A New Civil Rights Movement This Isn't



From the diaries…

For all the rejecting of the past, many of the disgruntled in the current generation are fixated on connecting themselves to it. Assuming that you share a similar struggle romanticizes a current one, and props up beliefs and actions which otherwise might be dismissed by others. While continuing a legitimate fight for a cause may continue for decades, breathing life into a struggle that really isn’t there is not the same thing. It’s apparent, though, that many believe such causes exist.

Voter identification has been a widely discussed issue for some time, but has especially grown in recent years. Each state has their own provisions concerning the matter, and increasingly, more states have added ID requirements, as seen by this history from the National Conference of State Legislatures. With the election of Barack Obama however, voter identification has turned into a racially divisive issue. Claims of disenfranchisement due to ID requirements are ripe, and any mention of introducing or expanding such a law brings accusations of same.

Most unfortunately, this has become a rallying cry among young members of the minority community. Their organized efforts insist voter suppression is alive and well. The most recent outrage occurred in Tennessee where students: “filed a federal lawsuit…claiming Tennessee’s voter identification law violates the rights of college students by not allowing them to use school IDs to vote.” As this article argues:

The case marks a highly unprecedented turning point in the ongoing conflict over voter ID and other Republican-led voter-suppression laws accused of targeting Democratic-friendly young, minority and low-income voters. With Republicans expanding their electoral gains in state legislatures, voter-ID laws have become a common feature in many key states and, as initial data suggest, disproportionately impacted large populations of color.

The idea that voter ID laws target one political party or one ethnic group is absurd. A requirement affecting voters…affects all voters. That’s not a difficult concept. Reassessing such a measure only when your side performs poorly says much about what fuels your dislike. Even the above quote referencing Republicans and mentioning “expanding their electoral gains in state legislatures” has only contributed to a rise in these measures completely discounts the ability of the individual voter to, regardless of race, obtain the required identification needed to cast a vote. In reality, this most recent case is much simpler than suggested:

Tennessee House Republican Caucus press secretary Cade Cothren dismissed the notion that student voting rights have been violated and worries that “frankly, student IDs are easier to fake.” He told The Root, “If a student only has a student ID, they are eligible for a free ID from their local DMV.”

 I don’t discount that actual racism still occurs, but it does not exist by way of requiring voter IDs. Standards to ensure a one-person, one-vote exercise is beneficial to all, no matter the outcome. Many states offer inexpensive and even free identification to meet the necessary requirement, so cries of suppression are laughable. The false claim that says laws which target the electorate as a whole are unfair to just minorities does not equate to racism.

This ongoing situation in Tennessee (and the entire discussion) highlights what I believe to be a hallmark of young social justice warriors: their predisposition to believe that what they are engaged in is akin to civil rights causes of the past. Individual voter identification is not an issue for just a certain segment of the population. It’s an issue affecting the entire electorate. The burden is not on the legislature to pass an easier law or do away with current laws for your own comfort, it is on you to meet the criteria which applies to everyone. Those engaged in actual civil rights causes fought and succeeded against real discrimination. Conflating present day and easily rectified annoyances with previous struggles only serves to shift the focus from the real of the past, to the imagined of the present.