Voting Rights and UU The Vote
July 8, 2021
"This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn." A quote from a speech entitled “What July 4th Means to the Negro”, given by Frederick Douglas on July 5, 1852, at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Read on to hear more…
Douglas goes on to say that Independence Day “reveals the immeasurable distance between us…The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me… There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour”.
That speech was given over 160 years ago and yet could it not have been on this July 4th? Douglas recognized that, like some of us, the people in his audience were wondering why he said such inflammatory words, believing he should “make a more favorable impression on the public mind... argue more, and denounce less … persuade more, and rebuke less”. If so “your cause would be much more likely to succeed."
He counters their imagined comments with this: “What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it… There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia which, if committed by a black man… subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgment that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being?”
“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim”. And yet, Douglas says, “I do not despair of this country… I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from "the Declaration of Independence," the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age”.
“Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind... Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe… Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together…Space is comparatively annihilated…Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are distinctly heard on the other”.
Let’s hope he was right even though it’s taken us 169 years, maybe we have seen the light and we can now act with knowledge and conviction. Do whatever you think is right to make the next year and the next and the next July 4th represent independence and justice for all humankind.
July 1, 2021
What are your thoughts on reparations? Learn about what it means, how it can help and advocate for what you think it needs to look like now at the local, state and national level. Many believe that if reparations are done right, they can heal relationships.
HB 40: Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act is being considered now. Contact Congress and let them know what you think. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/40/text
This reparations bill would establish a federal commission to study the legacy of slavery in the United States and its ongoing harm and develop proposals for redress and repair, including reparations. The bill has been introduced at every congressional session since 1989 but has never before reached a committee vote, normally the first step toward passing legislation.
What’s different about this bill from others is that it will present and recommend appropriate remedies. Among other requirements, the commission shall identify (1) the role of the federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, (2) forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and (3) lingering negative effects of slavery on living African-Americans and society.
The vote comes amid an acceleration of several successful voluntary reparations movements at the state and local levels and within religious institutions and businesses. In March, the Evanston, Illinois City Council approved the first reparations program for Black people. Controversial in some ways, it provides financial compensation for housing for descendants of slaves and is the first such attempt to acknowledge the role of government in slavery and to address its continuing harm.
The US has a history of providing reparations. In 1988 it paid $1.6 billion to Japanese Americans interned during WWII. It also compensated Native American tribes about $1.3 billion between 1946 and 1978 for seizing their land, although the program was criticized as “incomplete and paternalistic”.
Reparations can take numerous forms both moral and material, including: individual monetary payments, settlements, scholarships, waiving of fees, and systemic initiatives to offset injustices, land-based compensation related to independence, apologies and acknowledgements of the injustices, token measures, such as naming a building after someone, or the removal of monuments and renaming of streets that honor slave owners and defenders of slavery. And there are many other options. What would you suggest to Congress?
June 24, 2021
In keeping with our UU principle of the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large, there are 4 issues before Congress that need our attention, all of which strengthen our Democracy and help insure that every citizen eligible to vote can, without restrictions:
- The John Lewis Voting Rights Act: HR1 Text - H.R.1 - 117th Congress (2021-2022): For the People Act of 2021 | Congress.gov | Library of Congress
- For the People Act: HR4 H.R.1 - 117th Congress (2021-2022): For the People Act of 2021 | Congress.gov | Library of Congress
- Filibuster Reform, a controversial debate tactic, that results in the requirement that 60% of the votes rather than the majority (51%) are required to pass a bill that is being debated. What is the Senate filibuster, and what would it take to eliminate it? (brookings.edu)
- Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for
This week we will focus on the first 3. The John Lewis Act, would establish federal procedural rules governing voting rights violations to prohibit the more than 150 voter suppression laws currently being passed in several states. The provisions of this bill include the following:
- creating a cause of action in court to challenge voting or elections laws that restrict minority voting rights;
- requiring jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory practices to submit changes in voting and election laws and procedures to the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department for review and "pre-clearance" as non-discriminatory before they could take effect;
- setting up a formula for determining which jurisdictions were under the pre-clearance requirement with updated data on discriminatory practices.
HR1 passed in the House. It required every Democrat to vote yes to pass it in the Senate, but Senator Joe Manchin, one of the original sponsors of the bill, has now opposed it, using the filibuster to block it. There are at least 6 more special elections in the coming weeks which threaten access to voting in California (AD-18), Alabama (SD-14, HD-73 and HD-78), Wisconsin (AD-37) and Tennessee (HD-39). EVEN IF YOU DON'T LIVE IN THOSE STATES, YOU CAN HELP. Write friends you have in those states and ask them to contact their senators to express their support of this bill now. Write your senator and ask him or her to do whatever it takes to pass this bill and eliminate voter suppression.
The practice of filibuster is no longer the courageous act of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. It is often used by the minority political party (this year Republications) as a means to overcome the possibility of the majority party being able to pass a bill with 51% of the votes. It has been used to confirm judges, pass tax cuts or increases and now to stop the movement forward of HR1. Opposition to this and continuing support for the filibuster could derail HR1.
For the People Act HR4 strengthens voting rights and ensures our elections are free and fair. It expands voter registration (automatic and same-ay registration and voting by mail and early voting. It also limits removing voters from voter rolls and provides other measures to ensure election integrity, security and ethics for the tree branches of government. Both HR 4 and HR1 need to pass.
CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES AND SENATORS NOW AND TELL THEM HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO PASS THE JOHN LEWIS ACT, FOR THE PEOPLE ACT AND STOP THE FILIBUSTER.
Visit VOTE411.org to view your ballot and candidates' position statements.
Absentee, mail-in & early voting are open to all, no excuse needed!
First Time Voters:
If you’re 18 by Election Day, Nov. 2, you can register to vote.
Your vote is crucial for shaping the world you want—don’t waste it!
College students may register to vote using their school or home address:
• Register using the address you consider your primary residence. A dormitory or college
address is acceptable, but you may not use a P.O. Box, only a street address.
• Please contact your school advisors to learn whether your tuition or financial aid would
be affected if your voter registration address differs from their records!