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History May Not Repeat Itself but it Does Rhyme

19754vMark Twain is alleged to have said "History may not repeat itself but it does rhyme.” I thought of this line when I heard that my home state of Alabama had closed DMV offices in the 25 counties with the highest black population in the state. This is a new cover of an old song. I wrote in Reaping the Whirlwind: The Civil Rights Movement in Tuskegee about a long struggle by African Americans to get the right to vote. There white opponents of black rights, who had controlled the county always though they were a 20 percent minority, simply refused to convene the Board of Registrars, the only way,  before the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed, that blacks could become registered voters. If there was no functioning board of registrars, then there was nothing black voters, many of whom were well-educated and well-to-do and thus amply able to meet the other requirements for registering to vote, could do. Today lots of white people in Alabama have no shame about the lengths to which they will go to diminish the influence of black people in a democracy. It seems that any anti-democratic tactic is justifiable in the name of opposition to the black president of the United States, whose occupation of the White House has propelled white supremacists to do anything, anywhere, anytime to renounce his leadership.  There is one-party politics in Alabama, and most of the South, these days, and that means that the Republicans can do as they please. They fuel the passions of “conservatives”—a euphemism for white supremacists, at least in this environment. Again, it is behavior frighteningly familiar. The old Alabama Democratic party’s motto was “White Supremacy for the Right.” Alabama—and Southern—Republicans may not have adopted the slogan but they have mimicked the behavior of the old Dixiecrats and the George Wallace movement. My hope is that I will live long enough to see history rhyme again, to witness federal action to protect the rights of one and all to vote.

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