“I have a dream that my four little children will me day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character I have a dream . . . I have a dream that one day in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the wards of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
Dr. Martin Luther King — August 28, 1963
On August 28th we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, where over 200,000 people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The event — organized by labor organizations, faith leaders, and civil rights activists — became one of the most memorable moments in American history.
A commemoration held this past weekend drew tens of thousands to the Washington Mall; but there will be another celebration on Wednesday, featuring remarks by President Barack Obama.
The 1963 March on Washington was the culmination of activists pushing for equality for all, regardless of race. The March is credited with being the catalyst for passing the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965).
“We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Dr. Martin Luther King — August 28, 1963
Some people, particularly jurists on the Supreme Court, are saying that discrimination does not exist anymore and there is no need for the Voting Rights Act. I disagree. The Voting Rights Act is needed just as much today as it was in 1965.
In states all around the country, the Republican Party has been attacking voters’ rights with ALEC-inspired laws like Voter ID. So far 30 states have passed some type of Voter ID requirement in an effort to combat a non-existent voter fraud problem. Anyone who does not have the type of photo ID required by these new laws is effectively losing their Constitutional right to vote. According to the ACLU “11% of US citizens – or more than 21 million Americans — do not have government-issued photo identification.”
This directly affects the African-American community. “As many as 25% of African American citizens of voting age do not have a government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8% of their white counterparts.”
Over the last few months, North Carolina has been leading the charge to disenfranchise voters, specifically African-American voters.
“More than 300,000 registered voters in North Carolina could lack either a driver’s license or a state ID, according to records from the State Board of Elections…. Most of them are poor African-Americans.”
They say these laws are somehow “needed” to stop voter fraud; but in the last 10 years there have been only two cases of voter fraud in North Carolina. What is their real objective? Former Secretary of State Colin Powell condemned North Carolina’s new Voter ID law by saying “that he believes the restrictions unfairly target minority voters and will ultimately hurt the Republican Party”
Requiring citizens to show a valid photo ID is only one part of the GOP-led attack on voting rights. The new Voter ID law cuts early voting from 17 days to 10. They are also eliminating Sunday voting, when many churches encourage their congregations to vote after services.
North Carolina county election boards are now going after college voters. Why? Because they tend to vote for Democratic candidates.
“The Watauga County Board of Elections voted Monday to eliminate an early voting site and election-day polling precinct on the campus of Appalachian State University.” (source)
Other counties in North Carolina are not being shy about their outright discrimination of African-American voters.
“The GOP chair of the Forsyth County Board of Elections is moving to shut down an early voting site at historically black Winston-Salem State University.” (source)
“The Pasquotank County Board of Elections on Tuesday barred an Elizabeth City State University senior (Montravias King) from running for city council, ruling his on-campus address couldn’t be used to establish local residency. Following the decision, the head of the county’s Republican Party said he plans to challenge the voter registrations of more students at the historically black university ahead of upcoming elections.” (source)
The election board is challenging King’s eligibility to run for city council all on the fact that he resides on campus and claims the dormitory as his domicile. By challenging his eligibility to run for office, they are also simultaneously challenging a college students’ right to vote in the town they reside in – even though the US Supreme Court has ruled that college students have a Constitutionally-protected right to vote where they attend college.
If you think that the GOP plans to stop with Elizabeth City State University, you would be wrong. The GOP (Pasquotank) county chairman Pete Gilbert told the Associated Press “I plan to take this show on the road.”
The GOP will not stop with North Carolina. Texas is already moving forward on a new Voter ID that was originally rejected under the Voting Rights Act. This prompted the Attorney General to sue the state of Texas over these changes.
“In the voter ID lawsuit, the U.S. government will contend that Texas adopted a voter identification law with the purpose of denying or restricting the right to vote on account of race, color or membership in a language minority group.” (source)
Texas is in the middle of a court battle over the GOP-led gerrymandering of legislative districts. The claim is that the GOP redrew lines in four districts, segregating minority voters into a single district and allowing GOP to protect their majority in the other three.
After nearly fifty years of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, it is obvious that we have not yet achieved the dream that Dr. King laid out for us in 1963. We have made great strides in equality; we have a dozen states that have enacted same-sex marriage laws. Yet we still have yet to overcome the wage inequality between man and women, and whites and minorities. We have come so far – yet, in recent years, it seems that we are moving backwards once again. The good thing is that we have such great teachers like Dr. King to help remind us we can always do better.