America’s Third Reconstruction
Republican-controlled state legislatures across the US are enacting new restrictions on voter participation that target non-whites. Since the Civil War, white supremacy in America – nowadays embraced by a shrinking minority – has always based its power on violence and voter suppression.
NEW YORK – America is two cultures in one nation. The first culture brought slavery, the genocide of Native Americans, “Jim Crow” laws enforcing white supremacy, and former President Donald Trump’s bullying, lying, and cruelty, which culminated in the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. The second culture brought emancipation, the civil rights movement, President Barack Obama, and now the election of Joe Biden. The white supremacist culture – embraced by a shrinking minority in America – has always based its power on violence and voter suppression. This is why the current battle over voting rights is a battle for America’s future.
The battle of the two cultures is now playing out across the country and in Washington, DC. Biden’s victory has stirred white supremacists to double-down on voter suppression. The Republican Party knows that it cannot hold national power in a fair vote. Thus, Republican-controlled state legislatures are enacting new restrictions on voter participation that target non-whites. In Washington, on the other hand, the inclusive culture is advancing in Congress the most significant voting rights reforms since the 1960s, intended to ensure access to polls for all Americans.
Voter suppression is a long-standing instrument of white supremacy in America. The story has been told most vividly by W.E.B. Du Bois in Black Reconstruction in America, published in 1935. Du Bois describes in harrowing and comprehensive terms how African-Americans fought heroically for their freedom in the US Civil War (1861-65) and – through education and hard work – for full emancipation as citizens in the Reconstruction years (1865-77). Yet that emancipation was cruelly cut short by Southern whites’ violence and terrorism, together with the indifference or racism of many Northern whites. At the core of the South’s Jim Crow regime after Reconstruction was the suppression of African-American voting, in flagrant violation of the Constitution.