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Letter: Fraud accusations in Detroit delegitimize Black votes

The Detroit News

We live in a deeply divided society. Racism is chief among many ills that divide us. This division was exacerbated this year by disparate financial and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic upon people in our communities who have been historically disenfranchised.

This nation was founded on an aspirational premise of freedom that nonetheless restricted power and voting rights to a wealthy sub-set of white men while denying the humanity of Black men and women. Embedded in our Constitution, Black people were counted as three-fifths of a person for the sole purpose of building census counts and allocating political representation.

There is a need to enforce laws and policies that combat racial intimidation and attacks on Black voters, the authors write.

Black people who were enslaved in this country were freed 155 years ago and voting rights were conferred to Black men 150 years ago, at which point Black Americans were legally human and citizens of the United States. Despite the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, which granted citizenship rights, voting rights were not fully realized until 55 years ago, through the Voting Rights Act of 1965, despite opposition by Dixiecrats turned Republican-holders of a Southern Strategy that has continued unabated since that time.

This played out in the run-up to and aftermath of the vote in unacceptable and anti-democratic efforts to delegitimize voting especially in communities of color by targeting them, without basis or evidence, as perpetrators of “fraud” and illegality in the exercise of their constitutionally protected right to vote and fully participate in our democratic process.

These blatant efforts to erase the political will of Black voters, under a false flag of fraud, clearly constitute an attack on America’s democracy, but these efforts are rooted in a history of white supremacy and unrelenting attacks on both the personhood and citizenship of Black Americans.

While there are many Americans who are eager to heal wounds, to break bread and to reconcile with supporters of President Donald Trump, there is an equally important need to affirm a shared commitment to racial justice; to create and enforce laws and policies that combat racial intimidation and attacks on Black voters; to condemn racism in all its variant forms and to commit to anti-racist policies and practices that continue the work of building a better union.

We cannot maintain our stature as the world’s most inclusive and pre-eminent democracy, a shining light of opportunity and freedom, if we are not willing to bridge racial divides, to continue the fight for race equity and inclusion, and to actively combat racism, particularly when directed at the sanctity of each citizen’s right — regardless of color, wealth, privilege or social standing — to vote and to have that vote fully counted.

Donna Givens Davidson, president and CEO of Eastside Community Network

Peter M. Kellett, chairman and CEO of Dykema

Both serve on the board of directors of New Detroit Inc.