Stung by the high voter turnout that was able to trump Trump, some Southern states of the USA under the political control of Republicans are taking steps to restrict the ease with which voters can vote before Election Day, as well as the use of absentee ballots and of drop boxes into which ballots may be placed.
Republican loss of the two Georgia Senate seats gave the Democrats slim control of the Senate in Congress. That was a particularly stinging result. The state legislature of Georgia has swiftly passed amended and restrictive voting laws. Many see this as deliberately aimed at voters from minority communities and disadvantaged classes.
What continues to hold my interest is the refreshing opposition by big business to the restrictive amendments. First, Major League Baseball (MLB) promptly cancelled plans to have the All-Star game played in the city of Atlanta, at Georgia’s home stadium of the Atlanta Braves. This game is described as “baseball’s mid-season centrepiece”. The revenue loss to the Georgia economy will be huge.
MLB made it plain that the new Georgia voting law “was against MLB’s values”, adding that the League “fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box”. Other explicit critics of the restrictive voting law were top executives of some of the state of Georgia’s famous companies such as Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines and American Airlines.
These events in Georgia are welcome examples of taking a stand in the face of the exercise of state power disadvantaging fellow citizens. They go way beyond what passes for leadership in our island Republic, such as the ritual recitation of the words in our National Anthem —“here every creed and race find an equal place”— which is inconsistent with silent acceptance of profiling slurs such as “cockroaches”.
MLB decided that the removal of the game from Atlanta was “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport”, but the prospective loss has generated the recurring debate about the hurt that economic sanctions cause to many of the same persons about whom we care. Significant leaders of colour in Georgia have expressed understanding of the pain that the baseball decision would cause minorities.
Many among our validating elites still seem blissfully unaware that there may be an irresistible tide running against institutionalised injustice. If we are not sincere, open-minded and astute about the so-called road to recovery, that tide may cause a lot more damage.
Moreover, there is a specific new priority for recovery. It is rectifying the inadequate supply of vaccines. The Minister of Health does not have the answers. The Government must put aside false pride, engage the business community and find collaborative means to fix this.
Playing some inspirational Easter music and remembering my mother Celia’s admiration for Marian Anderson, I came across a video of a performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, attended by 75,000 persons on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939. Marian Anderson sang there because she was refused the use of Constitution Hall on account of a “white artiste only” clause in the contract for the use of the hall. Some enlightened sections of the validating elites were among the crowd, supporting the performance and the protest underlying it.
Even though she later confessed to being terrified by the size of the crowd, Anderson reasserted herself above a major attempt at “cancellation”. She said: “I could not run away from this situation. If I had anything to offer, I would have to do so now.”
In multi-cultural countries like ours, while formal conditions restrictive of voting have been mitigated, we still have the enormous challenge of providing equal opportunity, regardless of shade, to contend for a place in the shrinking economic sun. Applying the words of Marian Anderson to our current socio-economic situation, it is a situation from which “we cannot run way. If we have anything to offer, we have to do so now”. Silence may not be a safe option for the elites, as the giant Georgia businesses mentioned above have now understood.
Many will be required to take a stand, as unshackled as possible, from unsustainable vested interests.