I wrote this letter as a way to abate major qualms I had after an interaction with Virginia Foxx. I simply asked her a question about the Voter ID laws in North Carolina, and she tried to downplay it by being condescending and disregardful. It made me upset that she acted the way she did, but more importantly, she completely devalued the work that many organizers, lawyers, activist, and others have been doing on this issue, describing them as uneducated on the matter. So, after the news of the ruling on the case against Patt McRory in the Fourth Circuit, I felt it was completely necessary to express my sentiments towards this interaction.
“Dear Rep. Foxx,
Hi, I am Zachary Bynum. Y’know, the one black kid you saw at the RNC? Yeah that one. I’d like to take a minute to reflect. I’d like to go back to a very particular time in our limited interactions at the North Carolina Delegation Breakfast. Do you remember the time where you decided to have a brief Q&A session with the Wake the Vote cohort and I asked the question verbatim “Given that the presumptive nominee is Trump despite the Republican establishment strongly opposing him, doesn’t that make your party seem like the real champions of democracy? Even if, it is also Republicans that keep crafting and enacting suppressive voter legislation like our ow-“ “Umpfh, umpfh. Listen, anyone who says that voter suppression is real is JUST. UNEDUCATED.” You continued, “Look, there is no one suppressing votes. Wouldn’t you want whoever it is voting to be who they say they are?” If you cared to notice, you would’ve seen a disturbed face and maybe engaged, but instead you turned a cheek and started addressing other peoples’ questions. Now, let’s come to back to this moment. Did you care to realize how disrespectful that was? Did you even mind that you had just told me a lie? Did it even phase you that you just gave the most misaligned explanation of something much bigger than “Voter fraud?” Mamm. I am sorry, but I will not let you sit here and disrespect the people that I know; people I know who are aware of what this issue is about and not what you are trying to sell it as. I had to fight the urge to break into a long story about how I have actually been interning with an organization that take what you just said hurtfully. For you to say that voter suppression isn’t real when there are people in North Carolina doing the hard work of sustaining democracy, I just can’t even begin to describe to you the amount of anger I felt. Because what you are doing is demeaning and disenfranchising people. And what they are doing is liberating and re-enfranchising these same people. When you asked me if I too supported people showing identification so that people can’t commit fraud, I wanted to ask you the same question because data shows that the highest amount of voter fraud happens amongst absentee voting: a method mainly used by your party. Older and white. Two words that PBS describes as the main demographic of absentee voters. However, laws and legislation seem to support the idea that it’s highest amongst voters using polling places. But you knew that, right? You see it’s no mystery that in 2008, same-day registration, early voting, and out of precinct voting were highly used by African Americans, young Americans, and other minority Americans: three groups that seem to almost always vote blue. It is also no mystery that the Republican Party enacted these suppressive laws as a direct reaction to this. But then again, maybe myself and all those people I was telling you about are just uneducated like you said. However, it seems the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals doubts the latter. I am sorry if you can feel the frustration in these words as I type them, but maybe that is what it will take for you to respect me, to respect the people, to respect democracy.
I would like you to know that it is unfair that you can sit in the position that you do today, while people break their backs carrying the fate of democratic freedom in this country. Maybe you should come down from the Hill sometime and see the strenuous work of Democracy NC and other nonprofits like it. Do you know how difficult it is to start and sustain a nonprofit that deals with voting rights when some people don’t even know the difference between a primary and a general election? It is no small feat. Maybe something like education, something you claim to be an advocate for, might fix this, but your party also seems to not support better funding or structuring for it. You see the dilemma here? You are not for better education if you do not support actions to improve it. Almost like how you’re not for the voting rights of people who don’t look, think, or experience the world like you if you continuously disregard the persistent attacks on their enfranchisement. What you are for is the disenfranchisement of millions of voters. Many of those voters are black and brown. Many of those voters are LGBTQ+. Many of those voters are young. Many of those voters are lower income. And many of those voters are not even looking at your party. You see? The jig is up Rep. Foxx. This action has always been deliberate and intentional, and it has harmed many. You know how I know this? Because there is data, facts, and statistics that I had to learn from people who educated me. These are the same people that also have to knock on doors for hours, make endless phone calls, and educate more people while people like yourself simply sign your names on legislation that inhibit citizens abilities to take part in this democracy. What’s even more amazing to me is that these are also some of the very same people who are most deeply impacted by these voting laws that your party keeps enacting, and yet their vigor for democracy is unmatched by the frustration that comes from people trying to get in their way. To think that you can disregard everything that they do to sustain our democracy and call them uneducated is simply appalling. But looking back on it now I guess I’m glad to see that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is just as ‘dumb’ as all of us too. And so, Rep. Foxx I left our interaction feeling discouraged, but after the good news (maybe not for your party) I leave you with these few words: see you in November.