July 2, 2013

Milwaukee Courier

Legislatively Speaking: Freedom Will Never Be Free

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

As we celebrate America’s independence this July 4th, I am reminded of a few wise words from the great civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.  Dr. King told us that “[c]hange does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent.”   Like the independence of our great nation, our rights as equal citizens are not the result of an inevitable outcome; our equality is the result of a continuous struggle.

We are blessed to live in a country where we elect our representative government, but we must not take this blessing for granted. Wisconsin Republican leaders spent their energy not on creating jobs, but on chipping away at our right to vote. They passed laws changing who can access the polls and now they are trying to pass more saying when we can vote and what we can vote on.   The reason behind their attack on voting rights is simple: Republicans know they will not win if we have a say.   Yes, we are blessed to be able to we elect our government, but that blessing will go away if we do not actively fight to preserve our voting rights.  The easiest way you can fight to protect our voting rights is to get out and vote during every election, not just during presidential ones. 

In addition to attacks on our voting rights in Madison, our equality is also being attacked in Washington.   Last month, the Supreme Court of the United States gutted one of our most important civil rights protections: Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The Voting Rights Act’s success in preventing our voices from being silenced during elections is unprecedented.  As a lawyer, Senator, and American I must say I am terrified by what people who are driven by hate and fear may try to do to silence black voices in the wake of this court decision.   One of the greatest ways we can “straighten our backs” is to demand Congress act to recodify workable Voting Rights Act protections. You can make this demand by calling every member of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation.  Plus, you can inform your friends of the need for congressional action to protect our voting rights. After all, our form of democracy only works for us when we actively protect it. 

We all love the fun aspects of Independence Day - spending time with our family and friends, watching fireworks as a reminder of our battle born freedoms, and of course sharing family recipes.   However we, as Milwaukee’s Black Community must avoid the pitfall of focusing only on the past this Independence Day. If we are to continue to enjoy our hard fought freedoms then we must actively defend against attacks on our most fundamental rights. We can and must work together against forces that wish to silence our voices.

As always, I am here to serve you. Please feel free to reach out to my Senate office if we can help you find ways to defend our freedoms or provide any other assistance. Happy Independence Day!