Educate, Organize and Mobilize — Last week, our nation witnessed a symbolic victory over one of the most divisive, hateful and destructive symbols in American history. We witnessed the lowering of the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds of South Carolina. Symbolism speaks to attitudes; substance speaks to the deeds carried out in support of the symbolism.
Periodically I’ve written about the three major eras of reconstruction and their symbolic and substantive impacts on the lives of Black Americans. For context, the lowering of the flag represents the public rejection of forces that have been working to turn back the clock on the gains of the Civil Rights Movement, the Second Reconstruction Era. The flag itself was a symbolic statement by white supremacist that they were still committed to the degradation and subjugation of Black people. Horrific crimes have been committed against Black people under the symbolism of the Confederate flag.
The long term value of lowering the Confederate flag is quite debatable, but there is no doubt that its removal is a major benefit to Black Americans. Its removal forces bigots to disguise their evil deeds and intent and makes it more difficult for them to practice their discrimination. Now that the flag is down we must now turn and keep our attention focused on something of real, long-lasting substance, voting rights. We are now in the Era of the Third Reconstruction. We are fighting to preserve our gains from the First and Second Eras of Reconstruction.
Arguably the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the most important accomplishment of the Civil Rights Movement, the Second Reconstruction. All across the country the same forces that flew and supported the symbolism of the Confederate flag are engaged in relentless efforts to subjugate Black people by denying us the right to equal access to the ballot. Voter suppression and flying the Confederate flag are products of the same attempt to maintain Black people as second class citizens.
For the last fifty-years relentless, ongoing efforts have targeted the Voting Rights Act attempting to destroy it. The same efforts are attempting to destroy other achievements of the Civil Rights Movement as well. Those efforts are succeeding, but we are fighting back. What is needed to defeat these immoral efforts is for Black leaders, progressives, and grassroots activist to consolidate their opposition in a strategic plan to protect our voting rights. There is much opposition around the state and the country, but in North Carolina it is not adequately unified and coordinated.
This week’s trial of various provisions of the North Carolina Voter Suppression Act of 2013, aka VIVA (Voter Information Verification Act) is a necessary step in the fight against voter suppression, but in no way should be viewed as a reason for us not to mount a massive campaign to register Black and progressive voters, help them navigate the suppression rules and have a massive turnout in November 2016.
An example of the pervasive assault on voting rights has been revealed by the trial, is an email that showed that a Republican state Board of Election member conspired with the Republican controlled Watauga County Board of Election to eliminate the early voting site on the campus of Appalachian State University. It was the only site in Watauga County that voted Democrat in 2008 and 2012 presidential election and the 2012 governor’s race. The state Board of Elections is supposed to remain neutral in county Board of Election disputes.
Every day there are news reports of the vulgar amounts of money and efforts that are being targeted to undermine progressive candidates and prevent Black voters from free unfettered access to the ballot box. This week I witnessed a presidential candidate bragging about the fact that he got his state to pass voter ID laws. This is not symbolism; this is substance and has to be fought with substance.
Over the past weeks I’ve written about voter suppression and its growing threat to the well being of Blacks and other progressives. I wrote about the need for the Black press and Black clergy to lead in the opposition to voter suppression and that there is a growing consensus and coalition coming together to promote and protect voting rights. Regretfully, our coalition is not in place, time is of the essence and the lack of funding is becoming increasingly problematic.
During the coming weeks I’ll continue to stress the roles of the Black press, clergy and elected officials. If either of these parties fails to fully engage, our chances of success will be greatly diminished. Please post your comments on this topic and add your voice to the opposition.
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