Without Protection

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Think Progress recently reported, “This year marks the first presidential election in 50 years without a functioning Voting Rights Act — and it’s not going well.

This is something everyone needs to have on their radar.

As I watched the Supreme Court effectively deconstruct the Voting Rights Act and leave it powerless a few years ago, I knew then that I was watching writing on the wall. It was writing punctuated by the absolution of accountability and acquittals of unquestionably guilty White murderers in the killing of unarmed Black citizens –

Citizens who were literally minding their own business, engaging in no criminal activity at their time of attack or murder.

Citizens like the young recent ex-college football player who got in a car accident (not even with another car), and as he attempted to wave down help, was shot and killed by the approaching officer.

Citizens like the group of Black kids who loaded up in their red Dodge Durango in a parking lot, music turned up loud when a White adult male saw them, hating their loud music (*cough* hating them), chose to spray the teenagers’ car with bullets, killing one of the children. And though he was tried and convicted for the killing of that child, he was never convicted for the attempted murder of the other three. 

When Stand Your Ground laws were successfully invoked to protect some murderers, but used to imprison a Black woman who fired a warning shot in the middle of a domestic abuse episode, I knew then.

As I watched the Supreme Court effectively deconstruct the Voting Rights Act and leave it powerless a few years ago, I knew then that I was watching writing on the wall.

Several of these instances occurred around the same time as the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. I knew from my education and experience in the field of behavior analysis; It had taught me all too well what happens when a behavior occurs and an immediate consequence designed to decrease that behavior does not follow.

As each acquittal became the predictable downbeat to each publicized murder, the message was sent that it’s okay to murder Black bodies. That it’s hunting season, and White skin is all the permit you need. I remember expressing a sense of foreboding to a friend. I said then that Open Season on the freedoms, rights and liberties of Black citizens and POC had been given a new sanction to run amuck. That was 3 years ago. And the destruction of the Voting Rights Act was and still is a glaring part of that sanction.

…that it’s hunting season and White skin is all the permit you need.

This change in the Voting Rights Act affects us all – all races, every citizen, anybody who supports democracy. And each and every one of we-who-believe-in-freedom ought to be aware that this change will impact some people more negatively than others, that this change was not accidental but fully intended to disenfranchise entire segments of the population. We who believe in freedom ought to be aware that those segments were not selected accidentally, but rather have been selected over and over and over again throughout the history of this country. And yes, sometimes those segments include young people and college students and those who identify as democrats, but make no mistake about it – those segments have foundationally been and continually include Black people, brown people, Native people and the poor.

You need only to be a member of one of those targeted groups to know generationally, instinctively or experientially what it feels like to be without the consistent reliable protection of the law. What’s happened with the Voting Rights Act is, sadly, yet another sign o’ the times.

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