A wake up call to vote

Nothing can bring 17-year-old Trayvon Martin back to life for his family and the nation. But Trayvon lives in the remarkable outpouring of sorrow and outrage demanding justice in the case. 

The image and horror of this young African American man’s murder while walking peacefully home from the store in Sanford, Fla., is galvanizing a new anti-racist movement in the country. 

In days, a million and a half people signed the petition by his parents, and students demonstrated on campuses in Florida calling for arrest of the gunman and a federal investigation.  The federal Department of Justice has stepped in.

This shooting did not take place in a vacuum.  The escalation of racism and bigotry throughout the Republican presidential primaries has created a dangerous climate. Right-wing talk show hosts are fanning the flames. Glen Beck calls Trayvon Martin “the aggressor,” just as Rush Limbaugh called    Sandra Fluke “a slut” when she testified to congress on behalf of the right to contraception, also being met by large scale protests.

In East Haven, Conn., it was an Obama appointee to the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department whose investigation into racial profiling of Latino immigrants resulted in the arrest of four police officers and the resignation of the chief.  The investigation is ongoing.

Republicans have blocked Obama’s judicial nominees just as they have rammed through new laws in many states making it more difficult to vote in an attempt to disenfranchise those most likely to vote for Barack Obama.

Justice for Trayvon Martin is interconnected with the presidential, congressional and state elections.

The appeal by the NAACP to the United Nations Human Rights Council for oversight of the elections in our country follows in the steps of the “We Cry Genocide” petition presented to the United Nations in 1951 by the Civil Rights Congress, which exposed the lynch terror in the South.

It took the massive organizing and marching of the multiracial civil rights movement in the 1960s to break through and win the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. These victories came with strong support from the unions, which recognized that the enemies of Civil Rights in Congress also voted consistently against the rights of working people.

This labor-civil rights alliance is even stronger today, as seen in the recent re-enactment of the Civil Rights March from Selma to Montgomery, which was a dramatic call for a new civil rights movement to organize and get out the vote to preserve and expand those rights that have been won.

The racist and anti-woman ideological offensive is a major challenge to unity and the outcome of this election. The Republican program to end Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and even public education and reverse the gains of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts would hurt all working people.

There are some who dismiss corporate tea party extremism as too far over the top to win election. It would be shortsighted to take the outcome of November’s vote for President and Congress and State Houses for granted. Huge sums of money and shameless distortions and lies can prevail unless there is a groundswell voter turnout.

The shooting of Traynor Martin is a wake up call for justice.

Justice for Trayvon Martin begins with an investigation of the role of the police and the prosecution of his killer. Beyond that, in the name of Trayvon Martin, a crusade to break through undemocratic barriers to voting and to bring out the largest voter turnout ever can be the most powerful answer to the engrained racism and anti-woman policies of the extreme right-wing that give rise to such tragedies.

The combination of 4 million union members being mobilized to speak with their co-workers and neighbors, alongside similar efforts by the NAACP, Planned Parenthood, Youth Vote and many others can set the stage for rejecting a racist, anti-woman program and opening the door for government to play its role on behalf of human rights and people’s needs.

Photo: Roberto Gonzalez/AP


Joelle Fishman
Joelle Fishman

Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans in Connecticut and is an active member of many economic rights and social justice organizations. She was a candidate for Congress from 1973 to 1982, maintaining minor-party ballot status for the Communist Party in Connecticut's Third Congressional District. As chair of the CPUSA Political Action Commission, she has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance that defeated the ultra-right in the 2008 elections and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights and peace.