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We face a fraught and perilous moment for our democracy. Though Black and brown voters navigated incredible obstacles and pandemic health risks to cast their votes, to repudiate white supremacy and fight for a more just democracy, our nation remains locked in a dangerous, anti-democratic cycle with devastating impacts for Black and brown people.

We have seen this cycle play out too many times over the last year.

Earlier this month, members of the House committee to investigate the January 6th insurrection on Capitol Hill were announced, a stop-gap solution after Senate Republicans voted against creating a commission several weeks ago. On June 22, Republicans in the United States Senate filibustered simply debating the For The People Act, crucial legislation to strengthen and protect voting rights for Black and brown Americans. Republicans were not even willing to have a bipartisan conversation about voting rights — but, they were willing to propose nearly 400 state-level bills attacking the right to vote.

Soon after, the Supreme Court — packed with three Trump justices — announced a 6-3 decision to uphold voting restrictions in Arizona. As Justice Kagan described in her dissent, the Court has severely damaged a provision intended to end racial discrimination in voting, opening the door for increased suppression of Black and brown Americans’ right to vote.

These are not isolated events. These anti-democratic impulses are outgrowths of a system that has intentionally excluded Black and brown voters since our country’s founding. From Texas to Arizona, dangerous fringe right-wing actors are working hard to decimate voting rights for Black and brown Americans, and the Senate is watching idly as our democracy crumbles around us. Just as we cannot walk through a closed door, we cannot pass laws to strengthen our democracy through a system designed to undemocratically block those very laws. If we’re ever going to break the anti-democratic cycle and truly uphold our purported founding values, we need to start with unrigging the United States Senate.

With only 11 Black Senators serving in Congress throughout the entirety of U.S. history, the Senate is a deeply unrepresentative institution that not only makes policy, but also shapes all other democratic structures, from the courts to voting. We’re left with a system entrenched by minority rule that exists to block progress on issues favored by the vast majority. Black and brown people pay an even steeper price for this power imbalance. Our communities won’t see progress on the issues and institutions that directly impact us — voting rights, health care, criminal justice, gun violence, climate change, police violence — until we balance power in the Senate and break this dangerous anti-democratic cycle by abolishing the filibuster.

The numbers tell the concerning truth. The Senate's 50 Republican Senators represent 41 million fewer people than the 50 Democrats do, diluting the representative power of Senate Democrats millions of times over. It's hard to believe that in 2021, there is no anti-lynching legislation that has become law in the U.S. because of the power of the filibuster. Nor do 700,000 mostly Black and brown residents of D.C. have representation in the Senate.

The Senate is no longer “the saucer that cools the tea.” Thanks to gerrymandering, stacked courts and the filibuster, the Senate stops the tea from even being poured. For 200 years, the filibuster has blocked progress on civil and voting rights, allowing a Senate loophole to stop fundamental rights from being conferred unto our marginalized citizens. It has become completely untenable for our democracy.

The Court’s anti-democratic decision in Brnovich v. DNC makes it all the more important that Democrats in Congress swiftly restore and strengthen one of the most important pieces of legislation it has ever passed: the Voting Rights Act. But it also makes it all the more crucial that Senate Democrats take major steps to fix our Senate by dismantling the Jim Crow filibuster to pass critical voting rights legislation like the For The People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the Washington, D.C. Admissions Act.

Democracy is under attack in America, but we have the tools to strengthen the foundation upon which our democracy is built. We need reforms that bring us closer to a more inclusive “We, the people,” and an equal opportunity to participate in the great experiment that is American democracy. As President Biden reminded Congress, strengthening the foundation of our democracy demands urgently and boldly strengthening voting rights protections. Lawmakers must take all action necessary to pass critical voting rights legislation — the sanctity of our democracy depends on it.


Dr. Rev. Stephany Spaulding is a Just Democracy spokesperson and founder of Truth & Conciliation