At least right now, Georgia is a “blue state.” That’s right – the reliably “red state,” where the Republican presidential nominee prevailed all but once from 1984 to 2016, was won by Joe Biden in 2020 by 11,779 votes or 0.2 percent. The substantial increase in racial and ethnic diversity in Georgia was a major factor in Biden’s victory, as well in wins by both Democratic U.S. Senate candidates, according to the Pew Research Center. Believing that President Biden would hold to his word to strongly advocate on behalf of voting rights for people of color, Black voters turned out in historic numbers to vote for him, and for Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

President Biden speaks Oct. 21, 2021, during an event marking the 10th anniversary of the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington. About 61 administration events have focused on COVID, 39 have promoted infrastructure legislation and, including his most recent speech in Georgia, two talks have centered on advancing voting rights, according to a recent analysis. Susan Walsh/Associated Press

But that was then. Then was the campaign season of 2020, when the nation was grappling with a racial reckoning unlike any other that we have seen in modern times. Then was when Biden and Donald Trump presented two vastly different ideas of the nation. That was when Biden was trying to get elected and needed as many votes from Black people as possible. He is on record saying we have “reached an inflection point on issues including fighting voting restrictions.” Last October at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, he added, “I know that progress does not come fast enough,” and that protecting the right to vote was “central” to his administration.

Because of the advocacy of many, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed by President Lyndon Johnson, ending the legal separation of people by race in public places and making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin in the workplace. Dr. King and his colleagues also led activism toward passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that included federal measures to protect the rights of all U.S. citizens to vote. The law has been reauthorized five times, most recently by President George W. Bush in 2006.

Yet seven years later, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down crucial portions of the Voting Rights Act, and so new voting legislation has been recently introduced. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would replace those protections in the 1965 bill that the Supreme Court vacated. Candidate Biden pledged that he would devote his platform to COVID, the economy and diversity, equity and inclusion – especially voting rights. But regrettably, according to a recent NBC News analysis of the ways the president has used his platform to promote his agenda since being inaugurated, about 61 administration events have focused on COVID, 39 have promoted infrastructure legislation and, including the president’s most recent speech in Georgia, a mere two talks have centered on advancing voting rights.

Such a record as president does not appear a stellar example of keeping one’s word to his constituents. The Biden team’s hyper focus on issues affecting Black voters during the “MLK season” in January and/or during Black History Month in February is unfortunate, predictable and yet still demeaning. And the lack of follow-through from Biden should really come as no surprise, as his goal is ultimately to win a national election, so his willingness to appease different people is typical behavior. It’s no surprise that the current administration might think, “It’s January – time to pay attention to MLK and Black people.” Can our society ever move to a more authentic place, where we acknowledge and honor the history of Black and other historically marginalized and oppressed people beyond horrific moments in time or specific birthdays or cultural months?

Diversity, equity and inclusion were not principles on which our nation was founded, and neither was the right of all citizens to vote. Those achievements follow from the struggles and sacrifice of so many for so long. Let’s hope and pray that easy access to voting for all citizens can finally be our elected officials’ true honor and celebration of Dr. King.


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