Rudy Ravindra, a resident of Wilmington, North Carolina has penned an op-ed piece in the Raleigh News and Observer graphically detailing his experience of racial profiling in the North Carolina primaries.
“I gave my driver’s license to a poll worker, HW,” writes Ravindra. “He kept it face down and ordered me to spell my name. Although I go by Rudy, my legal name is Rudravajhala. In order to save time, I requested HW look at my ID. He barked, ‘You gotta spell it!’ So I took a deep breath and began. ‘R-U-D'”
The scene was eerily reminiscent of the vaunted literacy tests throughout the South during the Jim Crow Era, one of many shameful tactics used to deny minorities the right to vote. Ravindra described it as a “spelling test.”
This farce went on a for a while, and each time he made a mistake, I patiently corrected. Meanwhile, voters in adjacent lines came and went briskly. I heaved a sigh of relief when HW finally entered my mouthful of a name into his computer and peered at the monitor. And then I had to pronounce it, and when he tried, he couldn’t get it right.”
Finally — and after also being asked for his address — Ravindra was able to vote. He was tempted to tell the poll worker off — but was worried that if he did, they “might summon the police to haul me off.”
After being able to vote, Ravindra then took his wife to the polls on Election Day, at a different location with different poll workers. Sadly, his wife experienced the same treatment he received.
“Keeping her face down he asked her to spell her name and pronounce it.”
Just as before, white voters around them were able to pass through and cast their vote uninhibited.
Our two Caucasian friends who live in different areas of town voted at different polling places. In contrast to our humiliating experience, however, they did not have to pass the spelling test and after a cursory glance at their IDs were allowed to vote.
My wife and I couldn’t help but feel that we were singled out. The poll workers could have simply looked at our IDs and saved a lot of time. That in a sea of white faces at both polling stations my wife and I were the only brown-skinned individuals also led us to suspect that we were victims of racial prejudice. In these days of Trumpism and shameless xenophobia and other assorted phobias, we can’t be blamed if we are paranoid.