05-25-2017  1:16 pm      •     
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NEWS BRIEFS

Merkley to Hold Town Hall in Clackamas County

Sen. Jeff Merkley to hold town hall in Clackamas County, May 30 ...

NAACP Monthly Meeting Notice, May 27, Portland

NAACP Portland invites the community to its monthly general membership meeting ...

Photos: Fundraiser for Sunshine Division's Assistance Programs

Under the Stars fundraiser took place on May 18 at the Melody Grand Ballroom ...

Portland Joins National Movement to End Prostate Cancer

Second annual ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk returns this June ...

Governor Kate Brown Signs Foster Children’s Sibling Bill of Rights

Current and former foster youth advocated for policy to maintain critical sibling relationships ...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

OPINION

Ensuring the Promise of the Every Student Succeeds Act

The preservation of Thurgood Marshall's legacy is dependent upon our dedication to our children ...

CFPB Sues Ocwen Financial over Unfair Mortgage Practices

What many homeowners soon discover is that faithfully paying a monthly mortgage is in some cases, just not enough ...

B-CU Grads Protest Betsy “DeVoid” in Epic Fashion

Julianne Malveaux says that Betsy “DeVoid,” is no Mary McLeod Bethune ...

NAACP on Supreme Court's Decline to Review NC Voter ID Law

NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks made the following remarks ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

ENTERTAINMENT

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley with Cornell Brooks, President & CEO of the NAACP

On Sept. 15, the NAACP’s “America’s Journey for Justice” march arrived in Washington, DC – after an 860-mile journey from Selma, Alabama. Over eight weeks, hundreds have participated to demand federal protection of civil rights for all Americans.

Last month, I joined the participants to kick off the march at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama. Just fifty years ago, the bridge was the backdrop of Bloody Sunday – when some 600 civil rights activists, marching in defiance of segregationist repression, were brutally attacked by law enforcement.

That fateful Sunday shocked the conscience of Americans everywhere. It played an integral part in our nation’s long fight to secure the full measure of equality, dignity, and opportunity.

While the extraordinary progress we have made in this fight over the last five decades cannot be denied, in every corner of our country profound inequalities remain.

It’s present in our income gap, where the average White family has accumulated seven times the wealth of the average Black family.  It’s present in our democracy gap, where too many Americans still face barriers when accessing the ballot box. It’s present in our justice gap – when all too often Black communities get treated differently by police and our criminal justice system.

The time has come for us as a nation to close these persistent gaps – to be bolder and better in securing full rights for all of our citizens.

In Congress, we need to do our part. We should enact education reform and make college affordable again.  We should reform our criminal justice system to make it more fair and more safe.  We must ensure that everyone who is willing to work hard has the chance to get a good living-wage job – no matter what their name is, where they live, who they love, or what their skin color is.

We must also work in a bipartisan manner to safeguard the hard-won rights of minority voters and restore the integrity of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).   For the past fifty years, the VRA has expanded minority participation in elections by removing first-generation barriers to ballot access, such as literacy tests and poll taxes. It has also tackled second-generation barriers to voting — like at-large elections and gerrymandering — that are designed to dilute minority voting power.

Since the VRA was passed, Congress has, time and again, reauthorized the law, most recently, in 2006, when we voted to extend it for another 25 years. Unfortunately, in 2013, the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the VRA in Shelby County V. Holder. In the wake of the decision, access to our most fundamental right is suffering.  In the last two years alone, at least 10 states that had been covered by Section 5 of the VRA introduced new restrictive legislation that would make it harder for minority voters to cast a ballot.

We cannot let our civil rights laws return to once again being, as Dr. King said before the passage of the Voting Rights Act, mere “dignity without strength.”  It is our responsibility in Congress to pass legislation to protect and defend the right to vote for all Americans.

In addition to these policy changes, we need a societal change. As a nation, as a people, we must stop hiding from hard truths about race.  We must recognize the persistent inequalities we face are not a Black problem or a Brown problem, it’s an American problem.

We must remember that Black Lives Matter. More importantly, we must act like Black Lives Matter – not just when it comes to policing, but in our classrooms, in our workplaces, in our courts, and in our voting booths.

Although the “Journey to Justice” march is complete, our commitment to its purpose has not wavered. Our effort to ensure full equality goes on.  We will keep fighting to balance the scales of justice, to roll back roadblocks to opportunity, and to extend the full promise of America to every American. 

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