Updated: Sep 20, 2020
Last week, State Bar of Texas President Larry McDougal was called to resign over a Facebook comment where he claimed a lady committed a Class C misdemeanor when she wore a Black Lives Matter (BLM) shirt while working at a voting poll.
Unsurprisingly, with the onslaught of racial news this year, it has become easy to demonize people using surface level evidence. This has almost become a standard operating procedure. You see something, call that person a monster, a bigot, (insert other adjective), then throw them away like yesterday’s old news. Yet, as our society changes, we might want to consider taking a different approach to these types of stories. Let’s first take a breath, and dive into the matter to see what we can learn from it. First, let’s look at some highlights from the Texas Election Code as it relates to the issue:
Texas Election Code 85.036. Electioneering
“During the time an early voting polling place is open for the conduct of early voting, a person may not electioneer for or against any candidate, measure, or political party in or within 100 feet of an outside door through which a voter may enter the building or structure in which the early voting polling place is located.”
“A person commits an offense if the person electioneers in violation of Subsection (a).”
“An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.”
“Electioneering” includes the posting, use, or distribution of political signs or literature.”
Most would agree that voting areas should be neutral zones. This statute seems fair enough; it’s mainly in place to protect voting areas from influential messaging. This, however, sparks a more involved question; is Black Lives Matter a measure or a political party?
If we look at the definition of the term political party, we also run into the term political group:
“A political group exists when people assemble together in order to promote a common ideology and achieve particular objectives in the public, governmental sphere. Political parties and trade unions are political groups.”
“A political party is an organized group of people who have the same ideology, or who otherwise have the same political positions, and who field candidates for elections, in an attempt to get them elected and thereby implement the party's agenda.”
An argument can be made that BLM is a political group. On their official website, they state that their mission is,“to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.” They have clear objectives they want to achieve in the public sphere, but to try to define them as a political party becomes more difficult. Even though there may be elected officials who agree and align themselves with the ideas of BLM, as of now, BLM has not publicly fielded any candidates to run for a particular office. The argument that remains unanswered, however, is whether or not BLM can be concerned a measure.
Unfortunately, before any fruitful conversation could develop, another Facebook comment from Mr. McDougal dating back from 2015 surfaced. In it he stated, “Groups like Black Lives Matter have publicly called for the death of not just police officers, but also white Americans. This is a terrorist group.”
From there, a fiery of comments and tweets ensued. It is my belief, that the true anger from the public is towards this comment, not the original. Now, I don’t agree with Mr. McDougal’s assessment on BLM. Although misguided individuals may say things, to my knowledge, the actual organization itself has not encouraged violence. He may, however, have a point about poll workers wearing BLM shirts. Would someone after seeing the shirt be more inclined to vote for a democrat? Or a BLM sympathizer? Would this influence voting? Would the level of acceptance from the public be the same if that poll worker was wearing a MAGA hat? Or something else that expressed a public agenda? Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, things need to be done the right way.
We have to have the ability to analyze what we see without the fear of getting cancelled, but in the same token, we have to be mindful of what they say. Free speech comes at a cost, and at this moment in time, public opinion is king.
If he is a great lawyer, and has been a great president for the organization are we better off without him? Who replaces him? Who is doing the replacing? If he wasn't a good president and in fact he is a racist, then this serves as a convenient and justifiable way to change management.
Either way, because of some comments, Mr. McDougal has compromised an entire organization. If we really want to solve our issues, we have to start seeing things from multiple lenses. We must take time to evaluate our actions and our words. We can't just jump to conclusions simply because something was said that wasn't in-line with our views. What started as a simple abstraction, that could have used more evaluation, eventually lead to a potential job termination and an embarrassment of an organization. What do you think? Should he have been fired? Or are we being too sensitive?