Thursday, August 29, 2013

I Too Have a Dream

By Matthew Robinson, delivered on Wednesday, August 28, 2013, at the "Taking the Dream Home to Boone" rally at Harvest House:

On August 28, 1963—50 years ago today!—the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream” speech.

He called the magnificent words of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution a promissory note to every American, a guarantee to all the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But he said that America has defaulted on this promissory note for people of color and claimed that America has given its colored people a bad check, a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds.” Yet he proclaimed that the bank of justice is not bankrupt, so we have come to cash this check.

And cash it they did. Cash it we did. Through hard work. Through determination. Through our sweat. Our tears. Our blood. To cash that check, many paid for it with their lives. We remember you today.

Through marches, letters, sit-ins, protests, and other acts of civil disobedience—often at the barrels of guns, confronted by the nozzles of water hoses, at the ends of batons, or facing the sharp teeth of police dogs, even facing down racist mayors, governors, lawmakers and White Citizens Councils, but also through the courts and through the ballot box—the people earned their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They earned their rights to equal justice and equal protection under the law. And they earned their right to vote. Even to vote for a black President.

We, the people, eliminated so-called separate but equal water fountains, theaters, buses, schools, hotels and motels, and “Whites only” signs. We killed Jim Crow. And we have made enormous progress.

But the nature of this progress has been gradual and has been incomplete because it tends to occur like this: 2 steps forward, 1 step back ... 2 steps forward, 1 step back.

The 2 steps forward are because of people like you—progressives—people who believe in progress, justice, and equality, and who dare to dream.

The 1 step backward is because of those who don’t believe in the dream, those afraid of progress, those vested in the status quo, and structural barriers reaching all the way to the US Supreme Court!

Of course, the Court recently struck down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote for the majority said:
Our country has changed … 40-year-old facts have no logical relationship to the present day … Legislation must speak to current conditions … Congress cannot simply rely on the past.
Rely on the past? As if there is no evidence that discrimination in voting still exists in the present day, in the current conditions? How about in Shelby County, Alabama—the very place that challenged the Voting Rights Act to the Court—where 77% of the voters in the last election voted for the white guy?

Within a month of this decision, North Carolina passed what observers have called one of the worst voter suppression laws in the country’s recent history. You know what it does:
· requires you to have a state-issued ID to vote (but a college issued ID is not acceptable).
· cuts early voting.
· shortens hours for voting.
· eliminates same-day voting registration.
· eliminates pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds in high school.
· allows people from anywhere in the state to challenge voters in any county.
· will not count votes of people who accidentally vote in the wrong place.
Who will this hurt? Young people. Old people. Poor people. Women. People of color.

So now, here in this time and this place, it’s 2 steps forward, 3 steps back ... 2 steps forward, 3 steps back.

And then, just days ago, the local election board in this county did this:
· Combined three precincts into a massive new one (one with more than 9,000 voters, yet with only 28 parking spaces—one that is a 17 minute walk from campus, yet with no sidewalks and no bus service).
· Moved another district to a less convenient location.
· Limited early voting
· Closed three total precincts on the campus of Appalachian State University, if you count the early voting site in the Student Union.
Who will this hurt? Young people. Old people. Poor people. Women. People of color.

2 steps forward, 3 steps back.

I am pretty sure that I went to sleep on the night of November 6, 2012, in the 21st Century. As we re-elected the nation’s first African American president, I went to bed knowing that our nation had changed. We had progressed.

That night I looked at my children, snuggled safely in their beds, and thought: “What a tremendous joy it is to know that my children live in a time where seeing a black family in the White House—a beautiful black family—is just normal.”

But sometime over the course of the next several months, I traveled back to the 20th Century. And so did you.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that by the morning of July 26, 2013 (the end of the first session of the North Carolina General Assembly) it was 1963 all over again.

In the span of only half a year, the legislature and elections boards have taken us back decades to a time when it is okay to restrict voting rights and, in many cases, deny people their right to vote entirely.

2 steps forward, 3 steps back

And it gets worse. NC lawmakers—who are only in office because of large in-flows of cash into the state’s election system by billionaires from in-state and out-of-state (and who were not voted for by a majority of citizens in the state!)—proposed a law to exempt the state and local municipalities from federal court rulings! As if they—motivated by “states’ rights” and a desire to see the south rise again—want to take us back to 1863, a period of rebellion, secession, treason, and yes, civil war!

2 steps forward, 3 steps back

Well, as Dr. King said so eloquently 50 years ago today, “I Have a Dream!”

I stand before you today to say I too have a dream. But it’s not just a dream about racial equality or living in a color-blind society. It’s a dream where I imagine that I’ll soon wake up from this dream—this nightmare!—safely back in the 21st Century.

It’s a dream that, in the words of Maya Angelou, we can “believe that the day will come that we do not have to be saddled; we do not have to be crippled with all this idiocy!”

Of course I want to see Dr. King’s dream of freedom for all realized. But what I really dream of now is that a resemblance of freedom will return to my beloved town of Boone, to Watauga County, and to the state of North Carolina so that we can get back to walking forward without having to look back.

2 steps forward, NO steps back. 2 steps forward, NO steps back
I have a dream that these Moral Monday protests will grow into Moral Tuesday, and Moral Wednesday, and Moral Thursday, Friday, Saturday and yes, Moral Sunday protests, so that come election day, 2014, we will end this madness, end this trip into the 20th Century, end this hopefully brief stop at 1963—and stop once and for all the desire to go back to 1863 to fight another civil war.

2 steps forward, NO steps back

I have a dream that we will finally be able to get rid of the ridiculous notions that states are free to do whatever they like regardless of federal law, and worse still, that the south will rise again.

2 steps forward, NO steps back

I have a dream that we will return safely to the 21st Century. The 21st Century where we value liberty, equality, justice, and happiness for all. Where it is easy for everyone to vote because of the struggles and sacrifices of all those who came before us. And where it is finally time to fulfill the promises of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.

2 steps forward, NO steps back

To do this, let’s get on our feet. Take to the streets. And vote. Register others to vote. Get people to the polls. … Get on our feet. Take to the streets. And vote. Register others to vote. Get people to the polls.

2 steps forward, NO steps back!
2 steps forward, NO steps back!


Anonymous said...

Jerry Wayne,
I am still seeing no comments for all the drivel that you are putting up on your bloq. You might want to consider a flower bloq for people to learn how to grow various plants. You are about as irrevelant at Rachel Maddow.
Even the anti-death penalty libtard from AppState cannot get any comments.

Richard Tidyman said...

I'm sure the comments from Anonymous above will confirm the impressions conservatives have of liberals, and the opinion liberals have of conservatives. Someone please tell the odd fellow that it is not a "bloq", it is a "blog" with a "g". And the use of the term "tard" or "retard" is clearly indicative of the lack of sensitivity and cultural awareness. Open mouth, insert foot. Keep up the good work Jerry, Matt and others.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what point "Anonymous" is trying to make other than some irrelevant stuff about flowers. This person seems to have no legitimate arguments that deal with the content of the address. What is her/his criticism about the constitutionally established right to vote?

johnbyjohn said...

Apparently Anonymous 8:37 thinks that a local blog in a small town should generate as many comments as a national news figure. JW is "irrevelant" but still got a comment from Anonymous - what does that say about YOU, Anon? And by the way, the word is "irrelevant."

Anonymous said...

I think most of us enjoy reading the blog, and know that if we post any comments we will immediately be attacked by a troll, ergo we abjure making comments and simply enjoy what Brother Jerry Wayne hath said. Go ye forth and do likewise. (Sorry, must be the effects of an excellent dinner. And as always, I much appreciate the comments of the the Tidyman....thanks!)

Anonymous said...

I would comment more often but can't wade through the stupid code you have to copy. Jerry's blog is the most interesting and relevant writing around. Plus everyone is anonymous which makes decent conversations impossible.