Something Missing from the Discrimination Debate
 by Scott Davis

The debate seems to center around whether there was intentional
discrimination in Florida, but that misses the point. The law, as I
understand it, does not require proof of intention to prove discrimination.
Let's not let Republicans frame the debate that way.

I had some training in making sure hiring practices didn't violate the civil
rights act. It is interesting how the law sorts itself out, and voting may be
like employment in the eyes of the law. To give you an idea:

It was unnecessary to show any 'smoking gun' document saying 'don't hire
blacks' or anything like it to prove discrimination.

All that was necessary was to show a pattern, nothing overt. Policies
that appeared innocuous that had disproportionate impact were illegal.

An example was given in one of the management seminars on this topic: Suppose
you had an opening for a janitor. You made a job description with duties and
qualifications. You put down that the person needed to have a high school
diploma. You just think that you don't want high school dropouts working for
you. The problem is, your factory is in an area with a lot of blacks who are
high school dropouts, and a high school diploma isn't really necessary to do
janitorial work. All that is needed is the ability to understand and follow directions.
So, your job requirement resulted in discrimination, even though it said nothing
about blacks per se. That was an actual discrimination case, and the company lost.

Likewise, when that database technologies company supplied the scrub list to
Katherine Harris, all it had on many names was a date of birth and race. Yes,
it did have race on it. But, no social security number. So, if you went to a
polling place, and there was a black man at the polls named Roy Jones, born
Feb. 12, 1945, and you had a Roy Jones, black, Feb. 12, 1945 in your scrub
list, you turned him away. If a white Roy Jones, same birthday showed up, he
would be allowed to vote. This is systematic, if unintentional disenfranchisement.

Blacks make up 41% of the prison population, while being 15% of the population
as a whole, if memory serves. The racism is in the rules, because the system placed
a greater priority of not letting any possible felon vote and than getting it right,
so many blacks were excluded incorrectly.

Personally, I favor letting ex-felons vote once they are past parole. They
have paid their debt to society, and there are too many blacks denied for
life under our system. But, it is the law in Florida, and other states, so I
support the law, but they should at least try harder to get it right.

Blacks know all about funny little rules that just happen to prevent them,
not whites from voting somehow. It's insidious. Whether it is a literacy
test, a poll tax, or a loose scrub list, it hurts. It angers. It is going to
be a long healing process for Florida, and for the nation. It must begin with
eliminating all voting practices that have a disproportionate impact on
blacks, or any other minority, whether they appear discriminatory or not.


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