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After Charlottesville, push for real reform

Jesse Jackson | Trice Edney Wire | 8/31/2017, midnight

Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia denounced the haters that terrorized Charlottesville, and did so with a record of action. As governor of a Southern state, he pushed for voting rights reforms. He called on his legislature to accept the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare that would have provided health care to poor working people of all races. He personally signed some 200,000 clemency grants of those who had served their sentences so that they could regain the right to vote and be reintegrated into the political community. His denunciation was important; his actions even more so.

We applaud Republicans who, unlike Trump, call out the Neo-Nazis and the Klansmen. But the measure of their sincerity is how they act. The Trump Department of Justice, under former Alabama Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, has moved consistently to reverse and weaken civil rights. He's turned away from reforming discriminatory practices of police departments, even as Trump has celebrated police brutality. He's turned civil rights laws on their head, gearing up to investigate university affirmative action programs that allegedly discriminate against Whites. He's backed off enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, which he has called “intrusive,” opening the door to more efforts to suppress the vote.

Trump has pushed for a selective ban on Muslim travelers to the U.S., and he continues to prey on immigrants and posture on his “wall.” The Republican Congress, with its push to strip millions of health insurance to pay for tax breaks for millionaires, and its budget plans to cut top-end taxes while gutting funding for education and for food and housing programs that support the most vulnerable, only adds to our entrenched injustice. The Republicans' actions speak much louder than their words.

America has come a long way from the horrors of slavery and segregation. We are a better people and a better country for that struggle. Yet, as Charlottesville revealed once more, hatred and racism still fester. Unprincipled politicians can still play on race and intolerance for their own purposes. Violent hate groups are literally on the march.

These must be denounced, even as we celebrate Heather Heyer and the forces of conscience.

We must also act. A good response to Charlottesville would be a massive voting coalition to drive out the forces of division and push for a new era of reform. We must act, change the institutionalization of bias, protect and extend the right to vote, and fight to ensure equal justice and opportunity for all.

Rev. Jesse Jackson is the founder of Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) and two-time candidate for president of the United States.

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