For Safe Communities, We Need Democracy Reform

by Ezra P. Scott Jr.

Many argue that America was not a true democracy until after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The bill cemented the United States as a democracy where all citizens could vote, stopping Jim Crow in its tracks and empowering African Americans to vote in free and fair elections for over 50 years.

This legislation, and our democracy, has been eroded over the last few decades with various attacks on the monumental 1965 law and Jim Crow 2.0 voter suppression laws popping up in state houses across the country. Black and Brown communities again are, as they always have been, the primary targets of these deliberate barriers to vote. These anti-democratic attacks on voting rights are causing cracks in the foundation of America. But there is an alternative. We need to strengthen our democracy by passing the For the People Act and prevent future barriers that keep Black and brown people from participating in our democracy.

That has never been more important to Western New Yorkers than now, as violent crimes are spiking in the region. Rising gun violence is most prevalent in Black and brown communities that have bared the brunt of discrimination, the war on drugs, and voter disenfranchisement. Racial inequity coupled with a severe lack of resources in our communities has played a part in the rising gun violence in New York.

The lack of trust between communities of color and the government has also intensifi ed this crisis, especially after the tragic police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Our coalition of Peacemakers across Western New York have worked tirelessly to mediate gang confl icts, build relationships and trust inside our communities, we even have a working relationship with law enforcement offi – cials to promote public safety.

However, we need the federal government to stand up and empower our communities even further — just as the Voting Rights bill of 1965 once did. The For the People Act gives us a chance to invest in Black and Brown communities that have been virtually silenced as violence has plagued our neighborhoods. Passing the For The People Act (S1) would not fi x all of the issues with our democracy and within our communities, but it would help reverse this tide. Passing this bill is essential to putting an end to the hundreds of proposed bills to limit the freedom of Black and Brown people and New Americans to vote. It would limit the infl uence of wealthy donors and lift up the voices of everyday people in Black and Bown communities and enable them to construct a government that is refl ective of their needs for good jobs, affordable housing, high-quality education, and mental health care.

The bill would allow Black and Brown people in our communities to have a say in how we recover from decades of rampant racist policies and shape how they are kept safe during surges of crime. We encourage Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to use every tool at his disposal to get this For the People Act passed and ensure it is fully intact when it reaches the President’s desk.

With the Senate scheduled to come home for summer recess, it is imperative that he not come home without this legislation enacted into law. By Ezra P. Scott Jr., Coordinator of Western New York Peacemakers, an organization dedicated to building safer communities across Western New York.