August 6 is the 48th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act. This is the first anniversary since the Supreme Court invalidated Section 4 of the Act, striking critical protections for voters in 9 Southern states and various additional counties across the nation, places where Congress had found patterns of discrimination aimed at preventing racial minorities from voting.
Looking back at this court case, one of the worst in the history of voting rights law, it is a good moment to reflect and ask: did our state lawmakers inadvertently help Supreme Court Justice John Roberts strike down the heart out of the Voting Rights Act?
Robert’s ruling was based on the notion that while there were racial disparities in voting and voting rights problems in the states listed by Congress in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, there were also similar problems in the North. In February’s oral argument, Robert singled out Massachusetts:
Chief Justice Roberts: “Do you know which state has the worst ratio of white voter turnout to African-American voter turnout?”
U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli: “I do not.”
While Roberts’ statement was heated refuted by state officials, the point — that states like Massachusetts can be just as bad on voting rights issues as states listed by Congress in Section — became the heart of his ruling in Shelby.
Roberts’ factoid was well chosen. It is true that voter turnout rates for African Americans in Massachusetts, as calculated by the US Census, were lower than those African Americans in Mississippi in several recent elections. (Think about that for a moment!) Massachusetts’ defenders were left pointing out, rather pathetically, that the margins of error for the two calculated numbers overlapped, and the Census’ sample size in our state was very small. Even as they nitpicked Roberts’ statistic, Massachusetts’ apologists had to admit a sad truth: a stark disparity in voter participation has existed between white people and people of color for decades. State policymakers have done very little about it.
We know where this disparity comes from. Massachusetts has long tolerated glaring disparities pockets of stark economic, educational, and health inequality, particularly for African-Americans Latinos and Asian-Americans, compared to a white population which is, on average, much better off. (This is not to neglect the plight of those whites who are in poverty, which a real problem, too). Is it any surprise that better-educated people with money tend to vote more than less-educated people with less money? For decades, these disparities have translated into missing Black, Latino, and Asian American voters at the polling place, despite the heroic efforts of civic groups to get out the vote.
What’s worse is that election experts have long known how to close the gap – or at massively narrow it. And the solutions are much cheaper and easier then the more intractable problems of closing disparities in education, the economy or healthcare.
The case of North Carolina provides a stunning counterexample. Over the past few decades North Carolina went out of their way to close disparities in voter participation. They put in place a thoroughly modern voting system that allowed register and vote in one stop throughout their early voting period. They let gave all citizens have the choice to vote absentee, not just those who were ill or out of town. And they had an acclaimed program that encouraged 16 and 17-year-olds to systematically pre-register to vote in their high schools so that when they turned 18 they were all set to vote. Not surprisingly, the gap between white and African American voters, once enormous, has shrunk markedly over the past decade.
North Carolina’s good voting practices were a guide to everything missing from the Bay State’s voting system. Early voting? Not in Massachusetts. Absentee voting for busy workers or parents? Of course not. Preregistration for 17-year-olds? No. Same day registration, the gold standard for protecting the right to vote? Definitely not.
Enter the Supreme Court. Now, without preclearance, North Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Florida and other states can do whatever they please. Voting rights advocates can sue only after they go into effect.
In 2010, the Tea Party swept into power in North Carolina. Empowered by the Supreme Court’s decision, the Republican legislature is hard at work on a new wave of changes to their voting laws. If they have their way, North Carolina’s laws will be a model of voter suppression, barring early voting and same day registration, making it more difficult to vote absentee, and ending their high school civics and voter registration programs. In other words, they will make their voting laws mirror the Massachusetts already has.
In fairness to Massachusetts, another part of the North Carolina agenda is to enact strict voter ID legislation, one particularly bad idea that thankfully has never made it on the books here.
We can never know if John Roberts would have been able to convince 4 other Justices to go along with him in dismantling Section 4 without the Massachusetts example. Yet Justice Anthony Kennedy was right when he recently said, “We must know and understand our heritage and our history.” And that includes understanding Massachusetts’ longstanding pattern of neglect towards deep racial disparities in voting.
I’m pretty sure MA does not have the history of deliberate disenfranchisement that states targeted by the VRA do.
Peter Porcupine says
We have long been hypocritical about institutional racism in the northeast.
I mean, lack of turnout is an objective measure. And we fail.
We’ve had years to upgrade our voting system in ways which increase turnout, notably of the poor, the oppressed, the undereducated and overworked. We haven’t done it. If we failed to do it because we’re lazy and stubborn, does that make us any better than if we failed to do it because we’re racist?
If nothing else, when progressive states don’t get it right en mass, it makes it less outrageous looking when right-wing states lurch toward policies which disenfranchise minority voters within their borders.
Did we impose literacy tests, or poll taxes, etc? There was a formula used to determine which states had problems, largely based on prior acts. There’s a good reason some states qualified for preclearance and others didn’t. From the first time I heard MA invoked in this case I thought it was a disingenuous cheap shot on the part of the plaintiffs. I’m not saying we can’t or shouldn’t improve, but in this particular context it is a huge red herring.
The discrimination that produced the busing conflict of the 1970s absolutely was deliberate — both deliberate and prolonged. Massachusetts has a long history of using a variety of creative tactics to accomplish the disenfranchisement of minorities that is so pronounced here. In my view, the “huge red herring” is your reliance on “deliberate”.
In my forty years as a Massachusetts resident, I’ve seen far more explicit racial discrimination — both by individuals and by public officials — than anything I saw in the MD suburb of Washington DC where I grew up. It comes up again and again — code words and dog-whistles like “undesirable element” (as a reason to oppose expanding public transportation), “school choice”, “welfare abuse”, “voter fraud” all mean exactly the same thing and have exactly the same import, even while they are superficially color-blind.
Massachusetts governance is both racist and sexist. The first step towards changing that is to admit its reality.
The absolutely valid point that Mr. Roberts makes is that Massachusetts has a dismal record in regards to minority voting. In my view, the fact that minorities are excluded because they are gerrymandered into districts that minimize their influence (while of course being “color blind” on their face) or excluded because of literacy tests is of trivial consequence.
Minorities in Massachusetts have little or no voice in the government of Massachusetts. The recent charades about VoterID and EBT “fraud” demonstrate the appalling racism of Massachusetts governance — as that governance is practiced, rather than as it is defended by verbal sophistry.
In my view, Mr. Roberts chose the wrong solution (I would have expanded the VRA to include Massachusetts, he chose to instead gut it). I suggest that correctly characterized the problem.
Once again you look too hard for racism and connect dots too easily. This thread is specifically about voting – not bussing, welfare, etc. Clearly the framers of the VRA did not see the deliberate acts that were occuring in post-Reconstruction Jim Crow South. Claiming a false moral equivalence between MA and the South does everyone a disservice. The VRA always had ways to add and subtract jurisdictions based on circumstances and behavoir. Striking it down was a horrible decision and directly contradicts the explicit Constitutional authority of Congress to “enforce this article (Amendment XV) by appropriate legislation”, but blaming MA for that decision is completely outrageous.
Institutional inbred embedded racism is the problem that drives the VRA. This thread is about racism, as manifested in voting regulations and policy.
I don’t think I blamed Massachusetts for this horrible decision. I do think that had Massachusetts followed different policies, Mr. Roberts would have been forced to choose some other state to rationalize his pre-ordained decision.
We did, however, offer him a deliciously ironic opportunity to demonstrate the “hypocrisy” that he and the GOP see in the VRA. The meaning of this issue remains that the racist GOP desperately wants to believe not only that they are not racist, but that the “liberal” Democrats who support legislation like the VRA are even more so.
The effect of Massachusetts policy — and your arguments to support it — is to enable, encourage, and energize that GOP distortion.
I believe we have an obligation to aspire to the same high standards of governance that we advocate for the society around us. In my view, your argument that “this thread is specifically about voting …” is intellectually analogous to the claim that the issue in the Selma To Montgomery marches (or, for that matter, the Civil War) was state’s rights.
The thread may be about voting, but the issue is racism. I get that in your view I “look too hard for racism” and “connect dots too easily”. In my view, you are all too eager to not see and to erase the dots even when they form a clear picture without any lines.
So long as Massachusetts remains the state with the WORST ratio of white to minority turnout in elections, Massachusetts has racist voting policies. In my view, that is virtually a tautology — no amount of explaining or rationalization will change this readily observed outcome.
To be clear, I don’t think you were blaming MA for the VRA decision, but it sounds like the diarist was. I completely disagree with this: “So long as Massachusetts remains the state with the WORST ratio of white to minority turnout in elections, Massachusetts has racist voting policies.” That is not tautology, but precisely the opposite – a major logical fallacy primarily of the post hoc ergo propter hoc variety. We should just all agree that the same voting rules should apply to everyone and be done with it. If that means going ahead and applying the VRA to everyone rather than select jurisdictions so be it. SCOTUS actually could have legitimately invoked equal protection to require such if it had chosen to go that route, and that would have been much preferable to telling Congress they could not enact a law they clearly have the authority to enact.
We have debated this before.
You place great importance on intent. In my view, intent is nearly impossible to discern (never mind prove).
In my view, a public establishment (like a restaurant, hotel, or private club) that shows a disproportionately small membership of a specific minority is, on the face of it, discriminating against that minority. A club whose applicants are fifty percent female and forty percent Latino and whose members are one half percent female and one half percent Latino is practicing a discriminatory admissions process. I’m not at all interested in handwaving about why — the process discriminates, and the proof is in the outcome.
In a similar vein, the simple and unarguable fact that Massachusetts is the worst in the nation when ranking by the ratio of white to minority voter participation means that Massachusetts is practicing discriminatory voting practices.
There is nothing fallacious about that reasoning. An observation that the temperature of a cup of water is 40 degrees higher than before being filled correctly implies that was filled with hot water.
I do not care about the intent. I care about the outcome.
Of course water raised by 40 degrees means hot water was added. Outcome is whatever it is as long as there is no active discrimination. Do left-handers vote in proportion to their population? If we found they didn’t would you claim our voting laws discriminate against them? I doubt it and I hope not. As for establishments, especially restaurants may end up with clientele different in proportion from the city as a whole if they specialize in cuisine prefered by one culture, but not another. I only ask if they are deliberately turning people away which obviously they should not do. Membership clubs are a bit different from voting both in that membership is not a right and it is being decided by those already on the inside, whereas anyone can cast a ballot and MA so far has been pretty good about not trying to stop them. I absolutey cannot abide the logic (and I’m fairly certain my logic professor would agree with me) that fewer minorities vote therefore we have racist voting policies. My philosophy is the exact reverse of your final sentence above. Of course awhile back you basically called yourself racist which you are clearly not, which serves to dilute its meaning beyond recognition and I know now to take the term with a huge grain of salt coming from you.
Often it’s completely unintentional.
In this regard intent doesn’t matter. Results do.
We have a very low minority turnout in this state, and we’ve had ample means and opportunity to fix that. Who cares if it’s intentional? It’s still the result of racist policies; i.e., policies that disproportionately affect minorities.
Find another word for it, but racism by any dictionary definition I have seen is the conscious hatred, prejudice, or feelings of superiority toward another race.
Merriam-Webster defines racism as:
Please note that said “prejudice or discrimination” need not be conscious. And just to be sure, let’s check the definition of “prejudice” to see if it requires “conscious” thought.
Please note again that no “conscious” thought is necessary. One can easily prejudge someone subconsciously. It happens all the time. The mind is constantly making split second judgements about the people we meet before we consciously know anything about them. If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink or anything similar then you know all about this.
It’s this subconscious level of racism that Somervilletom is always referring to when he calls himself a racist. (Please correct me if I’m wrong, Tom.) It’s catching yourself tightening your grip on your cellphone when the black teenager walks past you on the train and realizing, “Damn, I didn’t do that when the white teenager walked by.” It’s the realization that, subconsciously you have been conditioned by our society and culture to prejudge people a certain way. Now just because Tom is enlightened enough not to consciously act as a racist, doesn’t mean he is free of racism; just as a couragous person isn’t free of fear but merely able to act appropriately in the face of fear.
If it’s unconscious or subconscious the word racism has too much bite to describe it. Not everyone holds their cellphones tighter or anything else of the like, but if doing that is racist then how do you describe the KKK or Neo-Nazis? I stand by my contention that the words racist and racism are much too strong and using them dilutes their effect.
Membership in a hate group is not necessary for a person to be racist. Applying the label to people who are not aware that they are racists does not in any way dilute its effect. Not applying it to them allows their prejudices to go unchallenged and (by them) unrecognized. I am quite sure you would deny that you’re defending bigotry, but by failing to apprehend that there are unconscious racists, that’s what you’re doing.
That’s a pretty harsh word too, but as I think of it I think it may be more a difference of connotation rather than denotation. If you call someone prejudiced, biased, or insensitive I wouldn’t pounce as hard and understand that nobody is perfect, not that we shouldn’t be mindful of and overcome those attitudes as well. However, racist or bigot is among the most evil, despicable, reprehensible thing someone can be in my mind and reserved only for those who hate and know it, those for whom no amount of experience or rational argument will change their minds.
… but to answer your question, I would describe the KKK or Neo-Nazis as a racist hate group.
This is illogical: “We should just all agree that the same voting rules should apply to everyone and be done with it. If that means going ahead and applying the VRA to everyone rather than select jurisdictions so be it.”
Applying VRA presumes that voting rules are racially discriminatory even when enforced evenly. It effectively concedes the point that Mass. voting laws are discriminatory. “Applying to everyone” was the original m.o. of racist voting laws: to describe universal rules that interacted differently with the lives and experiences of different kinds of people.
This is again the kind of argument where by excluding context in favor of abstract logic you find yourself in not just a centrist but a far-right position. Your “be done with it” is chilling in this regard. It calls to mind the famous quote by Anatole France: “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.”
Or, as Carlo Rotella recently wrote in the Globe, “American life consists of a surface layer of equality of opportunity stretched over a deep internal structure of inequality.”
…is that rather than passing judgment on which jurisdictions practiced voting discrimination the VRA could have been written, and maybe should have been, to apply to the entire country.
Voting rules were discriminatory precisely because they did not apply and were not enforced the same for everyone. The notion that equality and appeals to logic are far-right are absurd and offensive.
One: To what extent does the secretary of the Commonwealth come in for accountability to the same extent as the state reps? He doesn’t seem a friend to transparent, high-participation elections himself.
Two: I think John Roberts is rationalizing. He’s proven that as a conservative politician on the Supreme Court, he will enact his agenda by any means available. Though he doesn’t appear to care what people are doing in their bedrooms, he knows whose standard he is expected to advance.
Three: This isn’t Lake Woebegon. On any statistical basis, someone is going to be last, and I’m getting tired of politicians pointing to them and calling it lagging, achievement gap, or what have you. His argument is specious – because a state that wasn’t subject to the VRA had low comparative turnout, the VRA isn’t necessary. In other words, because someone else got hurt in an accident while wearing a seat belt, and someone else got hurt a little worse in a different accident while not wearing his/hers, we should take seat belts out of cars.
I think your analogy works, sort of.
Massachusetts is the driver who says “I don’t need no stinkin’ seat belt, I’m a much better driver than those morons in the south”. The Massachusetts driver is nearly killed, and three of her passengers seriously injured, in a relatively minor accident after they are thrown from the vehicle. The southern driver, injured slightly in a different accident, complains about being forced to wear a seat belt. The VRA decision does, in fact, argue that the involuntary seatbelt law of the south is not needed because the Massachusetts driver and her passengers were injured without one.
In my view, the takeaway is that accidents happen in both the south and in Massachusetts. The fact that a Massachusetts driver believes they don’t need a seat belt speaks more to the willful ignorance of the Massachusetts driver than of anything else.
What occurs – and I can speak from experience in Boston – is that get-out-the-vote in these communities is usually franchised out to entities with no organic connection to potential voters.
As a result, as in the recently concluded special Senate election campaign, organizations often (albeit inadvertently) repel far more voters than they attract to the polls. If one compares turnout, relative to other precincts, and using voting-age-population by race as a benchmark, Roxbury’s turnout was well above the City mean in the 2012 State primary. In the 2013 Special Senate Election (again relative to the rest of the City), Roxbury turnout collapsed.
The distinction involved the outreach mechanisms used. In 2012, there was a contested race for Gloria Fox’s State Rep seat. Some of the best of Boston’s black field operatives worked that race on her behalf. These operatives are seldom enlisted on behalf of up-ballot candidates (Deval Patrick’s campaigns were exceptions).
Interestingly South Boston turnout also nosedived. The dynamic involves class as much as race.
Furthermore, there is a tendency to misunderstand electoral dynamics in majority-black precincts. In 2012, folks liked Elizabeth Warren, but the dynamics were overwhelmingly pro-Obama and anti (generic)-Republican. Warren rode the coattails of this; she didn’t have the quasi-religious support in the black community that she received from white progressives.
Finally there is the matter of political nuance. While there is a liberal consensus (in the Hubert Humphrey sense of that term) within the black community, that community is not on the whole progressive, and tends to be culturally anti-Left. This is why, for example, Barack Obama can get away with describing himself as a moderate 1980’s Republican (i.e. Taft conservative) with little adverse reaction from his black base.
Getting back to field: The field operatives mentioned above were, by and large, enthusiastic volunteers in 2012. They were snubbed by Markey’s campaign in 2013. The people running Markey’s black Boston field had little in the way of organic connections to residents or those black elected officials (also snubbed) with grassroots credibility.
In addition there was overuse of phone banks as an outreach mechanism. Phone banks, where the callers are unknown to recipients, hit a point of diminishing returns pretty quickly. Caller ID limits utility because unknown callers are ignored; furthermore prepaid plans mean that residents pay for incoming calls. Further limiting the utility of phone banking is the tendency of campaigns to over-call (quintuple calling in the case of Markey). When campaigns become nuisances, they diminish turnout.
Markey’s campaign was an extreme example, but indicative of the approaches campaigns have a forty-year history of using in the black community (as opposed,for example, to Tom Menino’s resident-to-resident,door-to-door campaigns).
Resident-to-resident outreach works best, particularly in black communities like Boston’s which are ethnically diverse. While African-Americans (defined as the descendants of North American slaves) had low turnout, Haitian-American turnout was relatively high due to Linda Dorcena Forry’s State Senate campaign.
And purely as a demographic aside, African-Americans are a minority within black Boston.
In short, Avi, the problem is structural. While I support same-day registration and easier access to absentee voting, there are no magic bullets to increase turnout in the absence of community-accountable field mechanisms. While those mechanisms don’t necessarily have to be part of structured campaigns, they have to exist.
What must be addressed is the fact that people often make, based upon their experiences, a rational (if self-defeating) decision not to vote. This won’t change unless addressed in an accountable manner on the ground.
at least it does in my community. The door knocking list was purged so that it only contained buildings with 6 or fewer apartments. The theory was that brownstones have 3 or 6 units, 3-deckers have 3ish units, etc. Large apartment buildings have doormen or buzzers, and are very difficult to actually knock on doors. So, given limited resources, those were axed.
Know what that means? It means that (a) we missed out on 1950s and 1960s big box buildings, which tend to have lower rents than the nicer brownstones, and that we missed the public housing buildings. For my 4% African American community, there’s no way we got 4% AA turnout in Markey’s election, and I think that housing demographics played a role.
I was told, and it does make sense, to include walkable houses only for walk lists. Anybody who can’t be knocked should be on a call list, but of course we have mentioned the drawbacks to that as well. That does leave some people off the grid so to speak. The only other thing I can think of is try to recruit coordinators from within these complexes, but unfortunately they are people who have so many other concerns in their lives that volunteering is probably not high on their list. Obviously a special brings its own challenges, but we need to figure out how to make voting more routine generally. I always have a hard time relating to these discussions of turnout because I’ve always been one who doesn’t need a reason to vote other than today’s Election Day.
Getting back to the need for locals to do canvassing:
Any competently constructed canvass contact list for black voters – for that matter, high-turnout urban voters in general – includes residents of public housing, in particular elderly public housing, because the residents are a treasure trove of likely voters.
You contact those voters by either (A) enlisting residents to canvass their own buildings; (B) or getting permission from building management to allow a person known by the residents and building security to do so.
In my experience, any competent grassroots organization can find the identity of one or the other – usually both.
If one ignores good votes in those developments – and as a rule the elderly residents alone can be as much as 30% of good voters – two Bad Things happen:
Good voters are alienated because they aren’t contacted in person (after being alienated by phone banks, for reasons listed above); and
Many residents will complain about this to their friends, who are often good voters themselves. Those voters presume (correctly) that the campaign doesn’t respect them as voters or care about them as people.
There were plenty of activists, operatives and elected officials who could have corrected this, but they were actively snubbed by both the Warren and Markey campaigns. In 2012 they held their noses and worked anyway for the sake of President Obama. In 2013, absent a threat to the President (Gomez was so much of a lightweight that he floated on air), they didn’t.
And I’d add that while individual campaigns are (rightfully) myopic and struggling with resources, Democratic Committees within each community should be taking the long view. These organizations should be cultivating residents to turn out their building’s vote, and cultivating relationships with building security.
This doesn’t necessarily help in a primary [unless the Dem Cmte does a “hey, there’s a primary!” canvass], but it sure would in the general.
1. Most importantly, there is no basis for blaming Massachusetts for John Roberts’s specious decision. John Roberts and his four henchmen are not supposed to make moral arguments, or second-guess Congressional findings. The only question was whether the legislation passed by Congress, with extensive findings behind it, is permissible to enforce the 14th OR 15th Amendment. I don’t think there’s any question it is. If the question were before Congress, it might well be preferable to extend preclearance to other jurisdictions. But before the Supreme Court, saying “they could have included other jurisdictions” doesn’t cut it. The “federalism” argument is absurd; the whole point of the 14th and 15th Amendments was to place states that couldn’t be trusted to respect individuals’ rights under federal oversight.
2. Secretary Galvin and our legislature have been woefully slow to implement the types of changes described by others that would boost turnout. Massachusetts should adopt those changes at once.
3. I continue to think SomervilleTom drastically overstates the racial history of Massachusetts, especially compared to Maryland. Maryland was a state that, in the 1960s, still had local police enforcing “custom” that blacks and whites didn’t frequent the malt shop on the same day. CORE and the Kennedy Administration had to fight like hell to eliminate the embarrassment of Maryland restaurants refusing to serve African ambassadors. You say:
You are yourself “enabl[ing], encourag[ing], and energiz[ing] that GOP distortion” yourself, not least because Secretary Galvin has said Roberts’s statement was factually inaccurate but you’re repeating it as if it were true. Sure, we have work to do, but let’s deal in facts.
I grant you that Maryland’s racism was more explicit in the 1960s. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that that very explicitness also made it easier to change — those segregation laws were reversed.
I would further add that the explicitly racist miscegenation laws of Massachusetts were not only not reversed, but were in fact staunchly defended in 2004 by Thomas Finneran — a “liberal” Democrat. It was not until 2008 — nearly FORTY YEARS after Maryland’s Jim Crow laws were reversed — that Massachusetts finally repealed its miscegenation laws.
I appreciate the effort of sethjp to further clarify the kind of racism (and sexism) that I refer to.
I share your desire to deal in facts. I would also ask that we deal in truth — the two are sometimes not the same.
The truth is that Massachusetts in 2013 remains racist, especially in comparison to Maryland in 2013.
First, who the hell ever considered Tom Finneran “liberal”? I was working with real liberals in Massachusetts during his tenure who considered him something like the anti-Christ. Some of them hand a hand in his going to prison.
Second, whatever the intent of the legislature in 1913, when the statute to which you refer was adopted (and it seems to have been anti-miscegenation hysteria due at least in part to animus toward Jack Johnson), that law (1) did not ever prohibit interracial marriages of Massachusetts residents; (2) was rarely enforced; (3) has been unconstitutional since the Loving decision in 1967 anyway. Finneran did seek to block a House vote on its repeal, but that had nothing to do with interracial marriage. It was motivated by his desire to limit the availability of same-sex marriage. Abhorrent as such animus is, it bears no relationship to racism. In any event, repeal passed the House 118-35 with Finneran gone, and passed the Senate unanimously.
As for Massachusetts vs. Maryland in 2013, I beg to differ. Exhibit A (a welcome speaker at Maryland Republican clubs), Exhibit B, Exhibit C, Exhibit D. My friend in Wheaton (who is 100% Italian-American) has a teenaged half-Italian, half-black son in DC who won’t even take the Metro out to Wheaton alone because he’s afraid of being jumped.
I grew up in Wheaton (I moved to Rockville at age 16). Wheaton is a tough town now, and my high-school friends tell me it’s dangerous for anybody of any race. That was not true in the 1950s and 1960s when I lived there (I remember when Wheaton Plaza was being built).
Is Maryland trying to pass VoterID laws? Is Maryland trying force photo IDs on EBT cards? How does white versus black voter participation work in MD?
In answer to your perhaps rhetorical question about Tom Finneran (“who the hell ever considered Tom Finneran ‘liberal’?”), I guess I would answer the usual suspects — local Republicans, right-wing talk-show hosts, and so on.
I disagree with you that the animus against gays has nothing to do with racism. I think that virtually all such prejudices emerge from the same core emotions of fear, insecurity, and scapegoating.
I’m sure I can find racist crazies in MA, and in just about any state. I don’t know of any Maryland neighborhoods or regions (with possible exception of the Eastern Shore) where it was as physically dangerous for blacks to go as South Boston, Charlestown, or even the North End in, say, 1980 (I don’t know about now).
When I was growing up, there were always neighborhoods in DC where you didn’t go if you were white — Southeast, near RFK Stadium, for example. I don’t think the converse was true, though, or if it was, I wasn’t aware of it.
In any case, perhaps we can all agree that:
1) The Roberts decision was abysmal,
2) Any sort of institutional racism is abhorrent,
3) Racism does not need to be explicit or intentional to be both real and harmful.