Culture Magazine

Adolph Reed on Selma, the Voting Rights Act, and the Civil Rights Movement

By Bbenzon @bbenzon
Characteristically, Reed argues in detail and at length. The opening paragraph:
Ava Du Vernay’s film Selma has generated yet another wave of mass mediated debate over cinematic representation of black Americans’ historical experience of racial injustice. The controversy’s logic is at this point familiar, nearly clichéd. Du Vernay and others have responded to complaints about the film’s historical accuracy, particularly in its portrayal of Lyndon Johnson, with invocations of artistic license and assertions that the film is not intended as historical scholarship. However, even Maureen Dowd recognizes the contradiction at the core of those claims. “The ‘Hey, it’s just a movie’ excuse doesn’t wash. Filmmakers love to talk about their artistic license to distort the truth, even as they bank on the authenticity of their films to boost them at awards season.”1 And that contradiction, as I’ve noted [“Django Unchained, or, The Help”], permeates the dizzyingly incoherent and breathtakingly shallow pop controversies spawned by recent films dramatizing either the black experience of slavery or the southern Jim Crow order.
Later in the essay:
After open Nazi/Klansman (take your pick; he wore both swastika and hood) David Duke had received a majority of white votes in both the 1991 Louisiana gubernatorial race and a US Senate race a year earlier, I was asked to comment on whether his appeal was a lamentable testament to how little things had changed in southern politics. My response was that his overall performance in those two elections was rather an illustration of the significance of the VRA. Twenty-five years earlier, if Duke had gotten solid majorities of the white vote, he’d have been elected. And that is not just a simple arithmetical point about the additive force of the black vote. That by the dawn of the 1990s more than two-fifths of white Louisiana voters had no trouble voting for candidates actively supported by a vast majority of black voters marks a more significant sea change. That deeper shift in political culture and the potential it implies for pursuit of a transformatively progressive politics is also a reason that the reactionary alliance of fascist agitators, racist and other lunatics and the corporate interests that fund them have become so hell bent on undoing voting rights.
It's a long one and I'm not going to attempt a summary. But go take a look.
H/t 3QD.

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