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Apartheid on the Potomac
By: Deborah Simmons
August 17, 2001

[August 17, 2001. Washington DC: I have just talked with DC Councilwoman Linda Cropp's office about the recently reported ID program for children. I was told that the program HAS NOT BEEN FINALIZED yet. It sounded to me like there was some back-pedaling going on; the explanation for the "mis-information" was that there was a "mis-calculation" in the number of days which have elapsed since the Council last took action on this measure. If the Council does not take action to stop implementation prior to a certain number of days passing, the measure automatically goes into effect, I was told.

The representative said that the Council is holding a special hearing on this measure today, August 17, 2001. I will report on the outcome of the DC Council hearing as soon as I find out what they have decided. Whereas I had intended to encourage people to call the numbers listed in the following article, this now seems premature and it would probably be best to wait until the Council announces its decision. The person I talked to was well aware of the Washington Times article and it was clear that this article and others which have circulated recently precipitated the hearing today...Scott McDonald<>]


Apartheid on the Potomac

The D.C. Council recently passed a resolution that will likely take effect next week because there is no one to block it. Now ordinarily, there probably would be no cause for alarm. But this instance is different. Correction: Make that way different.

What Council Chairman Linda Cropp has done, at the behest of the mayor, is given the nod to PR14-0262, or the Youth Identification Card Resolution. The resolution amends regulations so that D.C. officials can begin what should be called a branding program, like the ID jobs the nasty Nazis did on the Jews. Or perhaps officials should call them Apartheid passcards.

You remember hearing or reading about passcards, don't you? Remember South Africa's? Officially such records were called a computerized population registry, and what that registry did was keep track of South Africans. For
example, while South Africa's Department of the Interior maintained the Book of Life files on nonblacks, the Plural Affairs Department maintained the passbook system on millions and millions of black citizens. Data included
name and sex, date of birth and a photo - what Americans deem basic, but very personal, vital information. But Pretoria's Big Brother didn't stop there. The other data included race, address, marital status, school or place or employment, drivers license info and fingerprints.

"The main purpose of the population registry was administration of the influx control system, a system which channeled needed black workers into the labor force to be exploited, and confined others to the desolate
homelands, according to a study, 'Computers and the Apartheid Regime in South Africa,' by Stanford University's computer science department. The passbooks, which every black person was automatically given at the age of
16, coupled with the computer database, guaranteed one's instant identification and one's history of government opposition. If these passbooks were properly endorsed, the owner had the right to work or live in "white areas," and lack of these endorsements or failure to produce the passbook resulted in arrest and jail. Many were detained for months at a time without a trial, and their families were not given notification of their whereabouts."

Now, while South Africa didn't start booking its youths until they were 16, the District wants to start at 2 years old. And while failure to produce a passbook could have landed you in jail in South Africa, D.C. officials want
us to believe that maintaining a central computerized database will somehow improve the searches for missing and exploited children.

Now maybe, just maybe, you could fall for that hoax. Because sure, if 8-year-old Joel has his passcard slung around his neck, then everybody would know who he is if he gets lost. But the missing-children thing can be too
easily dismissed by two sheer facts of life. For one, the kidnapper would probably snatch the ID and toss it. Also, no mother, except perhaps one on crack, would let her child run around all day with an ID card containing all
that vital and valuable information.

I mean really. Real moms and dads don't even give children their own insurance cards, or large sums of money for fear of who knows what. We ship them off to day care or camp and find ourselves using magic markers to label
such easily replaceable things as their underwear and socks. And when it comes to house keys we use safety pins, chains and everything else to help ensure careless children don't lose them.

Only maggots and morons would consider otherwise. Morever, there is a far more profound concern with these passcards. And that concern is privacy. Isn't it enough that we have cameras watching us at the 7-Eleven, ATM and Neiman-Marcus because of the bad guys? Isn't it enough that Big Brother has cameras perched on traffic lights and streets lights - and inside police patrol cars - because of the bad guys?

Indeed, at best the District's plan is a presage to racial profiling, granting license to police to suspect a white guy in, say, a black neighborhood. At its worst, it portends to be the ultimate peeping Tom.

To be sure, this proposal must be stopped dead in its wicked tracks.

Besides, you don't really and truly think the D.C. government, which can't even maintain accurate records on such fundamentals as school enrollment or worker payroll, missing-persons cases, or fleet management, is capable of
handling and securing such complex technology and vital and very personal information?

It's as if the mayor and the legislature want to relive the ugliest parts of history: American slavery, when our ancestors were branded, shackled and hunted like dogs; the Holocaust and the horrors that led up to it, when our
ancestors were branded, shackled and hunted like dogs. Or perhaps they want us to taste a more modern-day slice of racism: South Africa's Apartheid.

Which is it? Which do you prefer? Call D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp
(202-724-8000) and Mayor Williams (202-727-2980) and let them know.

Let them know that instead of spending precious dollars trying to turn democracy on its head on the Potomac that they need to spend that money on our schools. Tell them that instead of buying new cameras and more
technology to create a police state, they need to teach our children how to build and use that technology. Tell them that our charter schools need more money, and our libraries need more money and better facilities. Tell them if they would teach our young people history the way it's supposed to be taught, even our young would be revolting against such a frightening idea. In short, tell them this ain't Nazi Germany and this ain't South Africa.

Deborah Simmons is an editorial writer and columnist for The Washington Times.

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