Kelly Brown Douglas wrote recently on Feminism and Religion about the celebrations in black communities on Juneteeth when the emancipation of slaves became a reality in the formerly Confederate states. Sadly, on June 25th 2013 the Supreme Court announced its decision striking down section 4 of the Voting Rights act of 1965, the most important Civil Rights legislation of the 20th century. The Supreme Court gave a “green light” to states with previous and on-going records of introducing laws with the effect of preventing minority voters from voting to “proceed straight ahead.” I name this day June Unteenth and call on all Americans to mourn it in sackcloth and ashes.
For every American concerned with Civil Rights this indeed is a sad day. It means states and municipalities—particularly those in the former Confederacy—will in the days following the decision be introducing new legislation which will have the effect of disenfranchising black voters. Those of us who consider the right to vote fundamental in a democracy must rise up, with time, with money, and if necessary with our bodies in peaceful protest.
This is not only a sad day for black Americans. It is a sad day for white Americans as well. June Unteenth is the day 4 white Americans joined by 1 black American (who was hand-picked by white Americans) announced their decision to deny voting rights to large numbers of black Americans. This decision may not affect the right to vote of large numbers of white Americans.
So why should we be mourning June Unteenth? One good reason is that this is a day to be ashamed of our membership in the “white race.” Like many other white Americans I have opposed racism all of my adult life. Yet on June Unteenth other white Americans gave black Americans yet another reason to distrust white people as a group. This may not be fair and it may not be right, but it is the truth. It is white people who put the John Roberts court into office, and it is white people who will be blamed for its decisions.
The fact that 3 women, 2 of whom are white and 1 Hispanic, along with 1 white man, voted against the decision is important. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s words must be widely quoted: “The Court’s opinion can hardly be described as an exemplar of restrained and moderate decision making. Quite the opposite. Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA.”
Nonetheless, the “face” of the ruling striking down the VRA is white.
White people must make it clear that this face and its smug smile of white privilege is not a face with which we identify.
If white people who support Civil Rights and who support the Voting Rights Act of 1965 do not want to be blamed for what the Roberts court has done, then now is the time to stand up and be counted with words and action that say we will do everything in our power to ensure that voting rights are available to black Americans.
It is also time to remember that support for Voting Rights for all Americans is not an issue that should be dividing Americans along racial lines. Rosa Parks sat down, Martin Luther King stood up, and Lyndon Baines Johnson, a son of the racist South, intended the Voting Act to be the signature legislation of his Presidency.*
Maybe it is time for another Civil Rights summer, this time to transport black citizens to the governmental offices where they will be required to jump through hoops to get their voter registration cards. It is time for all of us to stand up for the right to vote for all Americans. This is not a black issue. It affects all of us. Without the right to vote there can be no real democracy.
*Johnson will also be remembered for waging the Vietnam War and for not listening to the voices ranged against it.
Carol P. Christ has just returned from a life-transforming Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete which she led through Ariadne Institute. The culture of ancient Crete, the last flowering of Old Europe, is one of the wellsprings of her spiritual vision, and there she participates in rituals that invoke Goddess and celebrate the connection of all beings in the web of life. Carol spoke on a WATER Teleconference recently. Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely-used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions.