|Community Voices Reflect on the
2020 Civil Rights Agenda
Voting, Democracy and Civil Rights
How Do We Stem the Tide of Hatred in Our National Political Discourse?
While race-based hate is not new, this administration has legitimized it and made it a central part of its political agenda.
As many of the political leaders discount the importance and value of people of color, Wisconsin's population has steadily grown more diverse, but that has not
stemmed the growing and alarming trend of the worst racial disparities in health, education and income in the United States.
When you live in a state that is ranked the worst in terms of racial equity, it is difficult to forget and let go of that reality. It is also a recipe for dissatisfaction and
African-Americans in Wisconsin- not only in Dane County- are more likely to live in poverty, lack access to health care, struggle with housing and access to
education. Despite that even those who rise to prominent success and prosperity are often told to be “grateful” or told to leave if we don’t like it here.
The climate of hatred and intolerance has spread against other racial and religious groups. Anti-Semitism has sky rocketed in the last few years due to the rhetoric
of our leaders that has embolden hate-groups. Jews and immigrant communities are being slandered, vilified and made scapegoat of all our social ills.
So, the hatred is real, but we must not be held in bondage by it. The man we celebrate today — Dr Martin Luther King Jr. — once said, “I have decided to stick with
love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” I believe this is the one way to stem the tide of hatred that threatens to overwhelm our great nation.
We should be kind to each other for kindness has the capacity to transform people’s perspective and help them find that space to love again and be happier. It is
important to support each other and join forces by reaching out to allies and creating diverse coalitions. Martin Luther King Jr. also said injustice anywhere is
injustice everywhere, so we should support each other particularly crime victims. Community leaders must take an active role. Their support can help address
some of the root causes of hate.
Director of the Madison
Department of Civil Rights
The Inherent Progress in Equity
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects
one directly, affects all indirectly.” - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I believe in the right to vote. I believe that through voting and encouraging others to vote, I can help forge our shared future. I believe in acknowledging the forces
of oppression that have shut down access to voting in the past and jeopardize our democratic process today. I believe in honoring the sacrifices of generations
past and the promise of current and coming generations by taking part in shaping the future.
In the past 20 years, I have missed only one election, including primaries. I take my children to the voting booth, even when they would rather be somewhere else.
I take the time to explain (as best I can) the election process and discuss the reasoning behind my choices. I have volunteered my time for voter registration,
signing up voters to participate in local, state, and national elections. I have worked at the polls on election days, greeting my neighbors and expressing support of
their choice to exercise their right to vote. Elections are a critically important time for all of us to contribute. Whether we are voting for judges, sheriffs, school
board members, alders, mayors, governors, or presidents, there is something for all of us to do to help ensure full and informed participation in our elections.
Numerous organizations are hosting candidate forums and other events to educate voters about their choices. Other organizations are providing free
transportation to the polls, while others are working to ensure that polling places are accessible for all abilities.
Now more than ever, every vote counts. At times, our local community can seem like a community of civil rights leaders. Many of the notions of fair treatment,
sharing, and access are at the heart of our city and are expressed repeatedly at community gatherings. Many of us understand that the humane, equitable and fair
treatment of every one of our residents is paramount to our collective success.
Nevertheless, much of the data tells a different story. Wisconsin has recently been reported as the most segregated state in the country. The American legacy
systems of racism and oppression continue to produce benefits for the privileged and burdens for the people at the bottom of the socio-economic strata. Casting
our vote is our opportunity for change. At the polls, we can set a counter force in motion to level the playing field and correct the imbalances that create the ugly
disparities that we lament.
Somehow, every spring, when the National Football League (NFL) allows the team with the worst performance record to select the most promising available recruit
— commonly known as the first round draft pick — the importance of economic equity is clearly understood and accepted. Conceptually, there is a clear
understanding that one franchise being unable to compete threatens the vitality and profitability of the whole organization. If one dynasty goes unchallenged for too
long, ticket sales begin to suffer, competition begins to wane and interest and excitement for the experience begin to fizzle. Sports bars, television manufacturers,
clothing makers, and dozens of support industries’ profits will diminish if the entire NFL enterprise allows even one team to slip through the cracks of viability.
In turn, their corporate success helps to protect the vitality of our greater economy
as a whole. Multiple economic sectors thrive, not on the game play or the
individual players’ exploits, but on the competitiveness of the organization.
Ensuring that all have access to voting helps to ensure that our organizations, the
city of Madison, Dane County, the state of Wisconsin, and the United States of
American, remain viable and competitive.
The concept is simple. But what about when it comes to race? Gender? Nationality?
Are we as understanding and appreciative of everyone’s need to succeed? Do we
understand that we all need each other? That we must ensure the success of the
most vulnerable and marginalized among us to ensure the success of us all? Let
this be our motivation to vote — and encourage others to vote. Let us use our
power to choose to select a future that is equitable for all of us. Let us use our
freedom to help set someone else free. We should be working on removing
barriers to voting and any other full participation by all sectors of our society. Off
the football field, there are no sidelines. We are engaged in either making progress,
hampering progress, or simply watching as a spectator. One hindered right to vote
is a threat to everyone’s right to vote.