In the midst of the national debate (and it is a debate) around how America should address its illegal immigration crisis (and it is crisis), another discussion has arisen about what is America and who is America, as it relates to rights, civil rights particular. The ultraconservative fringe, still mad about the election of President Obama—still hasn’t given the administration a chance…or a break, has organized a “Tea Party” movement based on little much beyond ideology.
Their favorite “spokespersons” have been the newer faces of a Republican Party in flux willing to play to the far right wing for better positioning in the party. Of course, Sarah Palin has been the noise box in the post-election era. While she has the script of the far right, few believe she can seriously carry it off. Her hands just aren’t big enough to write all that down. She is part and parcel of the counter-populous movement (to Obama populism) seeking to redeem the conservatism of an antiquated paradigm (Reagan Republicanism) and there is enough interest out there to pay Palin enough money to keep the noise up while more viable candidates are found (Cal State Stanislaus just the latest to pay her $75,000 for speech—Isn’t the Cal State University system in the midst of a budget crisis?).
But more recently, a new voice has come out of the wilderness to wage a more frontal attack on civil rights. One beyond the immigration/border debate. The new voice starts like an old voice of the past, and gained resonance because it came out of the old South. His name is Rand Paul and he recently won the Republican nomination in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race. He is the son of conservative Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas, who has run for President twice himself.
One study cited that Ron Paul had the most conservative voting record of any congressman since 1937, when the country was in the midst of Jim Crow politics. The senior Paul calls for smaller government and his early libertarian leanings promoted that society and free markets arrest social problems. Yeah, right. America has heard its share of Jim Crow rhetoric. But if you ever want to know what 21st Century Jim Crow rhetoric sounds like, just know Jim Crow, Jr. is as racially provocative as his daddy.
Rand Paul recently offered unsolicited comments on whether he’d support the 1964 Civil Rights Act as it related to enforcing anti-discrimination laws against corporations. He even went as far to say that corporations (like private restaurants) had the “right” to discriminate while at the same time saying he “abhorred” discrimination. Despite calls to do so, Paul has refused to retreat from his comments. He certainly cannot be viewed as soft on affirmative action.
Republicans are known to have to say crazy things to show “the base” their loyalty to thee. Just watch California Republican gubernatorial candidates, Meg Whitman and Steve Posner, try to out-immigrant bash each other, both holding up their support for the Arizona law as good for California. Rand Paul sought to take it one step better. Once one says it, the others will follow. But the “private space” argument as an individual right has come up before, and by the end of the conversation America had legalized a race caste system. Don’t underestimate the conversation. We may be witnessing America’s “Second Redemption” period play out.
The first Redemption Period started just before the Fifteenth Amendment was passed in 1869 when whites protested social equality as not including the right to vote. Once political equality was law, Southerners began a national campaign to “redeem” white rights and the social protocols of Antebellum America. “Private spaces” began to be protected as separation policy became both law and culture.
Those who advances the agenda of “whites rights” were known as “Redeemers” and they sought to redeem the nations from the “black equality” movement that the Reconstruction Period had ushered in. “Whites rights” became the national referendum of the Presidential Election of 1876, but the cultural movement had already spread throughout the South. Only three states (South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana) hadn’t been “redeemed” but the South was still under military rule since the Civil War ended.
Returning the Southern states to local control and states rights (meaning state-run culture) was the demand for the next President of the United States. The Hayes-Tilden compromise forced Southern Democrats (who turned Republican in 1968 after the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act) to consider a Republican because they trusted him more than they trusted a damned “Yankee” (Northerner).
Rutherford B. Hayes rewarded the South by withdrawing federal troops, putting an effective end to Reconstruction (1865-1877) and formally beginning a 20-year Redemption era (1877-1896) that repealed Reconstruction laws, most notably the Civil Rights Act of 1975 (Full Enjoyment Act) that gave Blacks the rights to frequent parks, restaurants and theaters. It was repealed in 1883 in a Supreme Court case called The Civil Rights Cases of 1883, which said private property spaces and white social spaces were property rights that government couldn’t legislate.
Before long, all types of “separation laws” were passed allowing society to discriminate. These laws were affirmed in the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling (1896) that legalized “Separate But Equal” and formalized America’s race caste society for the next 68 years (until the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act). That law is the only thing standing between us and Plessy since they by and large ignored the Brown (v. Board of Ed) ruling with a Massive Resistance movement. And Rand Paul is trying to deconstruct it. Trust me when I say somebody is listening and will try to challenge it as they did the act of 1875. Then what can happen?
With a conservative Supreme Court, you never know…we just may be witnessing something we never expected to see. Neither did those living during Reconstruction. Somebody is waiting to “redeem” America a second time. It may be the national debate of the 2012 or 2016 Presidential elections. We just need to know what that really means, in terms of the return to yesterday in America. It’s not impossible…
Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum and author of the upcoming book, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21 Century Politics. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com.