The country is approaching the 150th anniversary of the date slavery officially ended in the United States. According to Wikipedia, the Senate passed the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in April 1864 and the Senate in January 1865. Once approved by Congress, the required number of states ratified the Amendment, setting the stage for the Secretary of State to bless the Amendment on behalf the nation. Mississippi didn’t ratify the Amendment until last year, its tardiness defended as a case of legislative “oversight”—confirming yet again how entirely characteristic it is of Mississippi to be dilatory in matters of racial justice.
So here we are, a century-and-a-half later. Equal rights and equity of opportunity are far from a done deal for millions of African-Americans, despite enormous change. The political obstructionism that impedes racial progress is still with us, now thwarting a meaningful reply to the nativists stalking immigrants, their extremism compounded by a billionaire planter class that would willingly take the nation to ruin to protect its special interests. We have been here before, with disastrous results. Still, there is hope: change is marching resolutely on. The entrenched, cynical, and political absolutists of our time may slow but they cannot stop the change that is coming. A juggernaut of demographic trends will soon alter the complexion of the country forever. You might say brown is the new black.
Comprehensive immigration reform is the modern day equivalent of the nation’s great political struggle to abolish slavery and guarantee African-Americans equality under the law. The players have changed but not the game board: Post-Civil War, radical Republicans exercised almost complete control over policymaking in Congress to advance Republican regimes in the seceded states; and are successful in doing it again, but with a wildly different agenda. It is not about reconstruction and reunion of the South with the North; it is about dividing the country’s future, calculating with every election the political spoils of turning Blue States into Red States. The Tea Partiers are the Republicanized version of the Dixiecrats, mirroring their habit of intellectual barbarisms, hiding behind the skirt of state rights, worshiping loudly in democracy’s church, while working behind closed doors to foil racial and economic justice. The radical right ignores, without compassion or mercy, the human rights of others. It is a flashback to the bad ole days, when the Republican Party’s strategy to realign the Southern states was a blatant appeal to white racism.
Back then, it was Senator Barry Goldwater, who voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and led the Republicans to defeat as its 1964 Presidential candidate. Today, it is Texas’ “wacko-bird” Senator, Ted Cruz; and Kentucky’s nutty libertarian Senator, Rand Paul; they, like those conservatives who-would-be-president, flirt with extremism, court the state secessionists, and flatter the demagogues in the U.S. House of Representatives advocating impeachment of the President.