Honestly, Tony, my first instinct was to ignore you.
That’s become my go-to when readers ask me, as you did in a recent email, to prove to their satisfaction that, “Republicans are keeping Black people from voting.” When I didn’t respond promptly enough, you said this strengthened your feeling “that this is a fabricated issue with no real merit.”
Lord, where to begin? Tony, I’m not your research assistant. Moreover, there’s this new invention called Google, which, with a few keystrokes, can point you to the arguments I and others have made about GOP voter suppression. If, that is, you really want to know. I don’t think you do.
And as I say, I’d have deleted your email except that it roughly coincided with the release last week of a heart-rending video by the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times of Florida ex-felons being arrested for alleged voter fraud. This, courtesy of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ so-called Office of Election Crimes and Security, a force putatively tasked with combating voter fraud.
Except, of course, that there’s virtually no such thing in this country -- certainly not of such magnitude as to sway an election, much less justify a strike force. So Gov. DeFascist’s election cops are but the latest GOP effort to suppress opposition voting. Otherwise, they’d have to face the fact that they are simply not very popular: losers of seven of the last eight presidential popular votes, stranded on the short end of public opinion on everything from guns to LGBTQ rights to abortion. If they couldn’t cheat, they couldn’t win.
The video puts a human face on that treachery. Even the cops seem embarrassed to find themselves handcuffing these hapless and confused people -- “Oh, my God” one woman keeps saying -- who voted only after being given voter registration cards by the state. Thirteen of the 19 people thus far arrested are Black, a proportion that should surprise no one. And if you think this will not have -- or is intended to have -- a chilling effect on voter turnout, I’ve got tickets to the Winter Olympics in Key West, and you can have them cheap.
None of this is offered in hopes of swaying you, Tony. You’ll believe whatever you find most convenient.
No, my only object here is to express the exhausted frustration one feels as an African American with people constantly asking you to “prove” racism to them -- like it’s some UFO hoax, like you’re an unreliable witness to your own experience, like you don’t know what you know, haven’t seen what you’ve seen or lived what you’ve lived. It’s a recurring theme. Someone always seems ready to inform us that what seems terrible, really isn’t.
In the slavery era, they told us how pleased African Americans were with being property. In the Jim Crow era, they said African Americans were content with being terrorized by the Klan. In the Civil Rights era, they said African Americans were happy to be served from the back door of the restaurant. Some of us never saw the evil in any of that.
Now here you are, asking for help to see the evil in policies which, to quote a North Carolina court, target Black voting rights with “almost surgical precision.” There’s always someone who doesn’t get it. And it’s almost always because ultimately, they really don’t want to. Getting it, after all, would upset the moral apple cart. It would require work they’d prefer not to do and knowledge they’d prefer not to have. So they ask disingenuous questions instead.
Sorry, Tony, but you’ll have to take that elsewhere. Don’t ask me for answers we both know you do not want.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. email@example.com