A Fourth of July tribute to those who love a country that won’t protect them

Just who deserves protection in America?

If you observe the folks this country chooses to protect and chooses to ignore, you may get an answer that doesn’t exactly line up with America’s ideals.

When Wandrea “Shaye” Moss bravely testified before members of the House Select Committee investigating the events of Jan. 6, I was enraged, though I know my rage slips me into the stereotypical category of “angry Black woman.” I refuse to give up a full palette of emotions because of fear of judgment.

When I heard her mother, Ruby Freeman, speak of the horrors she has had to endure, I was sad for her and for America. “Lady Ruby” was the moniker she proudly used to display on her shirt until racist political operatives dragged that earned good name through the mud.

At an age when she should be comfortably enjoying life, lauded for her community service, Lady Ruby’s life has been forever changed. “Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?” she asked. “The president of the United States is supposed to represent every American.”

She’s right, of course.

Yesterday’s march, with lessons for today

March 7, 1965, is a day to remember.

That was never a problem for 90-year-old Ora Bell Shannon of Selma, Ala., then a young mother who ran with her children from the Edmund Pettus Bridge, or for Betty Boynton, who could see the tear gas rising and baton-wielding state troopers beating peaceful marchers.

Civil rights activists — among them Amelia Boynton, Betty Boynton’s mother-in-law, and a young John Lewis — put their bodies on the line to create the headlines and the international shock that forced action from Washington. In truth, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 simply put teeth into the enforcement of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, ignored by state and local governments intent on blocking African Americans from the ballot box.

Back then, it was about the right to vote, and in 2022, it is still about the right to vote, reinforced by the hard-won Voting Rights Act of 1965 but increasingly under attack by state laws placing obstacles in the way of those least able to overcome them.

As many, including Vice President Kamala Harris, traveled to Selma this past Sunday to commemorate what has become known as “Bloody Sunday,” the landscape has changed in a country where many have lost the ability to be shocked or to find common cause with citizens different from themselves.

 It is a world where, as Senate Democrats hold their annual issues conference at Howard University in Washington, elevating the excellence of that institution, students seeking an education at historically Black colleges and universities face bomb threats.

It’s easy to forget that in the not-that-distant past, the annual ceremony in Selma, including a symbolic march across the bridge named for a Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader, had been bipartisan. In 2015, a chastened Kevin McCarthy, then House majority leader, attended the 50th anniversary of the historic march in Selma after initial reports that no GOP congressional leaders would be there.

What do the census, voting rights and democracy have in common?

Emails made public by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School recently showed that officials under President Donald Trump tried whatever they could to rig the system for redistricting purposes. It and other government documents detailed clashes between the administration and the bureau’s experts in areas that had the potential of affecting the count and who gets elected. Mary C. Curtis sits down with Kelly Percival, with the Brennan Center’s Democracy to discuss what this all means.

‘Beat them in court, beat them in Congress and beat them at the polls’

On the one year anniversary of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, the administration woke up to it’s fifth defeat in six months in passing legislation to ensure voting rights for all. Biden had promised to put voting rights at the top of his agenda, but the path appears more fraught than ever. Mary C. Curtis speaks with White House Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond on what comes next.

Americans who excuse violence need to see the world through Maxine McNair’s eyes — and soul

It looked like an ordinary room when I visited it years ago, a place you’d pause for a chat in the middle of a work day or to enjoy that lunch packed from home. But it was so much more, a room where memories and emotions overwhelm in the space of a few seconds.

When a business trip took me to Birmingham, Ala., I knew I had to visit, to witness at the 16th Street Baptist Church, where cowards placed a bomb that injured many and murdered four little girls getting ready for a church program on Sept. 15, 1963.

While the church itself is a beautiful sanctuary, the basement space is no less sacred.

That is what violence looks like, violence spurred by hate, violence that ended the lives of Addie Mae Collins, 14; Cynthia Wesley, 14; Carole Robertson, 14, and Carol Denise McNair, just 11 years old. It wasn’t just Ku Klux Klan members whose fingerprints stained that evil and bloody act. Among the guilty were the “good” white citizens of Alabama, the leaders and politicians, who feared any change in the social, economic and political order that solidified their status, their place at the top. Whether silent or vocal, they supported the folks who did the dirty work.

Maxine McNair, the last living parent of any of the girls killed in the 1963 church bombing, died on Jan. 2 at the age of 93. Any mother, any person, could and should feel a piece of that pain in their bones; they should try to imagine how it might have felt to live nearly 60 years after burying a child, all those years to remember what was and to think of what might have been.

Short-term memories

Instead, a lot of Americans have apparently forgotten that important historical event from not that long ago. It’s not that surprising if you paid any attention to how divided Americans were in their commemoration of an insurrection, a violent attempt to overturn the results of an election judged fair by officials of every political party.

And that was just one year ago, on Jan. 6, 2021.

recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that about 1 in 3 Americans believed violence against the government could at times be justified. Though that third included all Americans, who listed a range of said justifications, from vaccine requirements to “protection,” there was a distinct partisan divide — with 40 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independents and 23 percent of Democrats indicating approval.

The state of democracy one year after January 6

Talked about the state of democracy one year after January 6 with Charles Blow and Ohio State professor Hasan Kwame Jeffries on BNC’s ‘Prime.’

The politics of equity 2021

In this wide-ranging, year-end conversation, Mary C. Curtis speaks with New York Times columnist Charles Blow about what he considers the dramatic rollback of the nation’s civil rights and whether President Joe Biden has been proactive enough to help stem inequity.

BLACK ISSUES FORUM: Omicron Variant, Voting Rights Scorecard, Self-Care Tips

With the Omicron COVID-19 variant now detected in the states, Dr. Julius Wilder provides information on protection. Professor Irving Joyner and Mary C. Curtis discuss the voting rights scorecard on senators issued by an NAACP-led coalition. The Confidence Coach, Jason Phillips, shares tips for engaging self-care to achieve peace and joy amid today’s disturbing news and social distractions.

Why Marc Morial is ‘damn worried’ about the state of American democracy

The new infrastructure law and the larger budget reconciliation bill that are part of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda have pushed the issue of voting rights out of the spotlight.

This comes after the Senate blocked debate on a bill named after the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, which would restore key provisions of the Voting Rights Act that have been struck down by the Supreme Court since 2013. Vice President Kamala Harris recently called the right to vote the cornerstone of our democracy. As states across the country enact restrictive voting laws, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer has insisted that voting rights legislation is a priority, even if it means eliminating the filibuster. But it’s unclear whether there’s enough support for taking that step.

Now, civil rights groups have issued a scorecard that rates every senator on their records on voting rights and their willingness to end the filibuster.

One of the organizations behind the move is the National Urban League. CEO Marc Morial recently joined the Equal Time podcast to offer his take on voting rights, democracy and even infrastructure.

A transcript, edited for clarity and brevity:

‘What has come of America?’

Civil rights leader and National Urban League president and CEO Marc Morial says he is “damn worried” about the state of American democracy. Mary C. Curtis sits down with Morial to talk about voting rights, infrastructure, the filibuster and so much more.