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Dismantling Section 5 Akin To Dismantling Reconstruction
3/8/2013 12:12:30 PM

By Barney Blakeney

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments to strike Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which requires certain states to get pre-clearance from the U.S. Justice Department before any changes in their voting procedures can be made.

I find it amazing that only a week after the month-long Black History Month observance reminding America of its racist nature, the Court chooses to listen to several states with the most atrocious past history of racism and brutality against Blacks argue how there no longer is any need for the safeguards put in place by the section.

In recent weeks I’ve read article after article on both sides of the argument. There are those who point to the fact that America has a Black president. That in many of those southern states where the section’s mandates are required, Black folks enjoy the greatest freedom of voting than ever before, and as a result have elected representative governments.

I’ve also read articles that point to continued efforts to suppress Black voter participation. Instead of poll taxes and literacy tests, voter ID laws have become the new suppression tactic.

When I think of the argument over changes to voting methods I can’t help but think about how efforts to outlaw bonded servitude and all the inequities that went along with it were circumvented after the Civil War.

Racism perpetuated forced servitude in America that was enforced by an inhumane brutality. Black folks were considered less than human and therefore undeserving of equal treatment. In fact, Black folks were considered less than the beasts of the field. Property owners treated their animals less brutally than their Black slaves.

 I think it was the disbelief in Black folks as humans and the subsequent culture of brutality taught and learned over hundreds of years that prevented the ruling class in America from accepting that Black folks ever should share in the equality of being an American.

So even after a civil war that left over a half million Americans dead and much of the nation laid to ruin, like water seeking its own level, the ruling class sought a return a culture of subjugation.

Forty years after the Civil War was fought and Black folks earned a place of equality, America reinvoked its doctrine of separate and unequal.

Jim Crow, a social system just as brutal and uncaring as slavery, was instituted and for the next 60 years the disenfranchisement and castigation of Black folks was the law of the land. Those laws were enforced, in the south more brutally than in the north, but enforced just the same.

It took the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s waged by Black folks, to once again overturn America’s racist laws perpetuating Black servitude. And like the Civil War that was fought 100 years before it, the Civil Rights Movement yielded in its wake a second Reconstruction.

When I think about the current attempts to undermine the advances gained by the Civil Rights Movement, I see so many parallels to the dismantling of the first Reconstruction.

These are perilous times in which we live. The racism, culture of disdain and brutality that has been taught and learned over centuries in America were not eradicated by the Civil Rights Movement. Like the Civil War of the 1860s, they may have been intensified.

The attempts to strike down the laws like Section 5 of the Voting rights Act that were enacted to create equality are merely the first salvos in the bombardment against the advances of the Civil Rights Movement.

The lesson to be learned is that since racism and injustice still are in place, legal safeguards also must remain in place. Just looking at the duality in our criminal justice, education, employment and economic systems makes it seem clear to me that unless federal laws under gird America’s faulty consciousness, the racism and brutality inherent in our psyches will seek its previous levels.

One hundred years ago as America shook off the advances of the Civil War by first attacking attempts at political equality, it ushered in over 60 years of some of its most brutal history. I Shudder to think what this current attempt to shake off progress will bring.

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