Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Erm, maybe not happy. We are, after all, thinking about a civil rights leader who was assassinated. But hey, it’s a great day for a furniture sale! Or a quick trip to KMart to see what’s been price-slashed.
I mean, we’re post-race in this country, right? So there’s nothing race-related about calling the First Lady “Mrs. YoMama.” There’s no race in any of the billboards that have popped up across the nation of President Obama in a turban, or in the incessant, it’s-been-proven-wrong notion that he was not born in the USA. There’s no racism in saying that black city kids should become janitors so that they can learn a work ethic. Of course Rick Santorum wasn’t racist when he went on the stump and said he didn’t want to give black people taxpayers’ money. They were “blah people,” he said in a correction.
As I wrote last year for Bitch Magazine’s blog, more than two dozen states have introduced voting right restrictions in their state legislatures, under the rationale that there need to be regulations to minimize voter fraud. “Fraud” is trotted out all the time as the motivation for regulations, in a right-leaning party that is otherwise loathe to regulate things like air pollution, manufacturing, natural gas fracking, health care insurance, or oil exploration. When Florida Tea Party backers got a drug testing law passed so that all welfare recipients had to undergo testing to receive benefits, the idea of mass fraud was revealed to be an illusion. Ninety-six percent of people on welfare in Florida passed the testing. But hey, let’s not say that racism had any part of this push for finding tricksters.
The same goes with these voting rights restrictions. Insisting on seeing a birth certificate, passport, or driver’s license disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minorities who may not have these documents at their disposal, and conservatives know this. It remains to be seen how these statewide efforts will affect not just the 2012 turnout, but the legality of the individual votes cast.
On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, there are still people out there who refuse to believe the GOP has it in for black and brown people. But if someone wants to convince me I’m wrong, then they need to explain the following:
- Why all of the anti-terrorism rhetoric only focuses on terrorists from the Middle East and Africa. So neo-Nazis and white militiamen get to organize and cause terror with impunity?
- Why the anti-immigrant push is all about Hispanic workers. This country has leveraged and invited undocumented or guest worker labor since its founding, but all of a sudden we need a fence along the border with Mexico?
- Why do we need to imprison even more people when we already have 2.5 million of our population in jail, including a sizable percentage of African American men aged 25-50? Why aren’t we doing the “Christian” thing and getting people only guilty of drug possession into recovery? Where is the Republican evangelical movement on rehabilitating drug users?
- Why are GOP members of Congress so invested in cutting breakfast and lunch programs for poor and minority kids, and for gutting Head Start, when these programs have so much evidence to show they significantly help kids’ test scores and education outcomes? And when they’re so cheap compared to other programs?
- Why aren’t GOP candidates and elected officials out there cutting some of the more egregiously unneeded tax breaks for our largest corporations to balance the Federal budget, instead of cutting social programs that have been shown to help our most vulnerable citizens?
Answer these questions in a reasonable way, and I will stop believing that the Republican Party is systemically racist. Pinkie swear.
Meanwhile, the idea of buying a couch at 30 percent off to celebrate the life and death of a civil rights leader is at the very least, in bad taste. Seriously.