An open letter to African America:
In the late '90s, the Internet belched forth a rumor that the Voting Rights Act was soon to expire and that black folks would lose the vote as a result. Though stupid and untrue, the rumor spread like a dust cloud till it was inescapable. You couldn't get away from it in a confession booth. You couldn't get away from it in a phone booth. Everybody was up in arms.
Flash forward to 2012. Now the threat is real. There is a sustained effort to suppress the black vote as we approach this pivotal election. And what is our response?
"I don't sense that African-Americans are truly aware of what is in the process of happening or could happen to them," says
Mr. Lewis, of course, is the man whose skull was cracked in 1965 on a bridge in Alabama in the fight for black voting rights. Fifteen years ago, he couldn't walk down a street without being assailed by a false rumor that those rights were imperiled. Now, when the threat is real, he is appalled by the silence he hears.
Here is what is going on in that silence. In Washington, conservative
Conservatives argue that such laws are needed to prevent voter fraud. This argument might hold more water if there actually were any significant voter fraud in our elections. There is not.
In a speech last week before the
Keep in mind that blacks are already disenfranchised by laws denying the ballot to former felons. Given the phenomenon of mass incarceration — i.e., a criminal injustice system that will bypass 10 white
Voter ID laws add fresh insult to standing injury. And let no one be fooled by GOP claims that this is not political.
So where are we in all this? Silent, that's where.
It is easy to rally in the face of a tragedy like
And yet ...?
From the barber shops, silence.
From the beauty parlors, silence.
From the pulpits, silence.
In the face of a naked attempt to steal not just an election but a right that was purchased for us at a cost of bones and blood, silence. It's happening now, right under our noses.
"And we're too quiet," says Mr. Lewis. "We're just too quiet."