What's Voting Rights Act?

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Recently, the Congressional Black Caucus was granted its first audience ever with George W. Bush. At the top of the group's agenda for the summit was discussing the President's plans regarding the renewal of the Voting Rights Act. "I don't know anything about the 1965 Voting Rights Act," Bush responded, adding, "When the legislation comes before me, I'll take a look at it. But I don't know about it to comment any more than that, but we will look at it when it comes to us."

Martin Luther King once suggested that the most radical act that Black people in America could perform was to assert the full measure of their citizenship. When assessed in that light, it is easy to appreciate the value of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. We ought never forget that many a non-violent martyr shed blood, sweat and tears to embarrass a racist United States into finally extending this cornerstone of democracy to its African American citizens.

However, the compromise cobbled in Congress, was merely a temporary federal guarantee of universal suffrage. Originally signed into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson, that bill is now set to expire while Bush is in office. Some may think it silly to suggest that we still might need further legislation to ensure participation in the political process. Afterall, isn't the Constitution supposed to be the most brilliant, forward-thinking document ever concocted by mankind? That might be the case, provided you're

a rich, white, male hetero-sapien. Have you ever taken the time to read the Constitution's actual words? It still contains language specifically "excluding Indians" and blessing slaveowners with 3/5ths of a vote for each human being they owned.

Recently, the Congressional Black Caucus was granted its first audience ever with George W. Bush. At the top of the group's agenda for the summit was discussing the President's plans regarding the renewal of the Voting Rights Act. "I don't know anything about the 1965 Voting Rights Act," Bush responded, adding, "When the legislation comes before me, I'll take a look at it. But I don't know about it to comment any more than that, but we will look at it when it comes to us."

The shocked representatives left the White House with no idea about where this administration stands on an issue of urgent interest to many of their constituents. Was Bush really feigning ignorance of this historic measure which put a halt to the widespread practice of disenfranchising Blacks that had persisted across the South since the Reconstruction Era?

If so, he needs to take a crash course in the Civil Rights Movement. Just think, he has the unmitigated gall to lobby for a meanspirited Constitutional amendment to ban Gay Marriage at the same time that he might simply let the hard-fought, African American guarantee of a right to vote slip quietly into oblivion.

Leave no Voting Rights Act behind!

Black Star News columnist Kam Lloyd Williams is a member of the NY, NJ, PA, CT, MA & US Supreme Court bars. For more reports please click on "subcribe" on the homepage to get the newsstand version of the newspaper or call (212) 481-7745. Also remember to ask for information about advertising in The Black Star.

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