Whites in the Jim Crow South did not need to stand around polling places looking menacing to keep blacks at home on voting day: Would-be black voters knew they were putting their lives, their homes, and their jobs on the line if they approached a polling booth.
The actions of two Black Panthers in one Philadelphia precinct in 2008 were not remotely equivalent to the effort to keep blacks from exercising their democratic rights throughout the South; the equation is breathtakingly ignorant.
The only available video records an encounter between two Panthers and a young white man who was videotaping the incident. As I said in my NRO piece, conservative commentators habitually describe the Panthers as wearing “jackboots” and being “armed.” It strikes me as a somewhat overwrought characterization; while a stick or club may be a weapon, I think the word “armed” usually connotes images of guns or knives in most peoples’ minds, and it seems gratuitous to object to the Panthers’ choice of footwear.
Questioning the two Panthers, he says, “I think you might be a little bit intimidating that you have a stick in your hand. The courts, as far as I know, have not established standards for prosecution of intimidating attire, and the libertarian in me questions why boots (not unlike ones my husband owns) are relevant to the question of voter intimidation.
Whatever the facts turned out to be, I felt, the incident was not of sufficient importance to be the primary focus of our yearlong project.
If this small and isolated incident were truly the single most important civil-rights issue in America today, we would have much to celebrate.
Mc Carthy contends that I have ignored important facts about what happened at the Philadelphia polling place targeted by the NBPP in the November 2008 election.
They were disfranchised by fraudulent literacy tests, widespread (and often lethal) violence, and intimidation.
#ad#Mc Carthy is thrown into a tizzy by my mild observations.
Apparently, I am to be excoriated for feeling that the allegations of “armed” and jackboot-clad Panthers invoke inappropriate images of Kristallnacht.
#page#As the Commission’s work on the matter proceeded, my doubts only grew.
I concluded that the claim that the Panthers “were caught on video engaging in voter suppression” is simply wrong. That’s a weapon.” A fair question for him to raise — but hardly conclusive evidence of actual or attempted intimidation.