The following is a joint statement from Dean Ramona Denby-Brinson and Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Travis Albritton:
As many of you are aware, members of the United States Senate recently failed to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, legislation designed to protect the voting rights of millions of citizens across the country.
It is ironic that many of the same Senators who voted against protecting the right to vote took time to praise the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 17 and proudly told stories of walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with Congressman John Lewis.
The right to vote is a fundamental part of both Dr. King’s and Congressman Lewis’ legacies, and the unwillingness of many members of the Senate to ensure equal access to the ballot is a shameful testament to how our government continues to fail the most vulnerable communities in our society.
The need for our advocacy has never been more urgent. The Senate’s failure to pass voting rights legislation makes it possible for state legislatures across the country to continue to pass voting laws that decrease the number of early voting days, deny citizens the ability to register and vote on election day and allows lawmakers to draw new voting districts that favor one party over another and ensures that voters have fewer and fewer opportunities to choose representatives who look like them or whose values align with their own. Communities across the country face the reality of having their voices erased from the democratic process. Many individuals organized, marched, bled and died to ensure that voting rights were extended to all members of our society no matter their race, background or socioeconomic status.
Much has changed since President Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Although our nation has made progress, there are those in our society who continue to seek ways to silence the voices of communities of color, working class and low-income people, and those whose employment offers little or no flexibility for voting on election day.
We, as individuals and as a School community, must not be silent. We encourage each of you to be intentional about finding ways to defend the democratic ideals that many of the same individuals who voted against voting rights so readily espouse. The regressive politics we have witnessed over the past several years, coupled with the blatant disregard for the voting rights of many citizens must not be tolerated.
The future of the communities we serve is more at stake today than yesterday. In the face of mounting political injustice, we cannot afford to stand idly and say nothing. The current actions and inactions of our elected officials is discouraging, but in the words of Dr. King, it is only when we lift our voices in protest that “we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”