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Franken: Jim Crow returns in new guise

Jim Crow is not a real person. He’s a fictional character invented by a white guy for demeaning performances in minstrel shows. But for generations of Black Americans, Jim Crow is very real and ever present in their lives.

It evolved into the name given to whites’ grudging end to slavery. That is, if you consider an end to slavery separate accommodations — drinking fountains, restrooms, lunch counters, hotels — as if you’re dirty or less than human

That “end to slavery” included separate and substandard schools, racially segregated housing and a lack of equal employment opportunity, thus the lack of realistic means to escape economic bondage. And the ultimate check on the means of escape was the blockade put up to voting.

All of those denied rights were supposed to end with the abolition of slavery. But in reality, they didn’t.

Jim Crow represents the establishment of a network of laws that enforced an American system that called itself “separate but equal.” It was shabbily unequal, of course, put in place by political entities “elected” by only a portion of the population — the white portion.

If necessary, these laws were enforced by vigilante groups like the hooded Ku Klux Klan, which terrorized the Black communities with marauding violence, including lynching. They were followed by their more polite fellow riders along the bigoted trails, who hid their prejudice with legalese.

The advent of television news captured the restrictive South to citizens sheltered in the north. There were enough people of goodwill to generate political pressure that ultimately led to new laws designed to guarantee basic rights.

These federal laws were validated in landmark rulings from a temporarily conscientious Supreme Court. The justices thus gave teeth to efforts to get rid of local laws allowing blatant racial discrimination.

Gradually, reluctant racists had to give way, for a while, to integrated schools, integrated housing and integrated opportunity of all sorts. Suddenly they had to swallow hard and accept the right to mixed-race marriages and next-door neighbors of color.

But they didn’t give way for long.

Republican politicians came up with a so-called Southern strategy of appealing to white voters by promoting their continued advantage. That strategy was a creation of Richard Nixon, with the enthusiastic backing of the GOP. And it won over Southern voters, helping them enact restrictive laws all over the United States.

Their model was Dixie, where former slaveholders never recovered from the fact they had lost their “just cause,” the Civil War, and with it the right to treat people of color as boorish animals. Voters were encouraged by politicians who used slick language to camouflage their appeals to the racists — the Richard Nixons, Newt Gingriches and Donald Trumps, and all the other demagogues who fan prejudice with their rhetoric.

Proving old forms of hatred don’t flame out in this country, the formerly conscientious Supreme Court issued a series of rulings that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and issued campaign finance decisions making a mockery of ballot equality.

Now the Republicans have been emboldened to reinstate Jim Crow as the supervisor of elections. In 43 states, the GOP has introduced ballot box initiatives that are aimed at suppressing the votes of minorities and other Democratic-dominated constituencies in various stages of legislative consideration.

Georgia conservatives — who survived the Trump years after state officials stood against Trump and accepted a clear victory by Democrats — have now closed the loopholes. They have made voter suppression harder to avoid next time around.

The new law infamously prohibits anyone from offering food or water to those forced to stand in hours-long lines as a result of other restrictions. It even expands a voter ID requirement that hearkens back to the days when Blacks did not routinely carry driver’s licenses because they were too poor to afford a car.

These and other relics of the days of yore are the days longed for by so many wearing red baseball caps emblazoned with “Make America Great Again.” These yearnings are embraced by millions of MAGA supporters who would return us to the years when the country was an apartheid nation, a confederation of the Jim Crow States of America.

Bob Franken is an award winning reporter who covered Washington for CNN for more than 20 years. His work is distributed through the King Features Syndicate.

Comments

Don Dix

It appears Mr. Franken would prefer everyone forget which party actually embraced Jim Crow and the KKK, but any political hit piece is usually devoid of pertinent facts that twist the truth.

tagup

It’s very apparent which party embraces it now....there is your truth...

Don Dix

Historical amnesia -- a conjured tactic used to avoid facts that might contradict previous statements and actions -- and quite prevalent in today's disgusting political climate. Just feign ignorance, point fingers, own nothing, and carry on -- the DC way.

RobsNewsRegister

Typical tactic of the left. Lack of specify and context littered with half-truth's and spin.

>The new law infamously prohibits anyone from offering food or water to those forced to stand in hours-long lines as a result of other restrictions

The restrictions are to restrict political interest groups from attempting to influence voters in line to vote - this type of restriction is very common nationwide.

https://thefederalist.com/2021/03/28/chris-wallace-falsely-claims-new-georgia-law-bans-drinking-water-while-in-line-for-voting/

Jean

If the only way you can win an election is to keep people from the opposite side from voting then maybe your party isn't really pro-democracy any more.

Why not try to win by getting more votes by taking up popular policies into your platform?

Win by addition....not subtraction.

Hibb

Mr. Franken has employed historic revisionism at its worst.