OPINION: Schmidt salutes Black history while seeking to stifle Black voters – Hays Post


As you may know !
This historical image of Washington Street in Nicodemus showcases the community’s first stone church and Williams General Store. (Library of Congress)By CLAY WIRESTONECourtesy Kansas ReflectorDerek Schmidt wants you to share in his excitement for Black History Month.Why, on Sunday he tweeted the following:
“Nicodemus is the oldest and only remaining settlement of freed slaves
west of the Mississippi. Now a National Historic Site in Graham County,
it is well worth visiting during Black History Month – or any time.”Meanwhile, he’s asking the Kansas
Supreme Court to allow discrimination against Black Kansans in the
redistricting process. He also called critical race theory — a concept
not taught in a single K-12 classroom in Kansas — “a radical new curriculum.” Fake outrage about CRT has been used in the months since to target education about our nation’s racist past.In other words, Schmidt cares about
Black Kansans as long as they’re politically powerless and
schoolchildren don’t learn about their struggles.What a dilemma. On one hand, Schmidt
wants to be seen as gubernatorial material, open and accepting to all
Kansas. He showed up at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day memorial walk around the Capitol, a couple of rows behind his opponent in November, Gov. Laura Kelly.Republicans in Kansas have made the
calculation, however, that Black people threaten their ironclad hold of
political power in Kansas. Thus they brutally sliced
through Wyandotte County in their congressional redistricting map,
dividing one of the state’s most diverse communities in a bid to thwart
the reelection of Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids.A map was drawn, then vetoed, and then the veto was overridden after painful arm-twisting.Two lawsuits
challenging that map followed, both filed in Wyandotte County District
Court rather than federal court. With the U.S. Supreme Court ever more amenable to gerrymandering, I suspect the plaintiffs saw the state court system as more hospitable to their case.Schmidt raced to the Kansas Supreme Court with a galling request. He wants the justices to declare they have no say in the situation.“Plaintiffs’ political gerrymandering
claim is not justiciable under the Kansas Constitution,” Schmidt wrote.
“No judicially manageable standard for evaluating such claims exists,
Kansas courts have not historically entertained such claims, and the
Kansas Constitution has nothing at all to say about political
gerrymandering.”To summarize, the attorney general of
the state of Kansas believes that state courts have no role in stopping
obvious racially discriminatory gerrymandering. Kansas judges have no
ability to make sure the voices of everyone counts equally at election
time.Happy Black History Month!Schmidt’s supporters (and I assume he
has some) will claim that he’s just doing his job as the state’s chief
law enforcement officer. That was the defense back when he joined a
multistate lawsuit aimed at overturning the 2020 election, and when he joined a lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule it legal to fire transgender people. He was merely looking for legal clarity.Funny, isn’t it, how these searches
for legal clarity seem to all benefit one party? Did you notice how they
aid and abet discrimination and anti-democratic power grabs? It’s just
peculiar.The Welcome Center in Nicodemus, Kansas. (Submitted, courtesy Kansas Reflector)Let’s head back to Nicodemus.According to the National Park service,
Nicodemus was founded in 1877 by Black settlers leaving the
post-Reconstruction South. Slavery had ended, but Jim Crow had arrived,
and decades of struggle against segregation remained. Kansas offered a
kind of rough-hewn opportunity.“Established as an all-Black
community, the founders of Nicodemus envisioned a town built on the
ideals of independence and self-determination,” the park service writes.
“The community experienced rapid social and economic growth in the
early years and many speculated that Nicodemus would become a major stop
for the railroad. It became clear by 1888, however, that the railroad
and the predicted economic boom would not come.”The great dream may have ended, but
life went on. Black families established farms, and a few have persisted
to the present day. The settlement celebrates a yearly homecoming. As
of September, 23 people still lived there.A cynic might say that’s an ideal town
for Derek Schmidt to highlight during Black History Month. It has few
residents and poses little political threat.Yet the dream of Nicodemus — the dream of the “Exodusters”
who settled there — was to escape oppression. In the South, they faced
barriers to voting and political participation set up by racist white
people. Kansas and other western states offered an alternative.Schmidt still has the opportunity to
fulfill that dream. He could drop his petition to the Kansas Supreme
Court. He could announce his opposition to the blatantly discriminatory
congressional map. He could support teaching the actual, painful history
of our country in public schools. That would be a worthy tribute to Nicodemus.Clay WirestoneClay Wirestone has written columns and edited reporting for newsrooms in Kansas, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania. He has also fact checked politicians, researched for Larry the Cable Guy, and appeared in PolitiFact, Mental Floss, cnn.com and a host of other publications. Most recently, Clay spent nearly four years at the nonprofit Kansas Action for Children as communications director. 
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