Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Asking for ID is racist

- Bradley R. Gitz Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.

Buried in all the hysteria over “Jim Crow on steroids” (otherwise known as Georgia’s new election law) is some evidence that America really does suffer from “systemic racism,” although not in the way usually thought.

Since it is difficult to identify much in the specifics of the new Georgia law that makes Georgia electoral rules much different than those of other states, in either a looser or tighter sense, the real complaint seems to again come down to the demand for voter ID, whether for in-person or mail-in voting.

Such a demand is said to amount to “voter suppressio­n,” with the votes suppressed supposedly coming disproport­ionately from Black voters and therefore depriving mostly Democratic candidates (the hunch is that, were Black voters to begin to vote more often for Republican­s, Democrat complaints regarding ID would become less frequently heard).

Demanding identifica­tion to vote is claimed to be racist because leftists, including our president, for some reason believe that Black people are less capable of acquiring the kinds of identifica­tion that other people easily acquire and routinely offer up for all kinds of daily activities.

Asking for identifica­tion is sufficient­ly common in American life (in the lives of people just about everywhere) that we are thus left with something of a logical conundrum—if asking for ID to vote is racist, then so too must be asking for ID for all those other activities that one would think less important than voting, and about which virtually no one complains (irony especially abounds when CEOs of airlines that require identifica­tion from their passengers obliviousl­y denounce Georgia and Texas for requiring it for their voters).

We are therefore forced to reach a conclusion that if asking for ID is racist, a society which asks for ID for all the things ours does (in addition to voting) must suffer from systemic racism after all.

Of course, we are only able to arrive at this absurd position because we began with the absurd assumption that Black folks can’t produce identifica­tion in the same way as white folks (even when the state is willing to provide it for free).

All of which tells us that accusation­s of racism are easy to fling when definition­s become so far removed from original understand­ing and so malleable as to be capable of continuing (because they’re continuall­y politicall­y useful) evolution.

It is, however, perhaps more sensible to reverse the reasoning in all this and ask whether the initial assumption—that Black folks aren’t as capable of acquiring proper means of identifica­tion—is both false and contains within it what is referred to as the “racism of low expectatio­ns.” When you assume that people of certain pigmentati­on are incapable of doing what people with different pigmentati­on do without difficulty, you are making precisely the kind of assumption upon which all racial discrimina­tion has historical­ly been founded.

The claims become even more peculiar when considerin­g that liberals don’t appear at all concerned that the black folks they expect so little of won’t ever be taken aback by those meager expectatio­ns and the assumption­s of racial inferiorit­y they contain; that they won’t be offended by being depicted as so incompeten­t as to be incapable of proving they are who they say they are, even if, as with the case of Georgia’s election law, all it requires is the last four digits of your Social Security number.

If there is such a thing as the racism of lower expectatio­ns it is unlikely that the expectatio­ns have ever been lower.

If one assumes that Black people are incapable of acquiring IDs for voting, then it must also be assumed that they lack the ability to do all those other things for which proof of ID is often necessary, including renting a hotel room, applying for a fishing or hunting license, purchasing a gun, opening a bank account, buying a cell phone, driving a car, and getting married.

If voting is important and the process of voting requires integrity and sufficient safeguards against fraud, both of which seem reasonable propositio­ns, then it becomes difficult to explain why any democratic society could justify ID requiremen­ts for all kinds of activities but not for voting.

It logically follows that we either require ID for voting or cease to require it for anything. Such a conclusion has nothing to do with Jim Crow or poll taxes or literacy tests; rather, it has to do with establishi­ng a modest, common standard that all of us meet when participat­ing in our democratic process, and common standards cannot, unless one tortures the definition, be racist unless we make racist assumption­s about the incapacity of certain races to meet them.

So to avoid going down the rabbit hole, let’s do the right and moral thing and assume that Black Americans are just as capable of obtaining proof of identifica­tion as white Americans. And therefore just as capable of meeting voting requiremen­ts that include ID, if they wish to vote.

Major League Baseball has moved the All-Star game out of Atlanta to Denver in protest of Georgia’s new election law.

Wonder if Coors Field will ask for ID at the will-call window.

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