RBG and the Voting Rights Act, and renewing our resolve in the next 45 days

Like many people I know, when I heard of Justice Ginsberg’s passing on Friday, I was grieved. She has been such a leader on the Supreme Court, such a voice for justice, and I was hoping she would just hang on for awhile longer.

Reverend Dr. William Barber, in his post on the Repairers of the Breach Facebook page, said “How do you mourn the loss of a great champion for justice like Ruth Bader Ginsburg? You mourn deeply & you vow to continue her work with even greater resolve. Her death must bring us to life. No one who loved her work on voting rights, women’s rights, or corporate responsibility can stay home & not vote. We must renew our resolve to fight as she fought.”

In 2015 RBG told a group of young women “Fight for the things you care about”, and in her honor and memory, I will keep working in whatever ways are open to me to seek justice and to love mercy and to keep reaching and teaching toward the dream of the beloved community. Today, that means thinking about voting and teaching others about voting.

It is 45 days until the next US election, which means that the window for people to register to vote is closing. (This post has a lot of resources for how to check your registration status, where to vote, how to vote absentee, etc. https://teachingbeloved.com/2020/07/22/someone-struggled-for-your-right-to-vote-use-it/)

This week I am preparing my policy course for a review of the Voting Rights Act, and a look at voter suppression issues. Below are some of the resources I am sharing with them.

If you are reading this and are a social worker, or are involved with social work education, you may be interested in these pieces on elections and social work values (¡https://www.socialworker.com/feature-articles/ethics-articles/elections-social-work-values/) and voter empowerment https://www.socialworker.com/feature-articles/practice/voting-is-social-work-voter-empowerment-national-social-work-voter-mobilization-campaign/

I also have students read about and listen to an excerpt from testimony by Fanny Lou Hamer, about some of the events of Freedom Summer in 1964 before the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Note: She talks about the violence she experienced and there is intense language. Know this before you listen:


In addition to discussing the basics of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with my students, I also talk about the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the 2013 Supreme Court decision in the case of Shelby Co vs Holder, which ruled Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Here’s a good review of the Voting Rights Act if you need it https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/voting-rights-act and here’s some good basic info on the impact of the NVRA of 1993 https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/automatic-voter-registration.aspx and the impact of the 2013 Supreme Court decision https://www.thoughtco.com/shelby-county-v-holder-4685954

It is also a good exercise, for students and citizens, to look for information in their own area about voting access, registration, closure of polling places, and other issues related to voting rights. I love to see students get fired up about voting, and see them committed to “getting out the vote” in whatever manner they can participate.

One final note: listening to Dr. King’s speech “Give us the Ballot” (from 1957) is powerful, and still relevant today.

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