This past Summer I visited an old haunt in the heart of New York City’s Central Park. I ran into a well-known entertainment personality I’ve known for years. We chatted briefly. During which time he wasted no time in zeroing in on his thoughts: it’s ok for private business to discriminate based on race, government intervention in such matters is no longer relevant and the free market won’t allow any business that discriminates to survive.
Perhaps he was being provocative.
But the conversation is a potent reminder that there are people who think that discrimination is ok. Or that left to their own devices people and institutions will just do the right thing. Or that we should just experiment by removing protections and see what happens.
To be clear, discrimination is not ok. People don’t always do the right thing or know what that thing is. And experimenting with people’s lives to their detriment is simply wrong.
One of the best defenses against discrimination was the Voting Rights Act, which allowed millions to vote, and which changed the country and countless lives for the better.
If you don’t know much about the Act, watch this engaging conversation about the Civil Rights Movement between three civil rights pioneers. Representative John Lewis, Georgia 5th District; journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault; and Chairman Emeritus of the NAACP, Julian Bond, look back and ahead in a discussion moderated by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. In addition to providing an introduction to the speakers, Professor Gates gives background on the making of the series. The conversation is followed by a lively Q&A session with the audience. This special series launch event for The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross took place October 9, 2013, at the National Press Club, Washington, DC. Learn more about the speakers here. This section courtesy of PBS.
Sadly the Act was recently rolled back by the Supreme Court.
While HCL generally tries to stay clear of politics, we love our community. And voting rights is a matter of community and citizenship. It affects all of us. It’s our obligation and civic duty to vote. It’s our obligation and civic duty to vigorously challenge encroachments on that right, and to protect that right.
That being said, please take a moment to sign the petition below and urge Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act. Use the links in a petition we received this morning below. From Congressman John Lewis.
/// PETITION TEXT AND LINKS ///
I’m deeply saddened.
If Congress doesn’t act, this will be the first election in 50 years without critical protections from the Voting Rights Act.
The right to vote is precious… even sacred.
That’s why in 1963, I marched on Washington with Martin Luther King for the right to vote.
That’s why in 1965, I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Alabama for the right to vote.
Folks marched for this. Folks fought for this. And some even died for the right to vote.
But today, the vital protections in the Voting Rights Act have been gutted by the conservative Justices on the Supreme Court.
Voting is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society. And we’ve got to use it!
Election Day is in 41 days. Will you demand that Republicans fix the Voting Rights Act?
Congressman John Lewis