Republicans attacked Vice President Joe Biden for speaking to a Virginia crowd this week and saying that bank deregulation would amount to the Republicans and Mitt Romney “going to put y’all back in chains”. Many in the audience were blacks. Biden has never been known to mince words when speaking to a crowd. Subtlety is not his strong point. Speaking boldly has its place and strength.
In law school, we were taught that truth is a defense to anything that appears to be libelous. Vice President Biden’s comments do not offend me because they are rhetorically true.
I see Vice President Biden’s comments no different than many of the conservative Republicans and particularly the Tea Party crowd. They claim to want to “take our country back.” As an African American, I see that rhetoric means back to a time when blacks were not in power, knew their place and whites ruled over them. With the Republican voter ID laws, which will disenfranchise many blacks and minorities, it will take us back to a time when many blacks could not vote. Whether it will take blacks back to a time of chains may be debatable.
On Wednesday, a Pennsylvania judge ruled that the Pennsylvania voter ID law is constitutional despite the fact that many hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania voters, particularly many minorities, will lack the identification needed. He upheld the law as constitutional despite the fact that many voters who have always voted will not be able to vote due to inability to obtain the required ID. Testimony was heard from one 93 year old black woman who has not been able to obtain her birth certificate despite the fact that she has voted ever since she got the right to vote.
When I see the Judge’s ruling on the Pennsylvania voter ID trial that the state’s voter ID law is constitutional even when it will disenfranchises blacks and minorities, I suspect that Vice President Biden’s words may be correct. A voting law which has no basis other than to disenfranchise minorities with no proof of voter fraud is intended to do exactly what Vice President Biden stated. Pennsylvania lawmaker Mike Turzai boldly stated that the Pennsylvania voter iD law will allow Mitt Romney to win Pennsylvania. Biden was speaking in terms of bank deregulation but he might as well been talking about voting rights. And voting rights are the bedrock of democracy.
I don’t quite frankly mind Vice President Biden’s words and the use of the “chain” analogy. Someone needs to say and speak clearly what’s at stake in this country for minorities in the upcoming election. Vice President Joe Biden is doing his job of being the attack point person. I applaud his efforts at speaking plainly and clearly to what the Republicans and Mitt Romney are attempting to do, if elected. And the GOP is the last group that should be discussing race baiting. The GOP voter ID laws are nothing more than a race bait effort to suppress the black vote and “take back our county”.
Thank you Joe Biden for speaking your words. Thank you for doing everything to prevent Romney and the Republicans from “taking our country back”
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She also writes for the Huffington Post.