By Hazel Trice Edney
(Trice Edney Wire) – On Jan. 6, 2021, thousands of insurrectionists stormed the United States Capitol, attempting to stop the counting of Electoral College votes that were to confirm Joseph Biden as president. Other than the violence itself, the single most visible image among the insurrectionists was the Confederate battle flag.
The image was so disgusting to historian Dr. Mary Frances Berry that she told the New York Times that she just “wanted to scream” seeing the image of racism and White supremacy cross the lines where it had not even gone during the Civil War as it stood for the enslavement of Black people.
“To see it flaunted right in front of your face, in the United States Capitol, the heart of the government, was simply outrageous,” said Berry, professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and former chair of the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Fourteen days later, Biden was inaugurated in front of the building, surrounded by more than 26,000 armed troops to prevent further physical attacks. But even that show of force could not end the insurrection that continued – in spirit – using what has come to be known as “the big lie” – the untruth spread by President Donald Trump and his supporters that say Biden did not legitimately win the 2021 election. It is a lie that is being spread, in part, because of his vast support from Black voters and a desire to discount those votes.
Now a year after January 6, 2021, there appears to be no end in sight for racial strife in America. At another Martin Luther King Holiday on Monday, January 17, the nation looks back on a year that revealed stark division – especially between Whites and Blacks.
- On April 21, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the brazen murder of George Floyd on a Minneapolis street. He had knelt on Chauvin’s neck for almost 10 minutes, even after he was already dead.
- On the other hand, Kyle Rittenhouse on Nov. 19, an 18-year-old White teen vigilante, was acquitted on all charges after killing two White people and wounding another in Kenosha, Wisconsin during protests led by activists against the disparate police killings of Black people.
- On Nov. 24, in yet another trial, three White men who killed 25-year-old B Black man Ahmaud Arbery as he jogged through their Georgia neighborhood were found guilty of murder.
- Ultimately, with only days before Christmas on Dec. 23, former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter, a White woman, was found guilty of manslaughter drew her handgun instead of her Taser during a routine traffic stop in April in which she fatally shot a young Black man Daunte Wright, 20.
Despite the perceived wins for justice as juries convicted the killers of Floyd, Arbery and Wright, racial statistics across America continue to reveal the pains of racial division as an underlying force across the nation. Those examples include:
- In the COVID-19 pandemic, African-Americans have died at a staggering three times more often than Whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- In other health statistics Black people sicker, and die earlier, than other racial groups, according to the American Bar Association
- Yet, the uninsured among African-Americans remain at twice that of Whites.
- In economics, “the median white household has a net worth 10 times that of the median Black household,” according to the Brookings Institute.
Even as these statistics continue as America faces yet another King Holiday, civil rights leaders continue to fight for congressional voting rights legislation that would protect the voting rights that have been stripped by dozens of states as the so-called “big lie” continues.
“This assault on democracy is fueled by a racial backlash against the growing electoral power of people of color,” writes Rev. Jesse Jackson. “This isn’t the first time that democracy has been assaulted. After the Civil War freed the slaves, the 15th Amendment was passed to prohibit discrimination in the right to vote. When coalitions of Black and white people emerged to threaten the privilege and power of the plantation South, the reaction was fierce. Armed bands — the Ku Klux Klan and others — terrorized Black people and their allies. Laws were passed and enforced to make it virtually impossible for Black people to register and vote.”
But during the civil rights movement, the Voting Rights Act was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 6, 1965 the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. then activist John Lewis and thousands of others who protested.
Now, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, in this year alone, “19 states have enacted 33 laws that will make it harder for Americans to vote.”
Facing these attacks, the family of Dr. King, after initially calling for no celebration of the King Holiday this year until voting rights legislation is passed by Congress, have now called for a D.C. march to honor Dr. King. The march would demand that Congress take action by passing the two voting rights bills.
The march is being led by Martin Luther King III; his wife, Arndrea Waters King; and their daughter, Yolanda Renee King.
According to the Washington Post, the Jan. 17 march will take place across the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge in D.C. at 10 a.m. before joining the city’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Peace Walk.
“MLK Day has always been a day on, not off. When we call for ‘no celebration without legislation,’ we’re not urging Americans not to honor this day — we’re asking people to honor Dr. King through action to protect the right to vote,” Martin Luther King III, chairman of the Drum Major Institute, a nonprofit started by his father, said in a statement to The Washington Post. “We’re directly calling on Congress not to pay lip service to my father’s ideals without doing the very thing that would protect his legacy: pass voting rights legislation.”