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August 25, 2023 Heather Cox Richardson

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Tomorrow, civil rights activists will gather at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., both to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and to emphasize that the struggle for civil rights is ongoing.

Monday, August 28, is the actual anniversary of the 1963 march, which is famous today primarily because it was the occasion when the final speaker, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered what became known as the “I Have a Dream” speech.

While that speech is often excerpted to sound like King’s concerns were simply about the way individuals thought about race, in fact, the march’s organizers, Black labor leader A. Philip Randolph and civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, focused on economic discrimination and the lack of decent jobs for Black Americans. In the process of organizing the march, they brought on board not only civil rights organizers but also white labor organizer Walter Reuther, the head of the United Auto Workers.

King acknowledged the economic focus of the march when he centered his speech around the idea that Black Americans had received “a promissory note” that had become “a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.” “But,” he said, “we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.”

Dr. King was not the only speaker that day; he anchored the event. Before him spoke the chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a young John Lewis. Just 23 years old, he had been one of the thirteen original Freedom Riders, white and black students traveling together from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans in 1961 to challenge segregation. “It was very violent. I thought I was going to die. I was left lying at the Greyhound bus station in Montgomery unconscious,” Lewis later recalled.

At the Washington march, Lewis railed against the systems that kept Black Americans in poverty and permitted white men to commit violence against them, and explained that the remedy for the economic deprivation and racial violence Black Americans suffered was not in the civil rights bill proposed by the administration of President John F. Kennedy, but in the power of peaceful demonstrations and the vote. “‘ONE MAN, ONE VOTE’…must be our [cry],” he told the crowd.

“The revolution is at hand, and we must free ourselves of the chains of political and economic slavery,” Lewis said. “The nonviolent revolution is saying, ‘We will not wait for the courts to act, for we have been waiting for hundreds of years. We will not wait for the president, the Justice Department, nor Congress, but we will take matters into our own hands and create a source of power, outside of any national structure, that could and would assure us a victory.’”

The March on Washington gave national media coverage to the civil rights movement, and it, along with the assassination of President Kennedy less than three months later and the disappearance of three young men registering Black Americans to vote in Mississippi in 1964, gave momentum to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlawed racial discrimination and protected voting rights.

Americans determined to bring that law to life set out to increase the voting registration efforts they had been making for years. Near Selma, Alabama, in February 1965, white law enforcement officers beat and shot an unarmed 26-year-old, Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was marching for voting rights. He died eight days later.

Black leaders in Selma planned to march the 54 miles from Selma to the state capitol at Montgomery to draw attention to the murder and to voter suppression. As Lewis and 600 marchers stopped to pray at the end of Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, named for a Confederate brigadier general, grand dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan, and U.S. senator, mounted police troopers charged them with clubs and bullwhips. They fractured Lewis’s skull.

After the Selma attack, President Lyndon Baines Johnson called for Congress to pass a national voting rights bill. By a bipartisan vote, it did so, and on August 6, 1965, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act authorizing federal supervision of voter registration in districts where African Americans were historically underrepresented.

The federal protection of minority voting was a game changer, and and opponents fought it. Since Reconstruction, reactionary racists had maintained that Black voters would elect lawmakers who would give them benefits that could only be paid for through tax levies on those with property, which generally meant white men. Black voting, they insisted, would lead to a redistribution of wealth and thus was essentially socialism.

As the Democratic Party under Johnson moved away from its historic racism, those who insisted that Black voting was socialism and segregation should be the law of the land began to swing behind the Republicans, whose opposition to government regulation of business and provision of a basic social safety net made them take a stand against a powerful federal government.

Once entrenched in the Republican Party, the idea that minority voting meant a redistribution of wealth led party leaders both to whittle away at federal power and to insist that Black and Brown voters were illegitimate. By 1986, Republicans talked of cutting down Black voting with a “ballot integrity” initiative, and they bitterly opposed the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, more popularly known as the Motor-Voter Act, which Democrats passed to make it easier to register to vote at certain state offices. The following year, losing Republican candidates argued they had lost because of “voter fraud,” and in 1996, House and Senate Republicans launched yearlong investigations into elections that they insisted, without evidence, Democrats had stolen thanks to illegal voters.

By 2013 the quest to purge minority voters led to the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision gutting the provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that required the Department of Justice to sign off on changes to voting in states with histories of racial discrimination.

Ultimately, in late 2020, Republicans led by then-incumbent president Donald Trump organized to deprive Americans, overwhelmingly minority Americans in places like Fulton County, Georgia, and Detroit, of their vote. As the federal indictment for his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election reads, he and his co-conspirators tried “to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate one more more persons in the free exercise and enjoyment of a right and privilege secured to them by the Constitution and laws of the United States—that is, the right to vote, and to have one’s vote counted.”

As civil rights leaders gather in Washington, D.C., today, they hope to emphasize that voting rights remain central to racial and economic equality. According to the voting-rights-focused Brennan Center, since 2013, 29 states have added 94 restrictions on the right to vote, and now House Republicans have proposed what they call the “American Confidence in Elections” Act, or ACE, which limits mail-in ballots and drop boxes, prohibits taking food and water to those waiting in line to vote, lifts remaining restrictions on campaign spending, and abolishes federal efforts to combat disinformation. Although Republicans point to increased voting in 2022 to insist that such measures don’t hurt voting rates, the Brennan Center showed that under Georgia’s new rules, the gap between white voting and nonwhite voting is the highest it’s been since at least 2014: white voting was 8.6 percentage points higher than nonwhite voting in 2022.

In contrast, Senate Democrats have reintroduced the Freedom to Vote Act, which sets national standards to protect voting access, protects election officials and workers (who have experienced attacks since 2020), prohibits partisan gerrymandering, and cuts back on the dark money that floods our elections since the Supreme Court permitted it in its 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) decision. When the House passed a version of the Freedom to Vote Act in 2021, every Republican in the Senate voted it down.

And yet, the Freedom to Vote Act is popular, with a supermajority of likely voters—70%— supporting its provisions shortly after it was first introduced in 2021. Protecting the vote is a cause behind which the Biden administration, particularly Vice President Kamala Harris, stands.

In 2022, speaking in the Georgia district that elected John Lewis to Congress, Harris warned that we must not be deceived into thinking laws that make it harder to vote are normal, and she noted that those pushing such laws “are not only putting in place obstacles to the ballot box, they are also working to interfere with our elections to get the outcomes they want and to discredit those they don’t. That is not how a democracy should work.”

At tomorrow’s march, the Reverend Dr. King’s son Martin Luther King III and his wife Arndrea Waters King say they plan to call on Congress to pass voting rights legislation. “This is not about issues for one group or one ethnic group,” Mr. King said. “It’s about Americans. It’s about creating a climate for America to fulfill its true promise for all of its citizens.”

Notes:

https://www.axios.com/local/washington-dc/2023/08/24/march-on-washington-national-mall

https://www.npr.org/2010/01/18/122701268/i-have-a-dream-speech-in-its-entirety

https://snccdigital.org/inside-sncc/policy-statements/march-washington-speech/

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/08/01/us/politics/trump-jan-6-indictment-2020-election-annotated.html

https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/georgias-racial-turnout-gap-grew-2022

https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/citizens-united-explained

https://www.dataforprogress.org/blog/2021/9/24/a-supermajority-of-voters-support-the-freedom-to-vote-act

https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2023/05/15/march-on-washington-60th-anniversary-martin-luther-king-jr-family/

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2022/01/11/remarks-by-vice-president-harris-on-protecting-the-right-to-vote/

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2022/03/06/remarks-by-vice-president-harris-to-commemorate-the-57th-anniversary-of-bloody-sunday/

https://edition.cnn.com/2001/US/05/10/access.lewis.freedom.rides/

https://www.klobuchar.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2023/7/klobuchar-colleagues-introduce-legislation-to-protect-the-freedom-to-vote-and-strengthen-our-democracy

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Disenchanted with Democrats: The Black Voters Going for Trump Bari Weiss

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For the past few decades, it’s been conventional wisdom in D.C. that “demographics are destiny.” That the increased share of immigrants, young people, and racial minorities across the country would build a bulletproof coalition for the Democratic Party, swelling their ranks and keeping them in power forever.

Those who deviated from this expectation could expect to be called sellouts, race traitors, and Uncle Toms. Recall Joe Biden’s infamous interview with radio host Charlamagne tha God, when he said: “If you have a problem figuring out if you’re for me or for Trump, then you ain’t black.”

But in the past year, Donald Trump has been winning over more minority voters than any Republican in decades. Recent polls have consistently shown that Trump has reached a shocking 20 percent support among black voters. That’s compared to the 8 percent he got in 2016. And Biden’s polling with black voters has dropped dramatically.

This is a monumental, and to many, unexpected turn. And it was noticeable at the RNC. When Michael Moynihan went to the 2016 Republican Convention in Cleveland, the audience was more monochromatic. While certainly not as racially diverse as the Democratic coalition, the convention in Milwaukee felt younger and less white.

Monday night, Amber Rose opened the proceedings. Tuesday night, Madeline Brame, the mother of a murdered veteran, gave a thunderous speech explaining why she’s supporting Trump. She said: “Our eyes have been opened, just like so many other poor minorities across America. Donald Trump shares our values, love of God and family and country. He’s been a victim of the same corrupt system that I have been and my family has been.”

What’s behind this shift? Why do Biden and the Democratic Party seem to be losing their edge with black voters? And could this end up making a real difference for the 2024 election?

Last night, Michael Moynihan went to an event at the RNC put on by the Black Conservative Federation to ask them why they think that MAGA conservatism is appealing to black voters.

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Abigail Shrier: California’s New Law Lets Schools Keep Secrets from Parents Abigail Shrier

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Protests at a Chino Valley Board of Education meeting on gender policy on July 20, 2023, in Chino, California. (Photo by David McNew via Getty Images)

Child predators follow a common playbook: target the victim, gain their trust, fill a need, and, crucially, isolate the child from her parents. For several years, this has also been standard California state protocol with regard to schoolchildren questioning their gender identities. On Monday, this scheme became law.

The “SAFETY Act,” AB 1955, signed by California Democratic governor Gavin Newsom, legally forbids schools from adopting any policy that would force them to disclose “any information related to a pupil’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression to any other person without the pupil’s consent.” Schools may not, as a matter of policy, inform parents of a child’s new gender identity unless the child volunteers her approval. The law also prohibits schools from punishing any school employee found to have “supported a pupil” hurtling down a path toward risky and irreversible hormones and surgeries.

The law effectively shuts down the local parents’ rights movement in California by eliminating its most important tool: the ability to organize at the community level to stop schools from deceiving them. No longer can families hope to convince their school boards to require schools to notify parents that their daughter, Sophie, has been going by “Sebastian” in class; that her teacher, school counselor, and principal have all been celebrating Sebastian’s transgender identity; that they’ve been letting her use the boys’ bathroom and reifying the sense that she is “really a boy.” 

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the law supports the priming of minor children for a secret life with a new gender identity. This includes having school-aged children participate in sexualized discussions and make identity declarations with school faculty, which are often actively hidden from the child’s parents. Elon Musk called the law “the final straw” for families and announced his intention to move both SpaceX and X, two of California’s most prominent tech companies, out of the state as a result. “The goal [of] this diabolical law,” he tweeted, “is to break the parent-child relationship and put the state in charge of your children.”

While researching my book, Irreversible Damage, and in the four years since its publication, I have talked to hundreds of parents whose daughters suddenly identified as transgender. Many of their daughters were encouraged in this revelation by school counselors and teachers in school districts across America. One parent told me a California school counselor had given her son the address of an LGBTQ youth shelter and suggested he emancipate himself from parents who were loving but skeptical of his sudden transgender identity. Another recent California law, AB 665, would have made reclaiming that young man from the youth center all but impossible because he was over the age of twelve.

In California, instruction in sexual orientation and gender identity has been mandatory for all public school students K–12 since the passage of the Healthy Youth Act in 2016. Because such instruction typically occurs within the required “anti-bullying curriculum” rather than the sex education curriculum, parents cannot elect that their children opt out of what is, in practice, a full-bore indoctrination into gender ideology. 

When a child then predictably decides in class that she too may be nonbinary or transgender, this revelation will often trigger schools’ gender support plan, effectively a school-wide conspiracy to promote the child’s new name and gender identity without tipping off Mom and Dad. Official documents and emails and report cards are sent to parents to preserve the child’s birth name and pronouns, concealing the social transition from parents. 

I have talked to parents who discovered their middle-school daughters had spent the better part of an entire academic year known to the entire school as “Spencer” or “Ethan.” One of these girls had even roomed with the boys on an overnight school trip.

I have investigated many cases in which social transitions were concealed from families. In no case did the girl flourish with this new identity. Maintaining a new, secret identity more often became a weight and burden to the girls. Inexplicably to the parents, their daughters became morose, dropped activities they once loved, wore baggier clothing, and begged to cut their hair shorter. The parents became desperate and unsure of what to do. The hidden transition resulted in children’s alienation from loving parents trying to protect them. 

But in the years since I first reported on this practice, political opposition has grown. Parents whose daughters were socially transitioned behind their backs have filed lawsuits against the school districts in California and Florida and Michigan. California public school teachers have sued school districts to block policies that could result in their firing if they inform parents that their children’s names and identities have been changed behind their backs. And a recent statewide initiative in California to require parental notification before a school changes a child’s gender identity as well as ban puberty blockers and gender surgeries for minors garnered over 400,000 signatures, falling just short of making it onto the ballot. 

The SAFETY Act would significantly stymie, if not eliminate, this local pushback to the increasingly unpopular practice of schools playing adoptive parents with other people’s children. (Although already, the Chino Valley Unified School District has filed suit against Newsom over this act.) The plain text of the California law claims that it merely prevents schools from adopting policies that “forcibly out” trans kids—as if confused fifth-grade girls are in the same position as closeted gay adults in decades past who risked arrest and firing for being outed. 

The law’s clever sponsors are typically quiet on the subject of “outing” to whom. The entire school already knows that Lily is now “Tyler.” Teachers will cheerfully share that information with each other, school mental health staff, administrators, and other students. The only ones who don’t get to know are the parents.

A favorite talking point of activists on the left is that with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity, schools must keep secrets with young children to protect them from transphobic and homophobic parents. Even in the most progressive of states, the claim that parents who discover that their child is transgender might abuse or kick her out is used to justify a policy that would otherwise be difficult to understand and impossible to justify.

Aurora Regino is a single mother in California who last year sued the Chico Unified School District for secretly pushing social transition on her then–11-year-old daughter. Regino told me that the “phobia” rationale seemed “ridiculous.” She added, “How is it not outing a kid if you’re telling an entire school that they’re a different sex? That’s outing right there. So everybody knows except the parents? That doesn’t really make any sense to me.”

Erin Friday, a California attorney and author of bills in several states requiring parental notification for any change in a child’s gender identity at school, vented exasperation at the idea that California parents are so homophobic or transphobic they cannot be trusted. “This is California, for crying out loud.”

Regino agreed. “Both my girls are very active. We do swimming, theater, soccer, softball. We are in connection with I don’t know how many families. And there’s not one family that I can think of that we are around that would kick out their kid because they thought that they were ‘nonbinary’ or trans or gay,” she said. “I mean, to me, that’s an extreme statement that these kids are going to get kicked out. Are we saying one in ten thousand? So we’re going to risk the rest of the children and separate them from their parents during the time that they need them the most?” Her now–13-year-old daughter no longer wants to be a boy.

One might think Newsom would realize that a policy this unpopular for Democrats could easily become a political albatross in an election year. Perhaps realizing this, the governor—who is frequently mentioned as a possible 2024 presidential candidate if Biden drops out—when defending the bill resorts to dissembling. On Wednesday, the governor’s press office declared on X that the bill “protects the child-parent relationship by PREVENTING politicians & school staff from inappropriately intervening in family matters & attempting to control if, when & how families have deeply personal conversations.” The bill only “protects” the parent-child relationship if you assume that relationship depends on the parents’ being entirely ignorant of their child’s growing attachment to this new, secret identity.

Governor Newsom also declared: “Under California law, minors CANNOT legally change their name or gender WITHOUT parental consent.” That’s placing a lot of weight on the word legally. The obscurantist governor is correct only in the most technical sense: yes, a child’s legal name can be changed only on official records with parental approval. But in the world of the SAFETY Act, the parents may be the only ones in a child’s life who use that name. 

In the past few years, moderates across the American political spectrum have awakened to the pernicious effects of gender ideology on children. England, Finland, Norway, and Sweden have, in recent years, warned the public of the risks of pediatric gender medicine, banned the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones in children, or restricted their use to research settings. The Cass Review, published this year by one of England’s premier physicians, noted the serious risks and specious benefits of pediatric gender transition. My own investigation, published four years earlier, reached the same conclusions. The Cass Review also acknowledged that social transition is an active intervention that puts many children on an inexorable path to medical transition. 

Recent polling shows that voters across the political spectrum believe that schools should be required to inform parents if their children are using different gender pronouns at school than they are at home.

But California Democrats appear ready to drag their party down with them. Parents’ best hope may be federal legislation mandating parental notification before a school can reassign a child’s name and gender. Candidates for president and vice president ought to be asked whether they would support such a bill.

Until her daughter was socially transitioned behind her back, Regino had been a lifelong progressive Democrat. “Now, I’m a registered Republican,” she said.

Abigail Shrier is the New York Times bestselling author of Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren’t Growing Up

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July 17, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson

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