The problem with black history month is that one can slip into the mindset that it’s all about what happened way back when – RIGHT? – but it isn’t. For instance, The Eight Box Law of 1882. It was a nastily clever way to disenfranchise black people in the late 19th century, not dissimilar to activities designed to do the same thing even 80 years later.
Then you recall there are all sorts of ways the system is trying to disenfranchise certain people in the first part of the 21st century, with voting rolls purged in certain neighborhoods; required IDs that are increasingly difficult to acquire; and fewer polling places, so that voters, facing long lines, will be discouraged.
And I’m not even going to get into gerrymandered redistricting.
From Think Progress (2016): “In 2013, North Carolina — led by the GOP — approved a law that eliminated same-day voter registration, cut a full week of early voting, barred voters from casting a ballot outside their home precincts, scrapped straight-ticket voting, and got rid of a program to pre-register high school students who would turn 18 by Election Day. That law also included one of the nation’s strictest voter ID requirements.
“Federal courts struck down most of the law after finding that it was passed with the intention to suppress African-American voters ‘with almost surgical precision.'”
You read that Sentencing Commission Finds Black Men Receive Longer Sentences Than White Men For Same Crime. You may have instinctively known that, but it’s good to have it verified.
And then you remember that, in most states, people that are in the prison system can’t vote, so that’s another method of disenfranchisement. And people who have served their time, “paid their debt to society,” STILL can’t vote in some states, in a few jurisdictions, FOREVER.
So you latch on to the notion that “progress” has been made. and surely there has been. But in a system of two steps forward and two steps back, it can feel a lot like standing still.