Voting rights still hang in the balance on the 58th anniversary of Selma’s ‘Bloody Sunday’ march—and corporations are oddly silent

March 7, 2023, 3:19 PM UTC
Manel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

President Joe Biden traveled to Selma, Ala., last weekend to mark the 58th anniversary of the 1965 march for voting rights, known as “Bloody Sunday.”

“As I come here in commemoration, not for show, Selma is a reckoning,” Biden said. “The right to vote…to have your vote counted is the threshold of democracy and liberty.”

The reckoning to which Biden refers is the result of a decade of political machinations that have steadily eroded protections against racial discrimination once enshrined in the Voting Rights Act and removed by the Supreme Court in 2013.

That single decision has reshaped elections and the voting experience in the past few years:

– Allegations of racist redistricting

– Onerous eligibility challenges in Black neighborhoods

Limited polling stations 

– Unchecked voter discrimination and intimidation

“It keeps me up at night,” Doug Spencer, an associate professor of law at the University of Colorado, tells NPR of the most recent signal that the Supreme Court is likely to gut what’s left of the Voting Rights Act this session.

While the fight continues on other fronts—check out my reporting on the NAACP’s new voter protection hub and its fascinating alliance with mapping software firm Esri—the politics of justice remain tough.

In 2021, the House passed a bill named for the late congressman John Lewis that would restore many provisions of the Voting Rights Act if it makes it into law. On the anniversary two years ago, Biden signed an executive order to remove persistent barriers to full voting access. A report coauthored by dozens of civil rights groups, including the ACLU, NAACP, National Congress of American Indians, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, and the National Disability Rights Network, says the order “has the potential to make registration and voting more accessible for millions of Americans, including many communities historically excluded from the political process.”

But many of the provisions have yet to be enacted.

More recently, lawmakers in Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New Mexico introduced measures that would ban suppression and intimidation tactics, restore rights to people with previous felony convictions, and make it easier for voters with disabilities and non-native English speakers to navigate ballots. Nice, but not enough.

As piecemeal remedies struggle to take hold, corporations seem to be staying on the sidelines, a much different approach from, say, the unified front opposing trans bathroom bills in 2016. According to progressive nonprofit watchdog Accountable.US, 60% of big companies get an “F” on voting issues, and that’s a shame.

Voting is a threshold of democracy, a reckoning, and a basic right of employees. Why not put the corporate shoulder to the wheel? What a difference an election cycle makes.

More news is below.

Ellen McGirt

This edition of raceAhead was edited by Ruth Umoh.

On Point

Conservative commentator calls for the “eradication of transgenderism”
Michael Knowles, a Daily Wire commentator and former host of Sen. Ted Cruz’s podcast, took to the stage at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and threw red meat to the crowd. “For the good of society, transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely, the whole preposterous ideology, at every level.” The open attack on trans people is now rampant in politics, says a rights advocate.
New York Magazine

Across the street from CPAC, things got worse
White nationalist Nick Fuentes garnered media attention after attending a dinner with former President Donald Trump and Kanye “Ye” West at Mar-A-Lago last fall. The virulent racist, Holocaust denier, and founder of the America First Foundation was finally ejected from CPAC this year. Sadly, he just set up shop across the street.
USA Today

There’s a Golden Arches code, and Cardi B and Offset have broken it
The celebrity pair have raised the eyebrows of a number of McDonald’s franchisees for their newest endorsement deal, the promotional Cardi B & Offset Meal. Some franchisees point to internal rules that forbid partnerships with people who pose “a potential risk to damage our brand based on statements they have made or their positions on certain issues.” Can’t imagine what they’re talking about; click through for Cardi and Offset's favorite McDonald’s meal.

Tyler Perry may soon own everything
In addition to repeatedly coming to the aid of the Sussexes, Perry is rumored to be in the running for a majority stake in BET, currently owned by Paramount. Billionaire mogul Byron Allen is also rumored to be interested. Perry is already a longtime partner of BET, so he doesn't have far to go.
Hollywood Reporter

EVENT: What will it take for venture capital to embrace gender equity?
Find out on Wednesday, March 8, at 12 p.m. EST, when my colleague Emma Hinchliffe joins BBG Ventures managing partner Nisha Dua for an International Women’s Day conversation on how her firm is broadening access to venture capital. Dua co-founded BBG Ventures in 2014 to better leverage the growing wave of female founders and equity-focused consumers.
LinkedIn Live

On Background

Remembering Judy Heumann
Heumann was a powerful and beloved disability rights activist who played a pivotal role in the nascent movement that led to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. She died suddenly over the weekend at 75.

"Disability only becomes a tragedy when society fails to provide the things we need to lead our lives—job opportunities or barrier-free buildings, for example. It is not a tragedy to me that I'm living in a wheelchair,” she told journalist Joseph Shapiro in 1987. Shapiro recalls being surprised by her when they first met. “It was still a radical claim that disabled people didn't see themselves, or their conditions, as something to be pitied. Or that they insisted what most held them back wasn't their health condition but society's exclusion.”

Heumann found a second act later in life, buoyed by her successful 2020 memoir, Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist, and her starring role in the documentary Crip Camp.

Her message will resonate with anyone who feels excluded.

“I wanna see a feisty group of disabled people around the world…if you don’t respect yourself and if you don’t demand what you believe in for yourself, you’re not gonna get it.”

Parting Words

“I remember the first time I drank at a white water fountain. I was disappointed. I believed that it must have been sugar water coming from it.”

Joanne Bland, who was just an 11-year-old member of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, when she joined the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965

This is the web version of raceAheadFortune’s daily newsletter on race, culture, and inclusive leadership. To get it delivered daily to your inbox, sign up here.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet