In April of 1950, my parents, Meyer & Manya Korenblit, immigrated to the United States as Jewish refugees, survivors of the Holocaust. They were sent to Ponca City, Oklahoma. One of the first persons to befriend my parents was a Black man, Gershon Tucker, and his family. In 1952, my parents witnessed their first election in this country. It was for President of the United States. When my dad asked Gershon if he had voted for Eisenhower, he responded “No, and I didn’t vote for Stevenson, either.” He said that he had not voted at all. When my dad asked why not, Gershon said that he was not allowed to vote – because he was Black. My Dad was stunned to hear his friend tell him that; especially after all he had heard about America. The country that sent our troops to Europe to liberate the continent from the Nazis and their fascist and authoritarian regime is the same country that would deny its own citizens the right to vote because of the color of one’s skin.
That changed in 1965 with the passage of the Voting Rights Act. While there were still some obstacles to voting, for 48 years people of color and others who had been disenfranchised were allowed to vote. Every ten years the Congress passed legislation to renew the Voting Rights Act. That was until 2015, when Congress did not renew it after the 2013 decision by the Supreme Court, which gutted the act. Since that time, voting rights have been under attack.
We should do everything in our power to make voting easier for all Americans, not harder! If my Dad was stunned in 1952 when Gershon Tucker informed him that he couldn’t vote because of the color of his skin, he would be shocked to see what is happening today. From January of 2021 to December of 2021, 19 states have passed 34 restrictive voting rights laws including here in Oklahoma. While HB2663 expanded early voting by one day, it shortened the time you can apply for an absentee ballot. 2022 is posed to be even worse, with over 100 laws already proposed to make voting harder for certain American citizens!
When my parents were studying for their citizenship test, they learned the most important safeguard for protecting our democracy is VOTING. They also learned that many people gave their lives to protect the right to vote. Three of those Civil Rights Martyrs (James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Henry Schwerner) gave their lives so my Mom’s & Dad’s friend, Gershon Tucker, could vote.
The Respect Diversity Foundation