Are We All Free At Last?
It can often seem that King’s dream has almost upstaged his to-do list.
Because of the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s 1963 Dream Speech I have been reading a lot about it; maybe you have too. The quote above by a writer in TIME magazine has caused me to write a blog about a certain part of the “to-do list”.
Although a lot of progress has been made since 1963, there is the problem of current state governments passing laws to disenfranchise certain voters, usually minorities, for political advantage. This part of reality needs to be undone, and it needs to be on everyone’s to do list. One purpose of my 30 Process of Illumination essays has been to promote an inclusive collective worldview. The practice of excluding citizens from voting does not come from an inclusive worldview.
In 1965 Congress passed The Voting Rights Act requiring nine states to get advance federal approval before changing their election laws. The law was necessary because these states were known for their voter discrimination. As Chief Justice Roberts said recently, “its strong medicine was the right response to entrenched racial discrimination”.
In June this year the Supreme Court invalidated part of the 1965 Act by a 5-4 vote, mostly along party lines. The majority believed that the law was no longer necessary because racial minorities no longer face barriers to voting in these states. They failed to notice that it was the Voting Rights Act that was preventing the barriers. Justice Ginsberg, in her dissent applies an interesting metaphor: “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
Now several states, being freed from requirements to get federal approval, are passing a flurry of voter repression laws making it difficult for certain legal citizens to vote. The laws are making it difficult mostly for minorities, youth and the poor (and mostly democrats). With the umbrella gone, some voters are getting wet.
Much of the American public don’t remember or haven’t heard of the voter racial discrimination of 50 years ago and may not be aware of the new restrictive state laws since the Supreme Court decision in June. But to ignore this problem, or pretend we don’t have it, is not helping to get the “Dream” closer to reality.
What if the American public in all 50 states noticed and objected to this discriminatory practice and put it on their to-do list? Even if we don’t live in any of these states, we are all in this together and responsible for making equality come true for everyone everywhere. Making democracy work should be on everyone’s list.