Dishonoring Mrs. King
In Atlanta this weekend, thousands braved unusually cold weather to pay their final respects to Coretta Scott King, who lay in state at the Georgia Capitol.
That honor, withheld from her slain husband in 1968 by the legendary racist Governor Lester Maddox, comes as a bitter irony. For it was in the same Georgia Capitol only days before that the GOP-controlled legislature passed and Republican Governor Sonny Perdue signed a restrictive new voter ID card program designed to suppress minority turnout in the state.
As I wrote last month ("Plantation Politics"), the Georgia GOP passed the equivalent of a 21st century poll tax to hold down the black vote, a bloc that votes overwhelmingly for Democrats. Career civil servants in the Justice Departments's Civil Rights Division voted 4-1 to withhold "pre-clearance" for the law under the requirements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. President Bush's Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, however, reversed their ruling and paved the way for the new system of pay-to-play voter ID cards, which due to cost and limited availability in Georgia's counties could have disenfranchised over 150,000 primarily black voters. When a federal judge blocked implementation of the law in October, the Georgia legislature responded by passing a modified version in January within days of its commemoration of Martin Luther King Day.
On Saturday, the hypocritical Governor Perdue added to the indignity, saying of Mrs. King, "This lady and her husband and many others fought for equality all of her life." And on Tuesday, President Bush will complete the insult during his scheduled remarks at Mrs. King's funeral.