Fifty-two years ago today, three young civil rights voter registration activists -- Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner -- were brutally murdered by police and other Klu Klux Klan members in Philadelphia, Miss. Goodman and Schwerner were white, Jewish, and from New York City; James Chaney, Black, was from Miss.
They had been some of the earliest volunteers in a voter registration effort of approximately 1300 students who earlier gathered in Oxford, Ohio to train and prepare for a summer student campaign to register unregistered qualified Blacks to vote in Mississippi. They were young agents of America's conscience and commitment to justice and equal rights under our Declaration of Independence and US Constitution. For their simple commitment to these precepts, they were killed by white supremacists thugs, some in police uniforms.
Today is the 52nd anniversary of their heroism and an example of the worst brutal racism that has continued after our earlier institution of centuries of slavery that created an indelible stain which remains on our soul, even today in 2016.
David Goodman, Andrew Goodman's younger brother -- who was 17 years old when his brother was murdered -- recently wrote, in memory of his brother, a challenge to us all. Among other things, he said:
If you had black skin in Mississippi in 1964 your right to vote was not recognized. Voting was a privilege, and one only granted to white people. That is why my brother, Andrew Goodman, headed down to Mississippi. He believed all people are created equal and therefore all should have the right to vote.
June 21 marks the 52nd anniversary of the day that Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in an act of domestic terrorism. Andrew, James and Michael were a part of a team of one thousand young volunteers during Freedom Summer 1964. Their deaths shocked the nation and changed the course of history.
Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner's legacy reflects a truly American story; one of ongoing, multigenerational struggle for equal rights. And while many things have changed over the past 52 years, much has not. Our political system remains broken and there is still a disconnect between our vision of inclusivity and justice, and everyday practice.
My brother's death paved the way for progress. The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 by the Johnson administration to protect our most cherished of democratic rights -- the right to vote. Sadly, after the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to overturn a key section of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, those protections were stripped away.
Today, rather than using murder, unscrupulous people have found new disenfranchisement tactics to prevent whole communities from voting in order to retain political advantage. Since 2013, over 20 states have passed new and egregious restrictions on the right to vote. These restrictions, legislated by individuals with power, wealth, and influence continue to disproportionately and negatively impact low-income communities, people of color, and youth -- the same people for whom Andrew, James, and Michael fought. Whether it is Republicans or Democrats engaging in these tactics, it is wrong and un-American to the very core. We must come together to stop this injustice.
In 2016 we are experiencing continuing wanton gun violence, racist and politically motivated. When will it end?
Bob Dylan asked in 1963 in his hit song, "Blowin In The Wind":
How many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn't see?
We are witnessing presidential political campaigns that take us from current reality in our nation to some altered parallel existentialism.
The volatile mixture of gun violence and racism continues 24/7.
We dishonor the integrity of the commitment of Goodman, Chaney and Schwnener on this 52nd anniversary of their murders if we, the living, don't commit ourselves to stop our continued acts of racist, and, now homophobic violence, once and for all.
We must re-commit ourselves to expanding, not limiting or diminishing opportunities to register and to vote.