It is probably a revelation to many Americans, but this weekend is the 50th anniversary of the Selma march that earned the name “Bloody Sunday” due to the violence toward peaceful protestors. The 1965 event was by any estimation a very pivotal point in the American civil rights struggle. This August will mark another pivotal point in American history when it will be 50 years since Congress passed the Voting Rights Act ensuring African-Americans the right to vote. One group that was glaringly absent from Selma on Saturday was any substantial representation of racist Republicans; most notably Republican leaders in Congress.
Of course the civil Rights movement was much more than just about voting rights, but what is still a black mark on American history is that in 1870 African Americans had already earned the right to vote with ratification of the 15th Amendment. Still, due to the abominable 10th Amendment, former Confederate states continued denying African Americans their constitutional right to vote that persists to this day. In fact, Democrats in Congress recently introduced another Constitutional amendment guaranteeing all Americans the right to vote; despite the 13th, 14th, 15th Amendments and the now-neutered Voting Rights Act of 1965 allegedly giving all Americans identical civil and voting rights.
One of the participants in Saturday’s ceremony marking the 50-year anniversary of the Selma march, Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware), sent out a letter alerting his supporters that, “Of the 95 members of Congress who marched in commemoration today, not one Senate Republican (and only one in the House) has indicated a willingness to join Democrats in addressing the Supreme Court case that gutted the Voting Rights Act. Unless someone steps forward from the Republican Party, I fear the efforts across a dozen states and localities to suppress the vote will march forward, and our commemoration of the Selma march will be a hollow reminder of how much further we have still to go.”
Senator Coons likely understands, as does President Barack Obama, that as a nation America has a long, long way to go before there is ever going to be true civil rights for many Americans; people of color in particular. As if to punctuate just how far this racist nation has to go, the Department of Justice investigation of the Ferguson Missouri police department revealed that intrinsic racism and white supremacy permeates the department that is really typical of many Americans. By now, Americans have heard about, or read for themselves, the ‘egregious examples of racism’ within the Ferguson police department that are sadly typical across America and supported by Republicans.
Although many Americans errantly believed the nation had turned the corner and escaped the epidemic of racism with the election of Barack Obama as President, the truth is the disease was fermenting among a substantial segment of the population and was just waiting for a reason to manifest itself. The President’s election certainly brought the racists out of hiding and as has been the case for over thirty years, they predominate in Republican ranks; particularly in the former Confederacy where suppressing African Americans’ right to vote has taken on a life of its own. It is something President Obama noted in speaking in Selma on Saturday.
The President said, “Right now, in 2015, fifty years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed. Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood and sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, stands weakened, its future subject to partisan rancor. How can that be?” The President is a master orator and he certainly knows ‘how it can be,’ and who is responsible, but he is also pragmatic and understands the consequences of citing the dirty racism prevalent in Republican ranks.
Earlier in the week, the President answered his own rhetorical question during his comments regarding the DOJ’s investigation of the racist Ferguson police department. He remarked that the results of the investigation “evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that spawned the civil rights movement. What happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it’s no longer endemic, or sanctioned by law and custom. And before the civil rights movement, it most surely was. We just need to open our eyes, and ears, and hearts, to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us.”
Open white supremacy, blatant Republican suppression of the African American vote, and white cops gunning down unarmed African Americans is slightly more than racism casting its long shadow upon us, but President Obama cannot say what most Americans know; racism is a generational disease, rampant, and no amount of open ears, eyes, or hearts is going to bring it to a halt. There is only one viable solution to end racism according to a savvy sociologist studying generational racism, but it is unthinkable and unmentionable.
No American with a pulse dare deny that the dirty shadow of America’s ever-enduring discrimination and racial animus toward African Americans is rampant even as President Obama addressed Republican-led states’ racially-driven “laws designed to make it harder for people to vote.” As creators of those laws, it is no surprise Republicans were not well-represented in Selma. Although there was a former Republican president (George W. Bush), and one House Republican, most Republicans likely felt that attending or even acknowledging the anniversary would not play well to their white supremacist base or their racist conservative media.
They probably assumed that attending would incite a ferocious anti-GOP rebellion among the majority racist wing of the party. A racist wing they depend on to stay competitive at the states’ level especially in the former Confederacy most responsible for voter suppression laws and the Supreme Court getting the opportunity to eviscerate the Voting Rights Act.
No conscious American can deny with a straight face that Republicans, racist conservative media, and their white supremacist base is in any kind of mindset to countenance any more mention of their sick demented predilection to racism, ardent opposition to voting rights, or any non-white American’s civil rights. Even discussing the dysfunction of their racism just has no place in their political, cultural, and religious ideology of a nation they are certain their god created exclusively for white Christians.
In fact, the only thing the racist base wants to hear mentioned from Republicans is how quickly every single legislative victory won by the Selma marchers and organizers of 50 years ago will be summarily abolished; including any mention of the now-impotent Voting Rights Act, the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, and particularly Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Remember, there are a fair number of conservative Christians adamant that slavery is of, and approved by, the God of their bible and should never have been abolished.
Republicans spent the entirety of the 2012 general election, and President Obama’s first term in the White House, telegraphing their true regard for African Americans, and it continues unabated today. Their absence at a historically important landmark and anniversary celebrating the sacrifice and persistence of decent Americans seeking their Constitutional right to vote and civil rights long-ago guaranteed in the so-called ‘Reconstruction Amendments’ is, sadly, not surprising.
While for many Americans the anniversary of Bloody Sunday was a reminder of the struggle and celebration of just how far this sad racist country appears to have progressed, it was a reminder to Republicans how close they are to taking the country back to 1965. An era a large segment of the population is very much looking forward to and they are all part of Republicans’ base.
Editor’s Note: The lone House Republican leader to make the trip to Selma was Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Twenty-three House and Senate Republicans were registered to attend the Selma anniversary.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.