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Friday, August 07, 2015

The 50th Year Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act


It has been more than 50 years since the establishment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It was signed into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson on August 6, 1965. It was a historic moment in the civil rights movement and in the overall human rights movement. Men, women, and children fought for voting rights back then. Many people have died for the cause of liberty and justice like Jimmie Lee Jackson, Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo, James Reeb, 3 little girls from the Birmingham Baptist Church, and so many other heroic human beings. The Voting Rights Act banned voting restrictions, which disenfranchised minorities and the poor, especially African Americans in the South. The Voting Rights Act would have not been a reality without the struggle for justice in Selma, Alabama (and in other places in America). The DCVL, SNCC, the SCLC, and so many other organizations and people worked together to make sure that voting rights were federally protected. Human rights are superior to states’ rights. That’s true. People marched not only in Selma back then for voting rights. People marched all over the nation in favor of voting rights from New York City, LA, San Francisco, and everywhere else. Innocent people in Selma, Alabama suffered racist police brutality in the spring of 1965 on Bloody Sunday and in other incidents as well. This caused enraged workers and youth of America to expose the hypocrisy of Johnson claiming to fight for “freedom” in Vietnam (when the Vietnam War was an imperialist war) while crooked cops were brutalizing human beings in Selma. Before the bill was passed, it went through both houses of Congress. The Congressional debate on the bill was a long process. Lyndon Johnson was dedicated in fighting for the passage of the Voting Rights Act. The bill was introduced in the Senate by Mike Mansfield (D-MT) and Everett Dirksen (R-IL). It passed the upper chamber on May 26, 1965 by a margin of 77 to 19. An amended version was passed by the House on July 9, 1965 by a margin of 333 to 85. Almost all of the 104 senators and Congress people who voted against the bill were Southern Democrats. These southern Democrats opposed racial equality. Later, the 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater opposed the Voting Rights Act too. Some of the Southern conservative Democrats went into the Republican Party. The US Constitution (1787) and Bill of Rights (1789) had left it to the states to determine voting requirements. Until the Civil War the franchise was restricted to white men in most southern and even northern states.

The Civil War and Reconstruction resulted in the 13th, (1865) 14th (1868), and 15th (1870) amendments to the Constitution, which, respectively, outlawed slavery, guaranteed citizenship, and protected voting rights. Yet, the Northern bourgeoisie made a deal with the southern elite in the 1877 Compromise to get occupying Union troops out of the South in exchange for neoliberal economic policies in America (along wit the South promoting their states' rights agenda). The South soon promoted Jim Crow apartheid from the late 19th century until the 1960’s. Literacy tests and other subjective requirements like poll taxes including grandfather clauses (which was about stipulating that in order to vote, an applicant’s grandfather had to have been a citizen and not a slave) were used by the Southern racist aristocracy to prevent black people the right to vote decades ago. Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibited any jurisdiction from putting in place “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure [that] results in a denial or abridgement” of the right to vote. Section 5 required certain areas—including all of the Deep South—to get “preclearance” from the US Attorney General or the US District Court in Washington, DC before altering voting requirements. We know that the Supreme Court gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (via the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision). Today, many states in the South, in the Midwest, etc. have passed voter ID laws (when its supporters deceive and claim it is about claiming to prevent fraud when fraud is minuscule today in terms of voting) which restrict who can vote and where one can vote. These voter restriction laws are very bad. One of the worse of such voter restriction laws is found in North Carolina. These voter suppression laws stop Sunday voting, cut early voting days, stop same day registration, cut the number of polling centers and stopping the use of student ID (which studies have found to negatively effect the poor, people of color, and the elderly). Activists in North Carolina and throughout the nation are fighting back to make sure that voting rights is made available for all. They are courageously opposing the voter suppression laws in NC and throughout America. We should remember about the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and we are not finished yet. We have a long way to go and we want any voter suppression laws to be gone nationwide. I will always respect voting rights.

I have watched the Republican debate on Thursday night, August 6, 2015. The Republicans don’t sugarcoat what they stand for. Their reactionary rhetoric may be popular for some, but their rhetoric is archaic, xenophobic in many cases, and militaristic. There were many moments of the debates. One big part of the debate was the conversation between the chauvinist Donald Trump and the FOX News journalist Megan Kelly. Megan Kelly made a legitimate question about Trump’s misogynist comments about women (in the sense of asking about temperament when running for President) and Trump never apologized from his previous comments at all. Trump is a disgrace. Trump also said that laziness is a trait of blacks (which is an evil comment), so he is a racist. He disrespected Jeb Bush’s wife without apologizing, so I have no respect for him as a man. All 10 candidates on the stage had a chance to speak their minds. Rubio talked about focusing on the future. John Kasich and Chris Christie spoke about defending their records as Governors (they talked about economic statistics, but New Jersey and Ohio still suffer massive problems via their union busting and austerity policies. Austerity never works to bring about long-term economic growth). Not one candidate on the stage talked about the minimum wage, child care, the Voting Rights Act, police brutality (in an in-depth way), the environment, the Black Lives Matter movement, and other important issues. Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and Kasich expressed their views a lot. Jeb Bush had a decent performance. He didn't fail, but he wasn't spectacular either. Mike Huckabee was the most conservative candidate on social issues. All of the candidates opposed the Iranian deal and they wanted more militarist, imperialist policies in dealing with Iran (which will cause more suffering for the people of Iran. The Iranian deal is a very strict deal with huge burdens for Iran). The candidates criticized Planned Parenthood and abortion and they had a debate on national security. Rand Paul and Chris Christie debated each other on the issue of civil liberties. Rand Paul accurately said that there is nothing wrong with having a warrant to conduct surveillance, while Chris Christie (who called a grown black man in Patterson, New Jersey “boy,” which shows his disgraceful character as a person) was arrogant to exploit the deaths of people on 9/11 to justify his support of anti-civil liberty policies done by the NSA and others. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act or CISA targets fundamental civil liberties. The debate lasted for about 2 hours. It was not boring. We know that both parties are funded by corporate interests and big foundations. The debate talked about terrorism, but they ignored white supremacist terrorism going on in America (with one white supremacist terrorist killing 9 innocent people in Charleston, South Carolina). There was no question, however, about the threat of right-wing, white supremacist mass violence, which has killed many more Americans since 9/11 than attacks by those inspired by Islam. American Muslims have carried out 20 plots in the last 13 years resulting in 50 deaths. In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities. A survey of 382 law enforcement agencies conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum also found that police cited right-wing, anti-government extremism as a threat than extremism connected with Al Qaeda or like-minded terrorist organizations. There was also another Happy Hour debate with Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, and others who didn’t make it to the 9 pm. debate. Carly Fiorina criticized Donald Trump, to her credit, for Trump’s divisive rhetoric and lack of policy strategies for solving problems. Carly Fiorina is the one with the courage to confront Trump’s extremism in a debate forum. The candidates wanted to target Medicare, Social Security, and other parts of the New Deal which workers and other people fought and died for. Social Security has nothing to do with theft. It’s a benefit earned by work. Social Security and Medicare are highly successful programs that can be improved without massive austerity measures. We need civil rights protected, the protection of voting rights, the air including the water cleaned, and the rights of minorities to exist.  The candidates didn't provide comprehensive solutions to handle immigration issues. So, this debate was filled with interesting discussions. We have a massive economic crisis in America. We have huge economic inequality, police brutality, unfair sentencing, racism, sexism, discrimination, capitalist exploitation, and imperialism globally. These evils want be combated. People go their points across. We certain need a national plan for urban and rural reconstruction in this nation of America. Some have talked about a Wall Street tax, a higher minimum wage, a addressing of racial justice matters, and changing sentencing laws. I have no problem with these things, but we also need a plan to confront poverty and discrimination too. The market can't solve every problem. It has to be solve via both individual and collective actions. What is most important is to fight for the equality and justice for all people.

“Beyond the Lights” is a great film that shows how the music industry is and how powerful and personal love is in real life. The cast of the film did a great job in their numerous performances. Gina Prince-Bythewood has the right to proclaim that the stories of black people are diverse and multifaceted. Our stories are part of the human story in general. Another point is to be made too. Films like “Beyond the Lights” can exist in multiple categories and Netflix knows that too. So, Gina has the right to speak her mind on this issue and great films are art. True art is not necessarily limited in its scope. It can appeal to a cross section of human beings because of it lasting message, its creativity, and it its succinct depth. Black voices will always matter and the gift of human expression is sacrosanct. Folks realize that many people use the #alllivesmatter hashtag as a means for them to not respect all human lives. Some of them have used that hashtag to mock the growing Black Lives Matter movement too (and some of them wanted to ignore the structural problems of racial and economic oppression in America, so they use #alllivesmatter hashtag as a means of them to consciously deflect from the real issues confronting the black community). Black people want the system of white supremacy to end and real justice to flourish. The unfortunate death of the young male once again validates what we have been saying for years. Many cops are out of control, the War on Drugs has failed to build communities, and we need revolutionary change. I hope that the cops responsible for the death of Zachary are brought to justice. It is ironic that I hear more outrage over Zachary’s death from the people from the Black Lives Matter movement than those who use the hashtag #AllLivesMatter. Black people have been proactive in fighting for justice, protesting, and organizing in various organizations that are addressing the epidemic of police terrorism for years and decades. As black people, we will continue to speak up and stand up for the truth.
#Black Lives Matter.

She is a strong person. She wants to express herself honestly on her terms and I respect her for that. Issa Rae has Issa Rae Production and Color Creative. She is making the great point that the stories of black people and people of color are just as valuable as any other story. Life will never be totally easy, but Issa Rae has the great qualities of persistence, courageousness, and determination. She has the right to say No. We know about the imperfections found in the entertainment industry. The Sony emails and the actions of many corporate executives present to the world about how cut throat the industry is. The gift of film and other forms of entertainment has been expressed by talented black people for generations. The greatness of us is found not only in our stories, but in our resiliency as a people too. Therefore, Issa Rae is a Sister with Power and she is a person to be reckoned with. A'int nothing will turn us around. I send condolences to Lesley McSpadden and the rest of Michael Brown’s family and friends. Darren Wilson can live his life and he’s breathing. Yet, Michael Brown is gone physically forever. Wilson’s interview was filled with the mentality of many officers. Darren Wilson isn’t alone in his archaic views. For him to even say that the DOJ report, which totally documents racism and police brutality accurately in Ferguson, is skewed and he hasn’t read it, shows his detachment from reality. There are serious problems in police departments nationwide. Police brutality and corruption is an institutional problem as well. We all know about the existence of the Blue Wall of Silence. Tons of studies, reports, and witnesses have exposed police corruption. Wilson totally ignores the reason why the citizens of Ferguson and citizens all over the country are tired of the status quo and human beings want a real change where communities are treated justly.

By Timothy

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