The Black community owes a debt of gratitude to United States Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin. The dynamic duo have managed, by supporting the filibuster and crippling two major voting rights bills, to remind any of us who had any doubts or historic contextual misunderstandings that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day of action and not a holiday to celebrate assumed permanent social change. We ought to thank them for reminding little Black boys and girls that they live in a country where their parents’ and grandparents’ right to vote is something to be feared and suppressed, not protected and encouraged. We should be grateful that they mock and disrespect their Black political colleagues and so called friends, like the late American Hero, congressman, and civil rights movement icon John Lewis by intentionally undermining bedrock public policy to cement the changes Black people shed blood for and suffered decades of racial abuse to overcome. That we need to be appreciative of their political gamesmanship and their toying with the value of our very lives and health of our demonstrably fragile democracy.
The civil rights movement has always been a story of ups and downs. Amid the hard fought victories of past and present are days of striving to find silver linings in social storm clouds. We are experiencing such days and as we pause to honor Dr. King, our martyr, and the living movement he represents and Black history month, it appears that hardship is on the horizon. This is our story, this is our song, fighting for freedom all the day long. It is a sobering moment for those who like to or can afford to believe that we have traveled, as a nation, further along the moral road than we actually have. The old cliche, muttered even by Sinema and Manchin with respect to civil rights legislation, has become more real, “we have come a long way but still have a long way to go.” That is the silver lining, the work continues, as Dr. King prophesied, to redeem the soul of America.
It seems odd to thank Sinema and Manchin, two of the greatest modern opponents of progress, for their obstructionism and resistance to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom To Vote Act. To find some form of appreciation for their immoral and inexplicable allegiance to the filibuster and its hamstringing of the Senate. But, the silver lining is there. It is proven in the passionate streaks of light reflected in the eyes of Black people marching and working and organizing to manifest dreams of equal rights and of a more perfect Union. Perhaps the political awakening and reawakening of Black people is just what America needs again. Our mistreatment, at the hands of Sinema and Manchin, may be a societal blessing in disguise. Time will tell.
Throughout American political history, the worst of us have always brought out the best in us. This moment, this impasse, is no different. History will be the final judge and people will find themselves on the right and wrong side of it. There will be consequences. There will be change. Black Americans will endure. And in no small part, due to the misguided obstinance of Senators Sinema and Manchin. Which is why, even in the midst of a power struggle of such intensity, Black people can shout Hallelujah. Because, as frustrating as it is, we know how this story ends. The stone of the filibuster will be rolled away and voting rights will rise from the grave, again. Just like before.
Black people, on our long walk to freedom, have to keep making the most of things. We have to keep the faith. That means, from time to time, we must turn the slop of political chitterlings into the delicacies of deliverance. Walking humbly with God and being wise enough to capitalize on an opportunity when our subjugators think they are dealing a fatal blow to our spirits. Dr. King taught us about the strength to love and that means loving Sinema and Manchin too. If only because their negative actions against what is right inspire us so acutely and effectively to strive even harder to reach the fullness of citizenship. Thank you, Senators, for you know not what you do and how you have helped. Can I get an Amen?
The Reverend Jarrett Barton Maupin, Jr., a Democrat, is a Baptist Minister and Civil Rights Leader from Phoenix. You can find him on Twitter: @ReverendMaupin