Crossing the Line: Welcome Back, Jim Crow

New laws in dozens of states could take out Barack Obama this fall.

The U.S. Supreme Court will rule this month on legislation that forces police to scrutinize Latinos, both immigrants and citizens. President Barack Obama has deported 1.5 million people. And 41 states are attempting to limit the voting rights of young people and minorities.

In “Crossing the Line,” Village Voice Media offers a short collection of viewpoints and artwork to honor the passing of the American dream.

SLIDESHOW: Xico Artists Featured in "Crossing the Line"
VIDEO: The War On Mexicans Has To Stop
FEATURE: Crossing the Line: Bordering on Revolution
SIDEBAR: Crossing The Line: Days of Rage
SIDEBAR: Crossing the Line: Love the Beans, Hate the Beaner"

Around noon on a windy fall Sunday, the motorcade began forming. Dozens of African-Americans, ages five to 85, poured from the three-story New Covenant Baptist Church and into a coughing 20-year-old bus, a cramped church van and their cars.

The caravan snaked down Rio Grande Avenue, turned onto Kaley Street and passed beat-up buildings and old houses downtown. Ten minutes later, it stopped at the county election supervisor's office, where 150 church members filed inside to cast their ballots, all for Barack Obama.

"It was like a crusade," remembers Randolph Bracy, a charismatic, athletic 67-year-old minister. "There was great pride. We were going to vote for the first African-American president."

That was "Souls to the Polls" 2008 in Orlando. It can't happen this year.

It's illegal.

In a brazen attempt to steal this fall's election, Florida's Republican lawmakers have outlawed voting on Sunday, an African-American tradition. Indeed, across the United States, from Montana to Maine and Texas to Tennessee, 41 states have recently passed or introduced laws to restrict voter registration and early voting, and generally limit suffrage.

It's the greatest show of racially fueled political chicanery since turn-of-the-century laws banned scores of African-Americans from casting ballots. More than 5 million voters — largely minority — could be kept from the polls, according to New York University's Brennan Center for Justice.

"When Jim Crow was passed, [segregationists] said because of this plan, the darkie will be eliminated as a factor in elections in five years," says Benjamin Jealous, the NAACP's national president and CEO. "We beat that. But now these state governments are doing the same thing, disenfranchising entire blocks of black and Hispanic voters."

For decades, Southern states barred African-Americans from voting through white supremacist tricks such as literacy tests. That practice mostly ended in 1965, after America watched cops gassing and clubbing voting-rights demonstrators marching from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. The law, said then-President Lyndon B. Johnson, was "a turning point in man's unending search for freedom."

In the years that followed, there were more attempts to cheat minorities at the polls. One was a law in many states that blocked felons from voting and made it difficult to get reinstated. Largely because of zero tolerance for drug crimes, this measure affected one in 12 black men.

A new scam started in Arizona in 2004, when voters approved a law to require not only an ID to cast a ballot but also proof of citizenship to register. The measure has been plodding through the courts ever since, and the citizenship provision was recently ditched. But one California federal judge who heard the case on appeal, Harry Pregerson, noted that "intimidation keeps Latino voters away from the polls."

In 2006, Missouri required voters to show a state or federal ID at the polls. It sounded logical. But supporters failed to emphasize that a quarter of blacks and almost as many Latinos lack this documentation. "The absurdity of these rules was pretty clear," says Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. "A Supreme Court judge said he was old and had let his license expire. Could he vote? And we had a member of Congress who couldn't use his congressional ID to vote."

The Missouri Supreme Court threw out that measure, but two other states — Indiana and Georgia — passed their own ID requirements that the U.S. Supreme Court has since rubber-stamped.

These earlier attacks pale in comparison to last year's blitzkrieg, when Republicans — who had taken control of 57 state House and Senate chambers in 2010 — began to contemplate this fall's presidential election. They had seen minority voters turn out en masse to vote for Obama, and were determined to turn the tide.

In just the past 18 months, 13 states have passed laws that require voters to show ID. In several of those locales, including Minnesota, the governor vetoed the bills, but most of the others will likely take effect before this fall's election.

In Texas, which is under federal scrutiny because of past attempts to dupe minorities, the U.S. Department of Justice blocked the measure. Twenty percent of that state's voters are Latino — and are far more likely to lack photo IDs, the feds found. The law, says Camila Gallardo, national spokesperson for the Latino rights organization La Raza, was "an affront to everyone. They are attacking the core of our democracy, which is open participation."

Gallardo was born in Santa Clara, California, to a Cuban-American family. She points out that her grandmother, who emigrated from the island long ago, never needed a driver's license or bothered with a passport, but has been allowed to vote in that state because she is a citizen. California is one of the few states that have stayed clear of the great anti-minority backlash.

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Its as simple as show your ID and vote. For decades we have lived by these laws. Now because the blacks and hispanics dont want to live by the same rules we change them. My grandmother was an AMERICAN INDIAN and I dont go out wanting back what the government took from them. That was american history. There is racial attitude in all groups. Theres blacks that dont like whites and hispanics. Theres hispanics that dont like blacks. Grow up and act civilized and quit marching around with gang members like the panthers. This is so childish. You look like children that dont get there way. Hay im going to rob a house at 15 years old and then call Q- tip to get me off. This is what is wrong with our children looking for someone to get them off.


So ridiculous. To say, "felons can't vote," is not racism. To say, "that's aimed at black men, many of whom are felons," now THAT is racist. Same thing with IDs for Hispanics. IDs are free and easy to obtain. Just get one and get on board with the rest of us. There is no good reason not to have a photo ID.


I've always been required to show an ID before voting; I sure wish I'd had the jumper cable rental that motorcade.

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