Voter ID Laments Patronizing and Infantilizing to Black Voters
A bot — representing itself as New Jersey’s (black) senator, Cory Booker — has asked me on Facebook to sign a petition demanding that Congress nullify the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder — the case which struck down section iv(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. (Look it up.) I respectfully declined to do so, and here is why:
With great respect, Senator Booker (via a “sponsored” post) — on the off chance that the real you should actually read this — I believe the campaign you’re promoting here is a waste of my time. Here’s why I’m NOT adding my name:
Where is the national movement, with millions of George Soros’s $$, scores of black elected officials like yourself, and thousands of college student volunteers, sweeping across the southern states in a manner reminiscent of the early 1960s activists, going door to door, so as to ensure that the black residents have whatever documentation they need to frustrate these Republican efforts to “disenfranchise” them? Who, Senator Booker, will be the Bob Moses or our day?
Where are the voter education infrastructure, the promotional efforts in schools, churches and union halls, the advertising campaigns, the handbills, folk songs, sermons and calls to self-empowerment meant to foster determination and political agency among the black masses (and not only in the southern states but also in the large northern cities)? Asking black people to straighten their metaphorical spines, stand up and seize control of their political destinies, and become effective political agents is what it means to take them seriously. Had this been done — in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh; in Milwaukee and Detroit; in Charlotte — Hilary Rodham Clinton would now be the president elect!
I take no pleasure in saying this, but the fact is — there is no excuse for us black voters to remain in such a supine and infantilized state that a Republican controlled legislature in, say, NC can neuter the effect of black citizens merely by asking them to present an ID card. Frankly, I find that entire argument to be patronizing in the extreme. How is it that the uneducated, opiate-addicted and under-employed white voters who came out in droves for Trump at his rallies and later in the voting booth, and who thereby made him our next president — how is it that such “deplorables” are able to pull the lever, but their black counterparts need a federal court in order to have their constitutional rights validated?
Our fate is in our own hands, not those of a Supreme Court justice. When the VRA of 1965 was enacted a half-century ago, under vastly less favorable legal and social circumstances for black people, it was a good and necessary thing. But, unless we now get to the root of this lack of political agency problem — which begins by placing the responsibility and the blame where it properly belongs — we’re going to be here in another 50 years with similar laments. I know that the motives of the NC legislature, among others, are foul — they want to win and are crass enough to configure the system to that effect. But, I also know that the only way such nefarious machinations can have any effect at all is if they meet with the tacit cooperation of black citizens, who fail to fully exercise our rights.
Glenn C. Loury, Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences, Brown University