Last Thursday morning, enraged by the murder of nine African-Americans during bible study in a church in Charleston, SC, I posted the following tweet: ‘It’s good to remember that the adult black victims in Charleston are the people the GOP would like to keep from voting.’ I immediately received a critical reaction from a Dutch journalist, a former US correspondent whom I respect, who considered my tweet tasteless. I responded that I felt that what my tweet said needed to be said, because racism is on the rise in the US and the GOP plays an important part in that process. His response was: ‘I’d say, save it for another day,’ to which I tweeted back that Thursday was precisely the right day to pay attention to the GOP’s behavior, because of the hypocrisy that was being displayed by the party. We left it at that, and the next morning James Clyburn, the U.S. Representative for South Carolina’s 6th congressional district and an icon of the Civil Rights movement, who undoubtedly has a better moral compass than I have, said exactly what I had tweeted the day before on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe.’
In every state where Republicans control the legislature there are constant attempts to reduce the influence of minority voters. The administrative process to achieve this is ‘gerrymandering,’ shaping districts in such a way that minority voters, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic, are bundled together in a few districts, while simultaneously districts with majorities of white, conservative voters are created, guaranteeing a majority Republican delegation to the US Congress. According to South Carolina’s website the state has 2,552,472 registered voters, of which 1,778,547 Caucasian and 773,925 non-whites. Yet of the seven US Representatives six are Republicans and only one a Democrat. And as if gerrymandering is not enough the GOP, under the leadership of RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, has embarked on a campaign of massive voter suppression, by trying to reduce voting hours, in particular voting on Sundays when African-Americans traditionally go voting together after church, and by imposing a variety of voter ID laws that make it much harder for African-Americans to vote.
The reason why the Republicans are pushing voter ID laws is the myth they perpetuate that there is a frequent occurrence of voter fraud in the US. This has been debunked by all research into the topic over the last fifteen years. A recent comprehensive study, conducted at Loyola University, found just 31 instances of the type of voter fraud that voter IDs would have prevented between 2000 and 2014, while more than 1 billion ballots were cast in that period. So apparently there is an ulterior motive.
This is why I got irritated by the Republican ‘grief’ about the violent racism in Charleston. I don’t doubt that Governor Nikki Haley’s tears were real Wednesday night, after all she is a ‘woman of color’ too, and I appreciate US Senator Lindsey Graham’s showing up to pay his respect to the victims, but as long as they and other GOP members don’t denounce, publicly and loudly, the bureaucratic racism practiced by their party on a daily basis, they only represent its institutional hypocrisy.
And that is why I would never heed the advice to ‘save it for another day.’ That is exactly what the GOP leadership would want, for us to separate the sorrow from policy and give them a chance at window dressing their ‘compassion.’ Today we all mourn and pray together and tomorrow we go back to business as usual, which in their case means putting a noose around minority voters’ necks.