Today, thousands of participants re-enacted a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It is the 52nd anniversary of the year when that march was made not as a commemoration, but as a protest. As an act of enormous courage and determination. A demand for civil rights, justice, and voting rights. 600 heroes, including current Congressional Representative John Lewis among others, survived police beatings and tear gas to make our country a more perfect union.
It bears remembering the important work activists did in Selma and throughout the South. The Voting Rights Act resulted from their bravery and insistence. And now, the progress established by the Voting Rights Act is under threat. The Supreme Court’s Chief Justice declared in 2013 that we had moved past a need for the Voting Rights Act’s mandated review (‘preclearance’) of voting rights changes in places with a history of voter intimidation and Jim Crow legal restraints on ballot access. Almost immediately following that erroneous assessment of the state of American justice, North Carolina passed draconian voter suppression laws that have been under court challenge ever since. Other states have done the same. We were not ready.
The current administration won the electoral college in a country beset by racist voter suppression laws, and has ushered in a rash of hate crimes and a wave of anti-semitism, as well as a Justice Department led by a man deplored by civil rights leaders who have known him from his career’s beginning. Empowered white supremacists continue acting out violent aggression, while the administration fails to stand up and take the necessary stand against bigotry. This administration’s lies about voter fraud only enflame a voter suppression landscape already keeping too many Americans from accessing the ballot.
Let’s unify under the example set fifty-two years ago, drawing inspiration from constructive and positive leaders of today such as John Lewis and Michelle Obama, among other strong, kind leaders who know that we are better together, and remind us that ‘when they go low, we go high.’ Support organizations like the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center), ADL (Anti-Defamation League), and others whose anti-bigotry, anti-racist work is now more important than ever. Find local groups working to dismantle racism in your area and participate in their efforts. We all need to keep each other grateful for the lessons of the past, and determined to work our hardest in the present, to build a better future.
Keep in touch. Keep the faith.