Every year the Sons of Confederate Veterans use the North Carolina statehouse to celebrate their annual confederate flag day ceremony. It has become more common in recent years for some White Southerners to openly wax nostalgic for the days when their ancestors fought and died to preserve slavery.
It is easy to see a connection between present-day yearnings for a return to Dixieland and renewed efforts to threaten voting rights. It is less obvious to see similar connections with trends elsewhere in the country. South Dakota is a long way from South Carolina, but that state recently joined the battle to turn back the clock on civil rights.
That girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life."
The Legislature in South Dakota voted to outlaw abortion except in cases where the mother's life was endangered. Even rape, incest and fetal abnormality will no longer be legally justified reasons for abortion. Republican State Sen. Bill Napoli described the only instance when he thought abortion would be justifiable.
"A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged," Napoli said. "The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life."
Napoli has some very strange fantasies. In South Dakota, rape victims who aren't pious or saving themselves for marriage are just out of luck.
The right to abortion became the law of the land with the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. With Roe still in effect, the action of the South Dakota Legislature gives the finger to the United States Constitution and anyone who believes in it.
U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich, stated, "Victory in the South Dakota case will give conservatives renewed momentum to challenge all the other freedoms we hold dear."
When the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public schools with the Brown v. Board of Education decision, Southern states decided to ignore the law. Some didn't desegregate and dared anyone to complain. Others closed their public schools and deprived Black children of their right to an education.
South Dakota's legislators are like the segregationists of old. They have intentionally broken the law. They expect Bush appointees Alito and Roberts to live up to right wing expectations and overturn Roe.
The 21st century Confederates are succeeding because no one is willing to stand in their way. The Argus Leader, the largest newspaper in South Dakota, announced it will not take an editorial position on the new law.
The Civil War of the 1860s came about when the South was not content to maintain slavery but insisted on expanding its reach into new territories. A South Dakota-instigated rejection of Roe will be felt in states that would never consider banning abortion.
Civil rights and civil liberties are in grave danger. They will disappear if there is no willingness to fight for them. We can fight with non-violent methods, but there has to be a fight.
The only alternative is to find ourselves back in the days when everyone knew his or her place and didn't dare step out of it.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly on www.blackcommentator.com.