NPR scores with “Behind The Civil Rights Act” app

signing of civil rights actI would be remiss if I didn’t note that yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Majorly big deal, much of which SCOTUS/conservatives are working diligently to undo.

But I’d be even more derelict in my duties if I didn’t point out NPR’s beautifully simple expository of the actual act. The “Behind The Civil Rights Act” app picks apart each title, starting with, “To enforce the constitutional right to vote,” expounded upon by Nikole Hannah-Jones of ProPublica.

The very first line of this bill is instructive for the person who wants to understand this nation’s enduring struggle to ensure the rights of its black citizens in the face of a resistance with an uncanny ability to adapt.

She continues:

Yet Southern locales quickly implemented a host of so-called “race neutral” tactics such as grandfather’s clauses and literacy tests that rendered the 15th Amendment moot. So here we were, nearly 100 years later, passing a law to enforce this constitutional right. And it would take still another law, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, to ensure this right. We should keep this in mind when looking at other “race neutral” tactics that maintain the same segregation and racial disparities barred by law.

Title by title, this NPR app breaks down this landmark act and shows how bold it was and how, in other places, how cowardly and insufficient. For Memphians distracted by following Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks’ latest woes, it’s worth noting that the most recent chapter was started when she invoked the specter of Title VI, which focuses on nondiscrimination in federally funded programs.

This is what real journalism looks like – this presentation would have never worked in print or on air, but in this interactive fashion, it sings. My only gripe: I wish there were more diversity among the contributors. Six of the 10 appear to be white men.

 

 

 

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