“Blacks have a 375-year history on this continent: 245 involving slavery, 100 involving discrimination, and only 30 involving anything else.”
-Historian & first African American Assistant Attorney General, Roger Wilkins
One has to feel for the senior citizens and young people of North Carolina, in the wake of the state’s republicans passing sweeping changes to the current election statute. But as much as I feel for them and agree that, yes their rights are being trampled on, I have to say that those same civil liberties haven’t fully disappeared yet.
With a well-coordinated plan of action to combat these changes, the seniors and the young could wind up teaching those same republicans, as well as America, something about the African American, youth and minority communities. It’s a lesson that history has already provided but one that some have either forgotten or just stubbornly refuse to look at.
First, let me start by saying that I’ve been where many of them will be traveling, hopefully, in the near future. I’ve been without photo identification and have had to go through the process-acquiring a birth certificate-in order to get one. I’ve received the letter from the office of Vital Records that says they have no record of my birth, in effect denying my existence. I played the letters game in that I wrote back-and-forth to those powers that be challenging them to prove that I was not a bona-fide live individual who pays his taxes. (They find you for that with the quickness, don’t they?)
I eventually received my birth certificate, along with a letter explaining that individuals from my generation often had a baptismal certificate as proof of birth. They went on to say that those were no longer acceptable forms of ID used to secure a copy of your birth certificate. The point I’m making is that even though the road is bumpy, tres bumpy in fact, it’s still a road you can travel on but you have to start early.
So, as much as I support the activities of the NAACP and ACLU, I hope that litigation is only part of the strategy. What’s equally necessary is the mobilization of forces marshaled to ensure that those targeted are not truly affected as a result of the actions taken by the state. And since the state has banned paid voter-registration drives as a part of their initiative, there will have to be another 2008, Obama-esque, “boots-on-the-ground” grass-roots effort to identify those experiencing difficulty and lend them assistance in securing the necessary credentials. That goes for young people as well as seniors.
Because like it or not, it feels like there’s another agenda here; one that seeks to show that maybe, just maybe, we’re not worthy of the right. They’re trying to imply that we’re lazy and want things for free, or as easy as we can get it. It’s a program that we can ill afford to ignore. Look at this comment taken from the Daily Beast article:
“The ‘poor’ and minorities have shown considerable skill at obtaining free stuff from government and the taxpayers in the past. How is it an insurmountable burden to obtain a free state issued ID card?”
Let’s admit that many of the popular options erased from the table are primarily options of convenience. Same day registration and early voting was convenient for people; making it easy for them to perform their civic duty. I’m not passing judgment on those who’ve used such in the past but I am saying that because they’re no longer available, you can’t just sit at home and not put forth the effort.
Let’s make sure we mobilize and see which seniors or persons with disabilities need to get to the polls and let’s do that sooner rather than later. That way, we’re ready before Election Day. Even before that, check and find out those in your community in need of a birth certificate. That will probably be the biggest hill to conquer; but again, it ain’t Everest. And if you’re not registered, now is the time to do so. My biggest hope is that we don’t put all of our eggs into the one basket of NAACP or ACLU lawsuits. Rather, my wish is that we channel our inner freeman and remember the words of Roger Wilkins (above) and recognize that the fight continues. To point a fact, it’s never ended.
Some material for this piece came from, The Daily Beast, Politics Beast, North Carolina’s Attack on Voting Rights, Jamelle Bouie, August 13, 2013; the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles Website; North Carolina Vital Records Website.
Helpful (hopefully) North Carolina ID & Birth Certificate Links
NC ID Website
NC ID Requirements
NC Vital Records Website (birth certificate)