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Preston Love Jr.: We can save democracy with a commitment to truth
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Preston Love Jr.: We can save democracy with a commitment to truth

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As part of a national effort to mourn the anniversary of the insurrection that took place on Jan. 6, 2021, another national effort occurred on Jan. 6, 2022. Here in Omaha and in more than 230 cities, vigils occurred with a focus toward a call to action toward an affirmation of democracy.

In Omaha, I had the honor of being one of three speakers at a vigil was hosted by the College of St. Mary. The other speakers included Heather Engdahl of Civic Nebraska, and Jo Giles of the Women’s Fund of Omaha.

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Preston Love Jr.

I offer my comments from that vigil as a guardrail to provide a historical context of the events that led up to and concluded with the Jan. 6 insurrection. As an African American who will be 80 years old this year, I have lived to witness America and its worst and lowest points, along with efforts to improve.

In our history, this country sought to move beyond slavery through the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. The opportunities for former slaves and other people of color was ultimately undercut by Jim Crow.

Then in my lifetime, the country experienced an undeniable effort to right wrongs, the civil rights movement.

This led to further work to expunge racism, sexism and aggressive voter impediments through federal legislation and Supreme Court rulings.

Each period of adjustment was followed by a steady creep backward toward past inequities. The 1965 Voting Rights Act was progress but unraveled by the Supreme Court in 2013. The landmark law is now so ineffective from constant political and legal attacks that there is a need to completely restore it assets.

Preston Love Jr.: Crying 'CRT' is really a diversion from opposition to diversity, equity and inclusion

We once again face new attempts to restrict and alter the simple democratic process of voting and even the transfer of power. The events of Jan. 6, 2021, demand a new and rigorous adjustment.

It is my contention is that any new adjustment must not just come from federal legislation, i.e., the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, but from a change in our communities, rural and urban, Democrat and Republicans.

We must share a recognition of the reduced acceptance of truth and the impact that has on democracy. George Floyd’s murder and Jan. 6 should be clarion calls to our nation (and here in Omaha) that we the people must take the lead by demanding the change now.

History has taught us that legislation alone will fall short of real change. With truth comes healing; with healing comes adjustments to our thinking, and with more thoughtfulness, positive actions will follow. Adjustments must be made to perfect our union or the lessons of George Floyd and Jan. 6 will be lost, and democracy will continue to be symbolic.

Over the course of my life and before, the idea of true democracy for all has been mostly symbolic. When I grew up as an African American youth, I was redlined; that was not democracy. I went to segregated schools; that was not democracy. When I was old enough to vote, it was before the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed.

Preston Love Jr.: Crying 'CRT' is really a diversion from opposition to diversity, equity and inclusion

I have lived to endure hate and racism in many forms, including the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Medgar Evers, the church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four innocent, black young girls. In my beloved North Omaha, an innocent 14-year-old teenage black girl named Vivian Strong was fatally shot in the back of the head by a policeman. Does any of this sound like democracy? Yet there is a renewed effort by some to prohibit teaching this part of history to our children, to intentionally avoid telling the truth.

Recent, aggressive attempts to legislate voter restrictions, coupled with mass misinformation all amount to the undermining democracy. And now the aftermath of Jan. 6. 2021, shows that we have lost our way to the truth. But I say now that truth can save democracy.

I suggest that each one of us become activist for truth. We will fight any attempt at misinformation, refuse to be bystanders or participants in hate, racism and division, be advocates of equity and equality for all, dismiss any attempt to restrict voting and, above all, stand up for truth, stand up for democracy, pray for democracy. After all, our children are watching us. Teach them the truth.

Preston Love Jr. is a longtime Omaha civic engagement activist who also teaches black studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. These views do not represent those of UNO.

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