On CNN’s coverage of the 47th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act

While laudable for its length, the content, and context of CNN’s story on the History of the 1965 Voting Rights Act on Sunday August 5th, 2012 missed its mark. There’s enough blame to go around for producers, editors (for the wrong time-line), and the guests for not maximizing a teaching moment during “prime time”.

 

It was good for Rev. Young to begin by saying (almost “tongue and cheek”) he was born in New Orleans, and in order to vote in November he will be required to show certain papers he might not be able to obtain, or locate. That’s “meta-talk” for Black folks, meaning “Houston we have a problem”.

 

The least challenge at the polls during the upcoming voting season will add to what will already be a more volatile voting experience this time around. Efforts to reduce vote fraud by placing additional demands on voters for specific identification are reminiscent of the “Jim Crow” laws of my home state of Mississippi. Then, over 450,000 African Americans were eligible to vote in the state, however less than sixty thousand had been allowed to register.  Of course having to guess the correct answer to questions like how many Black Eye Peas does it take to fill a gallon jar helped keep the numbers down until after the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Soon Mississippi became the state with the largest number of Black elected officials in the nation.

 

While the questions will probably not be as tricky in 2012, without public education campaigns about new voting rules in those states where new rules will be in place, the impact will be no laughing matter, especially in close races and there will be many.

 

To use today’s media platforms effectively, the few of us who have access to them must be savvy enough to know when to “reflect” and when to “think”. All pundits could help the public now by focusing their attention on the “buzz” on the street of America about new voting rules, what states are involved, what are the new requirements? We need more about “now”, and less about “then.” This ain’t gon be our mama’s election!

 

While seeing civil rights icons on split screens with CNN anchors covering civil rights issues makes a great visual, if the content does not increase the viewer’s political or civil literacy rate, the experience is nothing more than eye candy. We have just about three months to educate the public about something many of us are taking for granted, including many folks considered to be well educated and politically savvy.

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