NOTE: It took me awhile to realize it, but my joining the voting rights movement in Selma, Alabama in 1965 was like walking into a theater showing an action movie/thriller just in time for the climactic car chase and shootout: high excitement and historic triumph for the good guys. Within six months, it seemed to this rookie, it was all over but the shouting, and the counting of millions of newly-enfranchised Black voters.
Okay, I was a greenhorn rookie, a young white northerner. Only later, in the rheumy eyes and muffled voices of a few surviving elders, did I begin to take in the scope of the backstory: sixty-five years — three generations — of official exclusion from the voting rights supposedly won with civil war and emancipation. Not to mention the long terrors of Reconstruction, and slavery before that. I’m still learning about all of it.
By now, though, on the verge of 80, I understand something more about this long, bloody past. There’s also an old beginner’s sense of its cyclical character: one or two steps forward, then one or three lurches back. I read about it, but more: saw the cycle repeat in the fabled birth of the Voting Rights Act, and now the extended torture of its ongoing, public ”legal” evisceration.
Few writers give me more economical and clear-eyed insight about this today, than Jamelle Bouie, in his columns. In these excerpts he cuts to the Jekyll-and-Hyde nub of it, and further illuminates how it is coming to another crisis point in the imminent midterms, but will surely not end there, whatever happens:
Jamelle Bouie, New York Times:
[The] legal scholar Aziz Rana has observed that for many Anglo-Americans in the 18th century, freedom was an “exclusivist ideal, accessible only to Anglo-Saxons and select Europeans, whose heritage, land practices, and religion made them particularly suited to self-rule. Continue reading Quote of the Day: America’s Fatefully Conjoined Twins — Democracy & Autocracy