a pandemic – a new kind of poll tax in the James Crow era.

As some observers marvel at the dedication and enthusiasm of American voters, other observers in other parts of the world wonder at the antediluvian voting process in this country. In many countries voting takes place on weekends or a national holiday. In some countries voting is conducted online. In many countries voting takes place on multiple days in order to make it convenient for voters.

But in the era of James Crow, the bedsheets have been replaced by pinstriped suits and Ivy League jargon. But the burning cross of voter suppression continues to burn bright.

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