I do not pretend to be well versed in the oratory and written work of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere in his legacy he mentioned the importance of vigilance.
The victories he helped his fellow Americans to achieve were hard-fought. Lives were lost, including his own. Those holding power were not prepared to relinquish it; it had to be wrested from them.
Now, fifty years after the great battles of the mid-20th Century and the Voting Rights Act, we are in danger of backsliding on the progress Dr. King and his adherents made, as Republican legislatures across the land seek to restrict access to the polls by those who, historically, have been known to vote Democratic. The requirement that voters have photo IDs is an onerous one designed to suppress voting by those who don’t have drivers’ licenses (many of them residents of inner cities). Here in Florida, the ban on early voting the Sunday before election day was specifically directed at African Americans who traditionally go to the polls after church.
It’s a sad law of human nature that those who have been forced to give up their mastery over others will always seek to reinstate it. Rather than adopt policies that will attract the support of all Americans, those who want to “take America back” seek ways to make sure that those who would not benefit⎯and who would, in fact, be harmed by their agenda⎯are not allowed to exercise their legal right to register their disapproval.
For some, it has never been the American Way to try to secure the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Rather, it has been to grab what you can for yourself and leave others to struggle on their own. Dr. King’s vision was so broad that he transcended race and ethnicity, dreaming of an America where all people prospered according to their abilities. For his sacrifice and that of others not to be in vain, it is important to remember that the struggle never really ends.