Presenting themselves as honest and loyal has been a particular challenge for black men in America. Better yet, being understood as honest and loyal has been a particular challenge for black men in America. While enslaved, black men were inherently assumed to be dishonest and disloyal. Who would not lie to attain freedom? Who would not steal to attain freedom? Who would not betray the trust of an owner of slaves in order to attain freedom? After emancipation, black men had to represent themselves as loyal to a country that did not, and to a large degree still does not, see black men as human beings. Trayvon? Long before emancipation, men like Ben Franklin wrote, with genuine surprise, about the lack of desire on the part of black men to exert revenge against a country which had treated them so poorly and inhumanely. Throughout Reconstruction and the modern era and the war era and the civil rights era and the post-racial era, black men have worked to insure that American citizens are afforded the liberties and rights as promised by the Constitution to which these men have sworn allegiance. In large measure, black, African American men have been loyal and honest in our dealings with the United States of America. The United States of America has not always been honest and loyal in its dealings with black, African American men; the United States of America has not been very masculine in its relationship with African American men. And, the past actions of the US should be indicative of future actions and motivations.
That brings us to the Supreme Court’s most recent ruling regarding the Voting Rights Act of 1965; more specifically, Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Yesterday, the court, led by an arch-conservative Judge Roberts whose life’s mission since law school has been to dismantle the VRA, gutted Section 4. Judge Roberts declared, “Our country has changed.” Really? Trayvon. Ask Paula Deen how much she has changed. Her response would be, “I is what I is…I’m not changing.” A country whose whole foundation and culture has been intertwine with theories and ideologies of race, cannot be trusted to treat all people fairly, without oversight and laws enforcing such treatment. The past actions of the country suggest so; the country’s record is indicative of such. How can SCOTUS suggest that we have grown as a country when our past suggests that we cannot keep our word; we are not honest. I do not trust the judge or the words of Judge Roberts. The US, socially or legally or culturally, has: broken every treaty with Native Americans that I can think of, recognized women as equal citizens deserving of equal pay like men yet refused to pass any law which enforces such a position, allowed abortion to exist legally yet has impeded the practice whenever and wherever possible, freed black men from slavery yet consistently developed/develops law after law to curtail the physical movements and liberties of black men. (We will discuss Parchman Farm and The New Jim Crow and anti-sagging laws in St. Louis in the near future.)
The U.S. is not always loyal to its citizens; it is often dishonest and cannot be trusted. Our history, with regards to the advent of Civil Rights laws, indicates that we cannot be trusted on issues of racial discrimination and fair access to the ballot box. Ida Bell and Roberta fought hard to help pass laws that protect people who looked like them from the consequences of racial discrimination and the denial of access to the ballot box. Now, twenty years after my grandmothers’ deaths and almost fifty years after passage of the VRA, we are told that the pre-clearance restrictions regarding the process of voting which Section 4 mandated are no longer needed: the country has changed. In a climate where Paula Deen desires to recreate Ole Dixie, complete with the requisite, subordinated black bodies serving and smiling and grinning, and where George Zimmerman believes that black males are fair game to be stalked, hunted, killed and mounted as trophies, I do not believe our country has changed as much as Judge Roberts does. Past actions reflect patterns regarding one’s character. In the past, America has seemingly enjoyed marginalizing African American men; I fear that yesterday’s ruling reflects just one more action underscoring such marginalization. Let us see if America is invested in and loyal to African American men. Let us see if America is loyal to African American men. I fear we will gather up our children, get some watermelon and have a picnic. I fear there’s gwine be a lychin’ in town.