Georgia Just Giving Puerto Ricans Very Cool, Very Legal Jim Crow 'Literacy' Tests

Post-Racial America
Georgia Just Giving Puerto Ricans Very Cool, Very Legal Jim Crow 'Literacy' Tests

Georgia has reportedly subjected Puerto Rican transplants to Jim Crow-style testing to "prove" they were actually island residents. This was intended to "crack down" on illegal immigrants using fake Puerto Rican birth certificates to obtain driver's licenses. If you've driven in Georgia, you're probably surprised to learn that the drivers are licensed at all.

The Department of Driver Services didn't just test the the authenticity of the birth certificates. That's too straightforward. Instead, they tested applicants' knowledge of Puerto Rico's government, geography and culture. This seems unfair. Despite what half the country believes, Puerto Ricans are Americans and we notoriously know very little about our own government, geography, and culture. Thanks to the popularity of The Crown, we could probably more ably pass a test about the royal family.

Now imagine you tried to buy something with a $20 bill and, due to "legitimate" concerns about counterfeiting, they gave you an extensive test about the life of Andrew Jackson. There's not even a (good) musical about the guy. Our economy would collapse under such scrutiny. Worse, Georgia's Puerto Rican literacy test wasn't even accurate. A recent report revealed that hundreds of Puerto Ricans who applied for driver's licenses and identification cards were screened with a faulty test. The "Puerto Rican interview guide" was outdated and some of the "correct" answers were flat-out wrong. Applicants were asked "Who is the current governor of Puerto Rico?" and the interview guide's answer was "Pedro Rossello." The dude left office in 2001. Ricky Martin was probably still straight in this test.

Not all the test answers were incorrect, though. Most were simply a byzantine maze that confounded even Puerto Rican experts.

The interview guide included dozens of questions designed to test applicants' knowledge of Puerto Rico. Among them: "What is the name of the frog native only to PR?" "What is El Morro?" and "Who/what owns most of Vieques?" (The respective answers, according to the guide: "Coqui," "A Spanish fort built in the 1600's, in Old San Juan" and "U.S. Navy").

Georgia apparently believes the only true Puerto Rican residents are history professors or "Jeopardy!" contestants. These people just want to get a license so they can sit in Perimeter traffic for hours without moving. They're going to be tortured enough. The DDS claims it no longer uses the test, but it's not clear when it stopped.

I-Team: Georgia DDS Dropping Puerto Rican Interview

Kenneth Caban Gonzalez, who moved to Hinesville, Georgia, from Puerto Rico, filed a federal lawsuit after he was arrested in 2017 and charged with using a "fake" Puerto Rican birth certificate to obtain a license. His documents were later proven authentic. The DDS fired one manager and demoted another after an investigation showed they'd "mishandled" Gonzalez's case. One investigator involved in the case was fired for making racist comments. Gonzalez claimed he waited 600 days for his driver's license and as of last summer, he still didn't have it. It's almost impossible to function in Georgia or anywhere without an A train if you don't have a valid driver's license.

Roughly 90,000 Puerto Ricans live in Georgia. The population has doubled since 2000. Georgia might want to consider treating them like actual citizens.

[Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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