When you watch that new movie, “Selma,” (which to my mind should get best picture this year) think of the courage and sacrifices of people in the Civil Rights Movement. I think of Rev. James Reeb (father of four) and Jimmy Lee Jackson and Viola Liuzzo (mother of five) giving their lives, and all the people beaten and gassed.
Then think how the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act that was won by the blood of people in the Movement, and by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Congress, and Lyndon Johnson. Think how many voters have already lost their vote because they have been unable to get photo IDs or meet other new requirements. After the decision by the Court, Congress was supposed to “fix” the Voting Rights Act, but no “fix” has ever been approved.
Now the Court wants to gut the Fair Housing Act which Dr. King, President Johnson, and Congress brought about in 1968 to eliminate discrimination in housing. “Under the FHA, it is illegal to ‘refuse to sell or rent… to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.’
“The question before the court is whether the Fair Housing Act of 1968, intended to fight pervasive residential segregation, bans practices that unintentionally discriminate against minorities. For decades, the law has been used not only to fight intentional discrimination but any other practices that have a ‘disparate impact’ on racial and other minority groups.” (excerpts from Mother Jones: “Is the Supreme Court About to Gut Another Civil Rights Law?”)
In my novel Canoedling in Cleveland, one of the subplots involves teenagers in 1960 trying to understand why no African-Americans live in their suburb. Back then, it was legal to deny persons of color the opportunity to buy a home. But even then, not all discrimination was intentional.
Now, is it time to get angry that the establishment is tearing down the hard-earned wins of the past that have given African-Americans and other minorities their rights and some ability to fight discrimination? Is it time to let all branches of our government know that the American people will not stand for it? I think it is.