Reconstruction déjà vu is upon us. Republicans at every level of government are zealously rolling back the civil and constitutional rights of ethnic minorities and other citizens. In the election of 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes, the GOP presidential standard bearer, agreed to an arrangement with his Democratic rival, Samuel J. Tilden, to win the disputed presidential election.

They struck an informal deal to resolve the contest, the Compromise of 1877, which awarded all 20 electoral votes to Hayes. In exchange for this concession by the Democrats, the Republicans agreed to withdraw federal troops from the South, effectively ending Reconstruction, thus removing the legal protections for the ex-African American slaves for whom GOP President Abraham Lincoln spearheaded the passage of the 13th amendment in 1865 to abolish slavery after the Civil War ended. He had already issued his Emancipation Proclamation, in 1863, which freed slaves in states that were still in rebellion.

The end of Reconstruction ushered in what the noted late historian, Rayford Logan, termed the nadir of Black life. Post-1876, a slew of anti-Black ordinances and federal laws passed. One of the most infamous, Plessy v. Ferguson in 1895, made separation of the races legal in all aspects of American social life until the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) overturned it in its 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

As the racial demographics trend toward ethnic minorities (Asian and Pacific Islander, Latinx, Indigenous, and African Americans) collectively becoming the new American majority, we have witnessed substantive revisions in rights long considered settled law - voting rights, a woman’s right to an abortion, and the diminution of an adequate public education, especially as low-income ethnic minority students are the majority populations in K-12 public schools.

Voting rights were substantially reduced in 2013 in the Shelby v. Holder case in Alabama where Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), pre-clearance for changes in voting, was eliminated. As ethnic minority populations rapidly increased, particularly in the South, many Whites felt the growth of ethnic minority voters would cause a major shift in political power toward Democrats as they received the lion’s share of the ethnic minority vote.

The election of America’s first African American President in 2008 heightened White worries of Blacks taking over the country, and his winning handily further escalated these White fears. It is not ironic that the Shelby v. Holder suit was filed against Eric Holder, the nation’s first Black Attorney General and also in the state, Alabama, which was the linchpin for passage of the 1965 VRA.

A woman’s access to a safe and legal abortion has long been accepted as a right that would always be with us since a solid majority of Americans have supported it since the 1973 SCOTUS ruling of Roe v. Wade. But there has always been sub rosa opposition to pregnancy termination by evangelicals and other religious groups who subscribe to the historical and traditional roles of women as child bearers, homemakers, and nurturers - with men always making decisions about their lives.

During the past five decades, several states, with Pennsylvania being the most prominent prior to the current assaults on abortion, have advanced legislation to restrict the reach of Roe, intending to repeal it entirely and making steady inroads toward that end.

While running for President in 2016, Donald Trump promised to only appoint SCOTUS Justices, who would nullify Roe. When he got his chances - three of them - he fulfilled his promise by appointing three conservative Justices all opposed to abortion, which flipped SCOTUS to a 6-3 conservative majority. With the Court set to issue final rulings on the Texas and Mississippi abortion cases in June 2022, Roe appears to be history.

Public Education has been on a tortuous path since SCOTUS decided Brown in 1954. Back then, many naively believed that desegregation of the nation’s public schools would lead to equity in funding for facilities, curriculum, instruction, teachers, and support staff. However, “the powers that be” always found ways to get around fairness in these areas.

As the ethnic minority proportion of K-12 public school students swiftly increased, all the aforementioned school supports deteriorated - proportional to their numbers in the schools they attended. The promise of Brown remains unrealized.

Unlike in the past, when segregated schooling was most severe in the eleven Southern states of the old Confederacy, today it is concentrated in CA, IL, MD, MN, NJ, NY, and many large and small urban communities. In addition, there is now a robust discussion over what desegregation means now when there are four minority groups to consider: Asian and Pacific Islanders, Latinx, African American, and Indigenous students.

What does it mean when these groups and their sub-groups progress at different levels in different regions of the country?

Most disturbing is the continued and increasing under-funding of public schools serving minorities and the poor. Along with this reality, we are witnessing growing economic, political, and gender apartheid between America’s White and ethnic minority groups in all spheres of our national life. The GOP is orchestrating these efforts while Democrats appear to have few clues regarding what is happening and how to stop it.

Republicans are successfully derailing what many considered to be settled laws with limited Democratic pushback.

BlackCommentator.com Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell and BC.

  Bookmark and Share

Bookmark and Share