Sunday, March 05, 2017

Resistance on the march

Yesterday marchers again crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama recalling that bloody episode in the long struggle for democratic rights for all of 52 years ago. Watch the video and listen up, if you've forgotten or never knew what that struggle for Black freedom from Jim Crow looked like. Even history some of us remember can come to feel awfully remote.

On this anniversary, the Rev. William Barber described the struggle today:

... America is reeling from the political extremism unleashed by the first election in half a century without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. In the midst of our present crisis, the blood of Selma's martyr's cries out as clearly as in 1965: America cannot suppress the vote of any one group without hurting everyone in this democracy.

... After the end of Reconstruction in 1877, unfounded accusations of voter fraud became the basis for literacy tests, poll taxes, and other voter suppression tactics. Though challenged in the courts under the 15th amendment, Jim Crow voting laws were upheld for decades because they did not deny the franchise based on an individual's race. But after Selma, the Voting Rights Act recognized that their intent and effect was the suppression of African-American votes and the destruction of the progressive coalitions that black political power made possible.

We cannot make sense of President Trump's unsubstantiated claim of 3 to 5 million illegal votes in last year's election apart from this history. "Voter fraud," though proven to be statistically irrelevant in modern elections, has been the primary justification for voter suppression bills in 22 states since the Supreme Court stripped the Voting Rights Act of its power in their 2013 Shelby decision. ...

... Even more sinister than they lie of voter fraud is the lie that voter suppression only hurts black people. The policies of progressive coalitions that include African-Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ, poor and working people today are now, as during Reconstruction, policies that lift up the good of the whole. ... Diverse coalitions of people who are willing to put their bodies on the line to expose extremism offer the greatest hope of reviving the heart of our democracy.

How appropriate that also yesterday, Bernie Sanders and Danny Glover headlined a march in Canton, Mississippi in support of Nissan auto workers struggling for union rights.

With a white nationalist demagogue in power and his Neo-Confederate Attorney General doing his worst, the song's lyrics still carry the message we can be sure rings true:

Marching the freedom highway
March each and every day
Marching the freedom highway
March each and every day

Made up my mind, and I won't turn around
Made up my mind, and I won't turn around

Keep on marching on freedom's highway

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