District voting: The big lie about Fayette
On last Sunday’s edition of TV political talk show “The Georgia Gang,” when the agenda turned to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act, black activist Jeff Dickerson was ready and eager.
To paraphrase Mr. Dickerson, “You want an example of why the Voting Rights Act should have been upheld? We don’t have to look any further than 30 miles south in Fayette County, where a federal judge recently imposed district voting because Fayette County has prevented blacks from being elected to the County Commission or the Board of Education there for ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY ONE YEARS! THAT is why we need the Voting Rights Act!”
Mr. Dickerson took the opportunity to repeat the 191 years line about six times, thereby setting the hook in any gullible viewers. But it is a lie and repetition will not make it true.
I can’t speak to what happened in Fayette County decades ago; I’ve only lived here 20 years. But I can say I have never seen anyone prevented from running for office by discriminatory practices.
Of course, Mr. Dickerson, and the judge, could have made their statements accurate with small adjustments, like, “For decades, black DEMOCRATS have been unsuccessful running for the County Commission or the BOE in Fayette County.”
That would at least have the virtue of being true, and I don’t know of any sensible or legal principle that would assure success to Democrat candidates in a Republican stronghold such as Fayette County.
Of course when the NAACP mobilizes in a case such as Fayette County, they never disclose their “D” card, that a black Republican elected official would not ease their pain because the complaint is more political than racial, something only black elected Democrats can assuage.
The great irony now is that, in pursuit of “fairness,” the court is overseeing a gerrymandering process of the ridiculous kind, creating a minority district that makes no geographic sense whatever as it winds in a sliver here and there searching desperately for enough black voters to meet the law’s proportion requirements of just over 50 percent black. What tangled webs we weave as we try to manufacture a perfect world.
The answer to all this silliness is of course simple. Treat everyone the same with no racial or other groups favored, let the voting chips fall where they will and prosecute any actual discrimination in the election process. A fifth-grader could figure this out.
We need to get our government out of the business of favoring one group over others. Fifty years ago there were reasons to do it, but a lot of things have changed for the better. While in my view it is clearly past time to end preferential treatment, there is something white folks like me need to keep in mind.
Last week, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act because the data used to demonstrate the need to require Southern states to jump through extra hoops was too many decades out of date, black leaders nationwide gathered to bemoan the ruling, even though all the laws preventing discrimination in the election process remain in effect.
While black Americans link arms and sway as they sing, “We shall overcome!” I now have to wonder, “Overcome what?”
The only discrimination I see is the preferential treatment on their behalf that our government continues to impose. And then I realize the very thing that race hustlers like Jesse Jackson feed on — fear.
As a white man I can’t know the deep-seated fear in the hearts of many black Americans as the protective blanket of preferential treatment is slowly – ever so slowly – taken away, the fear founded on a long history of lousy treatment in America long ago, fear that without preferential treatment the old ways of Jim Crow might re-emerge.
I wish there were an effective way to convince them that generations of Americans of all stripes have now learned and internalized the notion that discrimination is wrong.
In fact, we white folks are rather weary of discrimination from preferential programs because instinctively we know it is wrong. We know it is long past time that we all treat each other equally with no preference to anyone. We know that a representative can do a good job of serving our interests no matter their gender or race. We know that race-based voting is fundamentally wrong, even in a new district drawn under the court’s aegis for precisely that purpose.
And in Fayette County, the way we Republicans should deal with the imposition of district voting is to find conservative black candidates in each district and strive to soundly defeat any Democrat candidates whether they are black, white, Asian (like my daughters), or any other race.
If we Republican voters prevent Democrats from being elected to the County Commission or the BOE for another hundred years, that is fair politics and it won’t be wrong no matter how loudly the NAACP may squeal.
[Terry Garlock of Peachtree City occasionally contributes a column to The Citizen. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.]