It is extremely difficult for me to be enthusiastic about, much less celebrate, the Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage when this very same court, over the past two days, has dealt the most destructive blow to the Civil Rights movement in memory. What has taken hundreds of years to accomplish and decades since to implement and uphold, has in an instant -- in the tiny too-short instant of its burgeoning effectiveness -- become undone. The playing field, not quite leveled, is again razed askew.
Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina have all shown their true faces. Despite the cool, very level-headed assurances of political analysts, I can very easily imagine that poll taxes and literacy tests will be quick to resume under the guise of cool, very level-headed initiatives like "Voter Registration Fees "(to ease the costly budget-straining process of holding elections in smaller counties) and "Issue Comprehension Certifications" (No comprendé, No voté. The right wing cardboard posters and hand-scrawled bedsheets will say. And hey, won't they have a point? The spineless talk show hosts and underqualified, overconfident connected-via-satellite guests will all nod yes. The dissenting voices will fall victim to their own even-toned rationality (or worse, become shrill) and no one will hear them. One of the talking heads phoning in from XYZ Thinktank will interrupt with a witty quip that we all have to laugh at. And then Natalie Cole will play after the break followed by a new recipe from Whoever. And that will be that. Public discourse finis.
And then there will be a conservative brown senator. Or maybe a woman. Probably from the South. Probably from a second generation immigrant family. To cosign and say that indeed Voter Literacy is an issue: "how can you vote if you didn't pass a TOEFL test? And why not throw in basic reading comprehension while we're at it?" And it will be done. Not only will millions of black and white voters be disenfranchised, but millions of brown ones, beige ones, new dutiful citizens' nascent voices in this country will be muzzled.
"XX% of Dade County citizens are registered to vote, but only XX% are taxpayers -- we need some sort of financial offset to ensure that voting can be continued as a civic process for all... there's the expensive machinery, the site rental fees, the election workers (we still may have to cut voting hours to make it all work) ..." I can hear the statistics and carefully pre-masticated datum spilling off the lips of journalists and pundits now, tumbling off so fluidly and without lumps just as easily as they currently dribble the facile, circular logically challenged statistic that "black voters in XYZ city outnumbered white voters in the last election!"
My grandmother was born in 1925 Ferriday, Louisiana. My grandfather in Ringo, Louisiana. My paternal grandparents were born in 1930s Lafayette, Tennessee. They told me all the stories. They have only recently passed away and many of the adversaries they fought against are not dead yet. Neither are their children to whom they've passed their ideology. This is not a slippery slope. This is a Crisco-glazed, vertical metal chute right back to Jim Crow.
So what does is matter if I can marry my girlfriend when our other brothers and sisters won't be able to vote? How can rights be granted to one part of my being while the rights to the other be curtailed? What sort of cruel hypocrisy is this? Once again I am fragmented into the dual consciousness of my identity. One part of me is affirmed, permitted, while the other ignored, denied. The result: the dying of the whole. When it comes to being Black and Lesbian, it seems the conversation always becomes "Either/Or" instead of "And."
The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s -- Dr. King, Bayard Rustin, Malcolm X, Nina Simone, James Baldwin, Lorriane Hansberry -- that movement that so many black and white artists, thought leaders, sports figures, ministers, gay and straight citizens made possible -- unarguably laid the groundwork for every other equality movement domestic or international since. So, as proponents of Civil Rights standing for all rights for all people, now would be a most excellent time for the LBGT community to stand visibly and loudly beside our black and brown brothers and sisters and make available our community's well-developed legal, organizational, financial and political resources to reverse this impending social tragedy. This could be a divisive moment or an unparalleled moment for coming -- openly -- together.
And p.s. there are not even words remaining, in this humble essay, to address the perversity of so-called Justice Clarence Thomas and all he has done to undo the work of Justice Thurgood Marshall. Clarence Thomas is an outright shame to the legacy. Thank God for Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, may she live a hundred years.
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