Discrimination by any other name

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My family has lived in Fayette County for 23 years. It is a great place to live, work, and raise a family. We have a great neighborhood with lots of variety from little kids to retired people. Some of our neighbors are native Georgians and some, like my wife and me, are from other parts of the country.

Religious diversity in our neighborhood includes Baptist, Mormon, Seventh Day Adventist, Catholic, agnostic and more. There are both Democrats and Republicans. It is also racially diverse.

Over the years, our neighbors have included Asian, African-American, Hispanic and Caucasian. We have had enriching relationships with all of them. We enjoy our neighborhood and everyone in it.

Our kids have been taught to love and respect everyone they meet, because God loves everybody. God is fair and impartial, so we should be fair and impartial when we relate to our neighbors. Our kids know that we try to treat everybody the same, and we teach them that people who are not like you can be your friend. They have grown up in a world where it is not OK to discriminate against people based on things like race, gender, origin, disability, and religion.

Our nation and county have come a long way from the days of racial segregation. I’m not old enough to remember what America was like then. That was the world of my parents and grandparents. My generation saw the end of segregation. My kids’ generation knows it only as distant history.

Now, I am dismayed because the color-blind world we have been building is about to be shredded before our eyes.

How do I tell my children, who are coming of age in Fayette County, that some people here are making us return to the days of segregation?

To segregate is to “separate or divide along racial, sexual, or religious lines.” That is the dictionary definition. How do I explain that some people in Fayette County are forcing us to divide our county into segregated districts to vote for the leaders of our civic institutions like the Board of Education and the County Commission?

The reason these people are forcing us into segregation is, ironically, race. The NAACP has sued to create a majority-minority district so that a racial minority can be guaranteed posts on the County Commission and the Board of Education. Their claim is that no one in the 20 percent black population can win a countywide election under the current voting system.

That is patently false. Most of us know that the people in Fayette County are more than open-minded enough to vote for a qualified black candidate with good character and good ideas.

Chuck Floyd was a shining example. I voted for him and would gladly vote for another minority candidate if I felt they were the most qualified person for the job.

Most black candidates who have run in recent elections just haven’t been that qualified or were deficient in policy or character. So, rather than trust our electoral system, these people have to create a deliberately segregated voting system based on race.

I have to ask, though, why are we creating districts to favor just a racial minority? There are other minorities in our county, too. Did you know that 19 percent of Fayette residents are disabled? Why not create a majority disabled district?

Already 14 percent of Fayette County is over 65 years old. With a rapidly aging population that number will soon be 20 percent; the same percentage as blacks in Fayette County.

Twenty percent of Fayette County is Catholic, but where is the National Association for the Advancement of Catholic People? Maybe it is because NAACP is already trademarked.

The majority of Fayette County is female, so should we advocate a majority male district?

Obviously, I’m being facetious. It seems absurd to consider segregating our county based on gender, age, disability, or religion, yet we are dead serious about segregating our county based on race. How do I explain the logic of that to my kids?

We are now going to completely disenfranchise 80 percent of our residents to hyper-enfranchise one minority to the exclusion of all the other minorities in Fayette County, and we call that progress.

The only reason a disgruntled group can force the disenfranchisement of four-fifths of the county based on something as archaic as race is because there is a federal law that allows it.

It is time to reform the Voting Rights Act to prevent abuses like the NAACP suit. The Voting Rights Act was meant to ensure the transition from segregation and a society that denied black people the right to vote to a nation where every lawful citizen has the right to vote. Civil rights heroes like Martin Luther King fought and died for this right. However, that transition is complete.

The Voting Rights Act, as it currently stands, was for an America that is long gone, and it has out-lived its usefulness.

So has the NAACP. Today they have become a new brand of racists to force us back into segregation.

How can I tell my kids they should not tolerate racism if I don’t speak up about it when I see it? Discrimination by any other name is still wrong.

[David Richardson of Peachtree City is the executive director of The Assumptions Project. He has a master’s degree from Oxford University, and is a university consultant in education and culture. He is a recognized expert on the religious attitudes and beliefs of university professors. He, his wife and children have lived in Fayette County for more than two decades.]