When the bar moves

“I don’t say this lightly,” Michael Donald, a political scientist at the University of Florida, recently wrote. “We are witnessing the greatest rollback of voting rights in this country since the Jim Crow era.”

Is it true that our “right” to vote is being stripped? Our constitutionally empowered right to vote remains (currently) intact. However, the means and methods of how we vote (and agreed, who can vote in some states) are most assuredly under attack--and it is happening state by state.

In my 29-years as an educator, I have seen state departments of education move the proverbial bar as soon as children in underserved and underrepresented districts begin to meet the bar. Each time the bar moves, the adults responsible for their education eventually shift, so students meet the new measurement for success. It is an extremely frustrating and systemically deplorable imposition. It takes its toll, but we always rise to it. We see the bar moving, and we know that it is intrinsically doing so to support (admitted or not) racist ideologies.

The Black church has always been at the forefront of progressive policymaking. At the heart of The Reconstruction (1865–1877), the United States were African-American preachers and civic leaders. Over 1,500 African-Americans served in elected positions. They had to be elected (by state legislature, not by popular vote, before the 17th Amendment, 1913). An African Methodist Episcopal Church Itinerant Elder, Hiram Rhodes Revels (R-MS), was the first to serve in the United States Senate. African American elected officials passed legislation and set policies; however limited, but then the bar moved to silence the voice of African-Americans in setting policy. We again had to go about the frustrating and more engrained deplorable imposition of meeting the bar. However, since that period, we have not regained footing politically.

In this season, as a beloved community of believers, we must strategically embrace our responsibility and our right to express our God-ordained voice to influence the moral conscious of local, state, and national politics by joining the political process not only as voters but as organizers, advocates, and elected officials. The bar continues to move. When it does, we reorient, rise...and where applicable, set our own. The time to do so is perpetually now.

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Allen Temple AME Church

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