Why Celebrating MLK Day Without Legislation Desecrate Civil Rights Leader’s Legacy
The family of Martin Luther King Jr. has a message for Democratic lawmakers who refuse to stop their Republican counterparts’ voter-suppression efforts but intend to heap piously on the slain civil rights leader’s legacy this holiday weekend: Save it.
Her statement comes at a time when racial justice activists are ramping up their calls for President Joe Biden to demand that Senate Democrats change the chamber’s rules and pass a voting rights bill — before the GOP makes fair elections impossible.
“President Biden and Congress have used their political leverage to secure an important infrastructure deal,” Martin Luther King III said. “And now we are urging them to do the same to restore the very voting rights protections that my father and countless other civil rights activists bled to secure.”
“Give us the ballot”
More than six decades ago, his father spoke about the fundamental importance of voting rights.
“The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition. And that is why our most urgent request to the President of the United States and every member of Congress is to give us the right to vote,” said King Jr. said.
The crowd replied, “Yes.”
King Jr. continued, “Give us the ballot and we won’t have to worry about our fundamental rights with the federal government anymore. Give us the ballot and we will no longer ask the federal government to pass an anti-lynching bill. We will use our voice to write the law in the law books of the South and put an end to the insidious acts of the hooded criminals.”
The Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first federal civil rights law since Reconstruction, authorized the government to take legal action to prevent citizens from being denied the right to vote. But it wasn’t until 1965 that Congress would pass the Voting Rights Act.
Today, his family and other civil rights activists are continuing a fight many thought American voters had won.
“Like those who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, we will not accept empty promises in pursuit of my father’s dream of a more equal and just America,” said Martin Luther King III.
She said that if voting rights are “still in limbo” by MLK Day, Americans must “speak and act to keep this nation on its promise of democracy by pressuring our U.S. Senate to filibuster.” bypass .”
A stalled voting rights agenda
And yet, despite such obvious political machinations, Democratic lawmakers have failed to pass legislation that could protect the sanctity of the ballot box.
(Notably, Manchin and Sinema’s intransigence is reminiscent of Martin Luther King Jr.’s damning observation that “the Negro’s great stumbling block on the road to liberty is not the Council of White Citizens or Ku Klux Klanners, but the moderate White , which is devoted more to ‘order’ than to justice.”)
“We don’t need another speech. What we need is a plan,” Cliff Albright, the co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, told reporters last Monday.
LaTosha Brown, the co-founder of Black Voters Matter, put it a little more bluntly.
A never-ending attack
Black voters aren’t just being made empty promises. You also get airy admonitions to vote harder.
She added, “Generations of Americans have persevered through poll taxes, literacy tests, and laws designed to strip them of their power — and they’ve done so by organizing, protesting, and most importantly, breaking down the barriers in front of them in turn.” have to vote. And now we must do the same.”
Obama acknowledged the Republican legislature’s campaign to restrict voting access. But their attention was largely on voter mobilization; Importantly, this focus seemed to ignore racial justice activists’ frustrations with Democratic leaders and their allies for over-organizing.
Even a quick look at history shows how previous limitations on the franchise were overcome not by zeal but by important legislation. The 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870 as the last of the three Reconstruction Amendments, prohibits states from stripping the right to vote “on the basis of race, color, or past servitude.” And the Voting Rights Act, enacted in 1965 at the height of the black freedom struggle, protects against racial discrimination in voting.
This grim political landscape has prompted concerned Americans to put more pressure on Biden, Senate Democrats and their allies to be more aggressive in their efforts to protect the ballot box.
He added, “There’s no point having 40 years of Senate experience just to tell us you can’t win two votes.”