Republicans blocking For The People Act has everything to do with racism

OPINION: Racism has become so normal, so American that we accept it and all of its tentacles in our day-to-day lives.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks as Republican senators listen during a news conference to discuss their opposition to S. 1, the “For The People Act” on June 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. Republican are calling the proposed legislation, which is intended to expand voting rights and reform campaign finance, a federal take over of elections and unconstitutional. (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)

It strikes me as strange that some 160 years after Black men were first granted the right to vote by way of the 15th amendment, that we find ourselves in the year 2021 still debating over who can vote, how they can vote, and where they can vote.

Earlier this week, the United States Senate once again proved that they are extremely dysfunctional and incapable of getting important legislation passed in a bipartisan fashion. 

With an evenly divided Senate (50-50) and the Democrats narrowly in the majority due to Vice President Kamala Harris being the tie-breaking vote in their favor, the Democrats have been unsuccessful in getting through a landmark infrastructure bill as proposed by President Joe Biden.

The U.S. Capitol (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Dems have also struggled to pass a critical voting rights bill, S.1, also known as the For the People Act, which sought to reign in southern states’ efforts (as well as others) at violating the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments by passing laws that essentially guarantee voter suppression. 

The sad reality of where we find ourselves as a nation right now, is where we have always been. Racism is indeed our original sin. Everytime we think we are making progress to get beyond it, or better yet, face it, we find ourselves right back in the middle of it all. Our leaders are not leading. They are inciting divisions and stoking them, sadly.

There was a time, not too long ago when Republican President George W. Bush quickly signed the Voting Rights Act Reauthorization in 2006 (the last president to do so) and extended it for 25 years. No presidents, Republican or Democrat, or any modern Congress in the past 35 years has balked at supporting voting rights protections. None. Until now. 

Let’s be honest, we are a nation that started down the dark path of racism in 1619 when Virginia colonists purchased slaves and brought them to Ft. Monroe near Hampton, Virginia. The slave trade exploded in the colonies over the next century and by the time America declared her independence in 1776 there were more than half a million slaves in the colonies making planters, merchants, commodity traders, shippers, investors and plantation owners wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.

Not one dollar of their fortunes benefitted the enslaved souls who labored day after day, under horrific conditions, until they met their end. 

As we fast forward to today, I am deeply troubled with where we are headed. The fact that all 50 Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted to not even discuss the voting rights bill is stunning. Worse still, millions of our fellow Americans — who happen to be white — would object to the truth of our history being taught via the 1619 Project, and instead demand that only their version of history, starting in 1776, be taught is racist in and of itself.

Racism has become so normal, so American that we accept it and all of its tentacles in our day-to-day lives. In our institutions and in our relationships with one another as citizens. 

Voting Rights Protest in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
People participate in a protest in support of counting all votes as the election in Pennsylvania is still unresolved on November 04, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

When we dare to discuss it, call it out or dissect it through a different lens, some white people become defensive, enraged, violent, menacing and unhinged. Just look at Rosewood, Tulsa, and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Violence always follows Black economic, political or social justice progress. 

We are a nation still mired in racial ignorance and racial divisions over 402 years later. For example, I live in Loudoun County, Virginia, where our school board is under assault for teaching diversity, and Black history, and acknowledging the rights of transgender students. Go down south to Georgia or west to Arizona and Republican officials who have tried to stand for the rule of law and voting rights have been censured, thrown out of their parties, or attacked (including people coming to their homes with weapons and death threats).

After the Jan. 6 insurrection at the nation’s Capitol, things have shifted and become much more dangerous, hostile and frankly, a little nutty. 

The voting rights bill in the Senate was the latest victim of our new abnormal: post-Donald Trump, conspiracy theory, Mr. Potato Head, cancel culture, history deniers, anti-vaxxers, QAnon, states rights, “the South shall rise again” Confederate, neo-nazi, white nationalism mindset. And, although President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have pledged to get a voting rights bill passed, I do not see how it happens.

There are not 10 Republican votes for anything the Democratic president wants to do. Period. 

The sooner we realize what this is all about (the culture wars of white grievance) the better off we will all be. 


Sophia A. Nelson is a contributing editor at theGrio. She is also a TV commentator, author and public speaker.

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