The Elusive Promises of Legislation: Understanding the Impacts on The Black Community


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In 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered what is now known as his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he began not with utopian images of racial harmony — children holding hands, black and white breaking bread together — but with the metaphor of a bad check

“In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check,” he said, in what rhetoricians would call the exordium, or introduction, of his speech. And he went on to accuse the United States of being a moral skinflint when it came to honoring the debts of justice. “It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.”

The 1994 Crime Bill, an American legislative piece disproportionately impacting black individuals and communities, reverberated its influence more broadly than its country of origin, underscoring systematic injustices on an international scale. Meanwhile, in the UK, a series of promises made – but never delivered – to the black population reveals an ongoing narrative of unfulfilled pledges and unmet responsibilities. With a focus on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the Lift Every Voice plan, and the George Floyd Act, this essay seeks to shed light on this troubling sequence of events.

The 1994 Crime bill and Its Negative Impact on Black People

Originally billed as an answer to soaring crime rates, the 1994 Crime Bill resulted in visible negative implications for black communities (source 1). Amongst its devastating effects were an increase in mass incarceration rates, primarily affecting black and Latinx individuals (Source 1: www.source1.com). This legislation echoed in the UK, where black individuals were found to be overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Such disproportionately affect is a stark reminder of the persisting racism in legal systems worldwide (Source 2: www.source2.com).

 2: The Promise of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, Never Given to Blacks

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, aimed at preventing racial discrimination in voting, carried an enormous promise for the black community, which endured years of systematic exclusion from electoral processes. However, this promise was unfulfilled, leaving the issue of racial discrimination in voting largely untouched and the black community perpetually marginalised (Source 3: www.source3.com). In the UK, echoes of this disenfranchisement are visible, revealing a similarly troubling pattern of excluding minority groups from political processes (Source 4: www.source4.com).

3: Lift Every Voice Plan Promised but Never Delivered

The ‘Lift Every Voice’ plan, aimed at addressing systemic racial disparities in America, represented another portrayal of a bright future. Yet, its promise, too, remains largely undelivered, casting a long shadow over America’s black population. The UK’s black communities, similarly burdened by structural disadvantages, continue to wait for such comprehensive, targeted initiatives to come to fruition (Source 5: www.source5.com).

4: The George Floyd Act, Never Delivered

Despite the global outcry following George Floyd’s tragic passing, corresponding legislation promising police and justice reform – The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act – has yet to materialise. This repeated cycle of unfulfilled promises further underscores institutional negligence towards addressing racial disparities, not only in America but similarly in the UK (Source 6: www.source6.com).

Through the 1994 Crime Bill, the unfulfilled promises of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the undelivered Lift Every Voice Plan, and the yet-to-be-actioned George Floyd Act, we see a consistent pattern of political inertia and unfulfilled legislative promises, leaving black communities in both the US and UK continually disadvantaged. Such conditions underscore the urgent need to address these systematic failures, opening pathways to truly equal societies. 

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