Y’all can go home. Put away your hoodies and cancel the vigils. Pick up the race cards, the game’s over. There is no more racism in America. The Texas Attorney General said so.
All this is a result of what’s called by the political cognoscenti as “Voter ID,” a concept pushed by Republicans to force voters to show identification before being allowed to vote. So far eight states have passed some form of this law: Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, Mississippi and Rhode Island. In an age in which Americans need to show ID to board a plane, the idea seems to make sense—except when you have to explain it.
Greg Abbott has been on a decade-long crusade to weed out voter fraud, a time-honored crime in Texas where a bunch of dead people once provided the winning margin in Lyndon Johnson’s first U.S. Senate race. But after spending $1.4 million investigating voter fraud, Abbott’s crack squad turned up exactly zero cases of impersonating an eligible voter at a polling place, which is what supporters say Voter ID laws would prevent.
As someone who long ago stepped in Democratic politics and has never been able to scrape it off his shoe, I can promise you that the Vast Leftwing Conspiracy is not even organized enough to get eligible voters to the polls. And in Texas, where our Hispanic turnout is lower than in neighboring New Mexico, it’s almost insulting. We can only get 15 percent of Tejanos to vote, and Abbott thinks we’re cheating?
What Voter ID would actually accomplish is making it harder for 5 million Americans to vote, according to the Brennan Justice Center. In March, Attorney General Eric Holder objected to Texas’ Voter ID law, claiming it could prevent as many as 304,000 Hispanic Texans from being able to vote. Holder has made the same argument with South Carolina’s attempt to preserve the sanctity of its ballot boxes.
If you like Joseph Heller or Franz Kafka, you’ll adore what Abbott did next, bless his heart. He sued the Obama administration to overturn Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. That’s just a $100,000 way of saying that the Texas Attorney General is suing for the right to stop asking permission before passing laws that make it harder for minorities to vote on the grounds that we don’t make it harder for minorities to vote anymore. They just set a court date, and now the whole thing will get hashed out in D.C. in July.
Republicans might be holding a premature funeral for racism, and you can start with the attempts to smear Trayvon Martin to justify his shooting. Conservative blogs publicized his three school suspensions and showed a photograph of him wearing baggy jeans. Fox News pundit Geraldo Rivera said Martin’s hoodie “is as much responsible” for the shooting as the shooter. They can’t help themselves from using their racism to justify a race-related shooting while doing their literal damndest to deny that race had anything to do with it.
Over in Georgia, there’s a lady who owns a paint ball field near Savannah who is selling bumper stickers that say “Don’t Re-Nig in 2012.” She professed amazement that people thought her admittedly anti-Obama stickers were racist after people got upset. “And besides,” she said, “Obama is not even black. He’s got a mixture of race. It’s his choice of what his nationality is.” So it’s OK to use the N-word to describe the president because he’s only a “Halfrican American.”
Republicans could use Barack Obama’s election as the first black president as evidence of racism’s demise, except that they can’t acknowledge that he’s an American. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who enjoyed a moment in the sun as the Republican frontrunner, even calls Obama the “food-stamp president” and recently accused the Commander in Chief of exhibiting “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior.”
If white America spent as much time embracing minorities as our brothers instead of defining them as The Others, we might get past this. But Americans have been arguing about white meat versus dark meat since Pilgrims massacred 700 Pequot Indians because they saw them as sub-human impediments to progress.
Long after gays can marry—heck, after we have a gay president—Americans will still be arguing about racism. It’s our original sin.