North Carolina: This Time Not About a ‘Symbol’
Some have called the recent debate about and the eventual taking down of the Confederate battle flag at the South Carolina State House “the ungodliness of trepidation” and claim that the flag is not a symbol of hate and institutional racism.
Others have called that flag and other Confederacy relics just “symbols” and call the fury — “hate” — over them a distraction that results in not doing something concrete about real racism and bigotry.
In a recent column, however, Eugene Robinson writes that “symbols matter,” and that the Confederate flag is an important symbol “because of the way it has been used — not just as an instrument of repression but as a way to deny history and thus avoid history’s judgments and responsibilities.” He adds, “What South Carolina’s governor and Legislature have announced is clear: It’s time, finally, to stop pretending.”
Whatever history may eventually say about this momentous event in South Carolina, North Carolina is tackling not a flag, not a symbol of slavery and discrimination, but the state’s alleged real discrimination against black voters.
A federal trial opening in Winston-Salem on Monday is meant to determine whether recent, sweeping changes in the state’s election laws discriminate against black voters. These changes were adopted by the Republican-dominated state legislature in 2013, immediately after the United States Supreme Court struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 when it ended a requirement that nine states with histories of discrimination, including North Carolina, get federal approval before altering their election laws.
The Times writes that the contested measures “include reduced early voting days, an end to same-day registration and an end to a program to preregister high school students.” While a “far cry from the violent intimidation and poll taxes of the Jim Crow era,” the Times adds. “few issues are more highly charged than voting rights in the old Confederate states, where the murder of civil rights workers and the brutal police attack on Alabama marchers galvanized Congress to pass the 1965 act, and the trial is fanning old emotions.”
Read more here about a case that is not about symbols, but about real people trying to exercise their Constitutional rights, not in the Confederacy, not in the 19th century, but in the United States of America in the Year of Our Lord 2015.
A case that, according to the Times, could have far wider repercussions, “helping to define the scope of voting rights protections across the country in the coming presidential election and beyond.”
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