Monday, July 16, 2012

Black, Brown, Undocumented & UnID'ed

Last Thursday night, I was invited with a couple of guys out to bar in Raleigh. Although I've been out to several Raleigh based gay bars and nightclubs, I always go with anticipation to being hassled for my lack of legal access to a North Carolina's state ID and diver's licence. I live half an hour from our beloved capital and my homey Durham has the small town appeal and diversity of a larger city. Same homey vibe where I also worry less about a waitress or doorman asking for a license. Luckily for me, I have a handy Mexican passport as a back up to my Florida license with a scarlet IMMIGRANT written in bold red letters. Luckier if my hairy cleavage lets me in the bar without the leather banded doorman even asking for an ID, which was the case. But that same night, the crowd moved to a black queer dance floor down the street where another doorqueen was not so impressed with the chest fuzz. I showed my passport and then had a long pause where s/he read the finely written English print, gave an awkward glance to the paper based document and then have me a quick jab of how my hair waves & bold eyeglass frames were absent from the document. After those long and painstakingly 5 seconds, I gave her the overpriced cover fee and when in to drool at the shirtless black studs. On the way back, my black bud was recanting the how he noticed other black men attempting to go in without any state IDs, but instead paid an extra under-table cover.

Black folks, unID'ed yet unbounded by the legal blockage of a broken immigration system unlike me, face similar anticipations for a boys' night out and when ordering a mixed alcoholic drink. Where I am privileged enough to have something that proofs my identity and age, too many black wo/men either opt out or are unable to access state issued IDs. Recent legislation has been hyped in North Carolina to pass voter ID laws and several states have passed laws that require poll station to require photo IDs, in some cases specific voter IDs. The Justice Department has blocked this type of legislation in Texas and other states.

Many of the political Left see voter ID laws as a Republican attempt to undermine peoples of color' votes. People of color, Latinos and black Americans tend to vote for the Democrat party and many expect president Obama to carry the vast majority of colored peoples' votes. Obama has been receiving vast support from Latino leaders because his recent announcement of prosecutorial discretion for DREAMers and a promise of work permits for undocumented youth. At the National Council of La Raza, there was much support and favoritism towards the president, it was hard to notice that Romney was even present. At the black leader-equivalent event, by the NAACP, there were ominous signs for the Republicans even before Mitt Romney got BOOed.

Back in Texas, the Justice Department blocked SB 14, which would've made obligatory the need of a photo ID to vote. There are an estimated 14 million Texan residents without the proper IDs and only an estimated 8% are white. That is a lot of unID'ed people of color; perhaps, the number would be astonishing on a national scale. I believe that many unID'ed black Americans also live day to day undetected or noticed. Unlike black Americans, Latinos are much more likely to be profiled as undocumented (or as the tasteless say, illegal) if they are pulled over without carrying an ID. The recent US Supreme Court, of SB 1070, opened the doorway for an undocumented witchhunt and racial profiling. So, my black boyfriend would be less suspected of driving without a license than me, for example. This begs the question, why is there so many unID'ed black Americans?

Much of the access to NC driver's licenses was blocked to the Undocumented via asking for proof of legal residency. Legal residency was limited to either verification through the social security database or through a bureaucracy bible of legal snakes and ladders. Before 9/11, there were few states that required this extra verification of residency. Before the terrorist scare, most states, like NC, only required a utility bill as proof.

Today, a school transcript will suffice. For non-students, you will need either a utility bill or a lease and proof of liability insurance. There is the reoccurance of credit. Housing lease, utilities, and insurance all are easily obtainable for anyone privileged with moderate credit, however, Wells Fargo and Bank of America have all recently been notoriously caught permanently damaging and ruining the financial futures and credit rating of not only black homeowners, but all possible black folks. Many black Americans admit that they already don't trust enough banks with their credit and money, many still abide by grandmother's rule of cash under the mattress. For those that have already been undermined by financial institutions and by those that opt out of the systems of a credit rating, having no/bad/little credit will impair their access to the requirements to a state issued ID and a driver's license. And now the Right Wing is attempting to use this disfranchisement to further suppress black and brown Americans, supposedly.

Black Americans aren't the only ones that are targeted as a result of this State/Bank joint effort; the working-class, transgenders, the homeless, abandoned queer youth, the elderly and older communities of Asians/Latinos are also extremely vulnerable of limited credit and wealth to access to the basics and therefore are potentially suppressed voters.

In the same way that undocumented folks have seen themselves become more and more "paper-less" the past 11 years, the same has been done to the working-class people of color and transgenders. Jus Solis and Jus Sanguinis were the legal foundations that guaranteed the privileges of citizenship for Americans, but if we're not careful, citizenship can be discretely chipped away one drink, quick drive and a vote a time.