On March 7, 1965, my husband and I decided to join a group of “like-minded” folks traveling from Chicago to Selma, Alabama. Our mission was to demonstrate solidarity concerning the issue of voting rights — a clearly stated, designated right in our Constitution — the 15th Amendment. In a democracy, the major core is for all law-abiding citizens to have the right to vote.
We were not as brave as many others comprising this voting rights march. As we walked peacefully together, we became aware of armed militia forming ranks surrounding us. A violent picture was developing minute by minute, awaiting us at the Edmund Pettus Bridge (the confrontation point). Approximately 49 of us left the march before reaching the bridge, regretfully leaving hundreds of brave folks (led by John Lewis) to fight for their voting rights at the bridge that day, known as “Bloody Sunday.”
The sacrificing folks who faced the danger did accomplish their goal. The horror of that situation caused headlines and publicity and outraged citizenry, which forced the Voting Rights Act to be established in December of 1965. This assured every citizen the right to vote.
In 1982 and again in 2006, Congress re-authorized the Voting Rights Act. The Senate vote was unanimous for this bill, allowing citizens to exercise their right to vote and run for public offices.
It is difficult for me to report now in 2021, after all the sacrifices made in the past, that Gov. Kemp of Georgia has signed a bill restricting voting rights. Shockingly, some 40 other governors have endorsed similar (but not yet enacted) bills. People have fought and died for this right, supporting our democracy, our diversity, and our lawfully provided rights, only to have “white supremacy” leadership try to suppress this right. These bills are thinly disguised but truly focused against non-whites.
We must not permit Georgia’s racist bill to stand as written. Voting must not be withheld from any lawful group. If we do not object to this bill, we will be opening the door to their bigoted leaders and possibly even allow for other groups to be targeted. Next possibility, a Hitler scapegoat list.
You may feel my words are too extreme, but nothing in our democracy is more sacred than our right to vote and to follow and respect our Constitution and its laws for equal justice and “inalienable rights.”
Please join me in emailing, texting, writing and calling everyone in our legislature to oppose this unlawful Georgia bill.
Harriet Hausman is a longtime River Forest resident. She recently celebrated her 97th birthday.