Standing Alone for Justice

Rev. Dr. William Barber is leading the fight against those who seek to suppress voting rights of people in the black community and people of color./Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman

Rev. Dr. William Barber II has been arrested many times. He’s been hit up with death threats.  Ugly verbal assaults and over-the-top criticism of his stance on education, unemployment rates, voting rights and high levels of incarceration of black folks only motivate Barber to continue to do his work as a man of God and as an advocate for justice.

Compromising his faith and his belief in fairness and equality is not an option for Barber. There is too much at risk for him to water down his belief system. There are too many lives to be saved for him to flip-flop on issues like voting rights and affordable education that matter most to people of color. There are too many people crying out for help for him to turn his back and walk away from fighting on their behalf.

Black Americans nearly double the national rate in unemployment numbers. Blacks are now 76 percent more likely to lose to their homes to foreclosure than white families. The numbers of black people behind bars overwhelmingly surpass all other ethnic groups.

Education has nearly become an afterthought as more than half of all black boys did not pick high school diplomas, according to the Schott Foundation 2010 report.

Now efforts led by elected representatives proposing legislative bills to shift electoral alignments and how people vote threaten to derail and shortchange the black and brown vote in the 2012 presidential election. The black community is in deep crisis. Denying or limiting their voices at the polls will only add more layers of frustration and claims of inequality.

Suppression of the black vote through the acts of redistricting and new voter ID laws is something that cannot be allowed to manifest, Barber said.

“We’re in a season of extreme, radical politics that we haven’t seen since the regrets of war of the late 1860s, and I believe that of the white southern strategies of the late 1960s,” Barber said in a recent interview with News4usonline.com. “When it comes to voting rights, we are clearly seeing, through voter ID, through redistricting, through what is called stacking black voters or packing black voters or splitting them up-we are seeing an attempt to segregate, to isolate, to steal the power potential of the black vote.

“We’re moving in a time where the majority won’t be the majority. The only way to keep power is that you isolate their vote or you segregate their vote in such a way that power and influence is only felt in certain districts or you suppress that vote through voter ID and other forms of suppression.”

It’s now more important than ever that people like Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP chapter, stand up to the bullies in Congress that want to strip away entitlements like social security and Medicare. It’s a critical time in America for folks like Barber to stand up against the many attacks on the very civil liberties that made this country a free and Democratic nation.

But now the underlying tone of race and class has become rallying themes for social changers like Barber. Putting people to work instead of putting them behind bars is a priority. More importantly, with the political landscape in this country becoming more and more polarized and frenzied each passing day, activating civic participation among the poor, disenfranchised and convicted felons in the voting and electoral process is even more urgent, Barber said.

“We have to clearly understand the racial element of what’s going on,” Barber said. “If you don’t understand it, you won’t have the inspiration to fight it. You’ve clearly have to understand that every time this nation has had a possibility of real reconstruction towards justice and equality…the first two reconstruction (periods) were ended by four things: attack on voting rights, attack on tax revenue, attack on educational equality and an attack on our leaders, either on their character or their very lives. We saw it in the late 1860s. We saw it in the late 1960s. We’re seeing that again today.”

Employment equality is one of things North Carolina NAACP Chapter President Rev. Dr. William Barber is fighting hard for./Dennis J. Freeman

Earlier this year, Barber and a group of demonstrators got a front row seat of what the civil rights leader has been talking about in regards to the hostile treatment elected official have chosen towards those making noise on behalf of regular people. Rapidly growing in stature as one of the nation’s leaders for social and economic change, Barber and his small throng of supporters were thrown out of the House of Representatives and put in handcuffs after a peaceful demonstration.

Lawmakers were not sympathetic when Barber and his supporters were arrested for protesting proposed cuts to education and social programs as they went about their business to slash the national budget.

“This is really about the next thirty years,” Barber said. “What they’re attempting to do with redistricting right now, especially in my state of North Carolina, you don’t have a chance to change it for ten years. Whatever happens now can’t be changed. But in ten years time, you can vote on policies that will have an impact the next forty years. This is really big.

“The election in 2012 is really about whether this nation will keep moving forward or if we will take a giant leap backwards. Understand that different groups like the Tea Party are funded by Charles and David Koch. Who is their father? Fred Koch. What did he do? He founded the John Birch Society. What was the John Birch Society’s mission? To fight civil rights and to fight integration. These people are trying to use their money to dip into the politics of the past to continue to bring to past the nightmare of their father rather than to dream of Dr. (Martin Luther) King Jr. and Roy Wilkins.”

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