Credit: Becky McCray/Flickr Creative Commons

Restoring Voting Rights To Felons In Virginia Is A "Form Of Reparations"

April 25, 2016

Last Friday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order restoring the voting rights of over 200,000 convicted felons who had finished serving their jail time.

"I see it as a form of reparations, I really do," said Reverend Irene Monroe, a syndicated religious columnist.

"We know how our judicial system disproportionately put men of colors behind bars a lot of times before DNA was able to be discerned as a way of stating if a person was guilty or not," she continued.

The state of Virginia banned felons from voting during the Civil War, and then—during the Jim Crow era—instituted further restrictions on suffrage like a poll tax and literary test as a means of preventing African Americans from participating in the political process. 

Monroe said that if Virginia was willing to come to terms with its past, so too might other Southern states with similar laws on the books.

"In Virginia in all states, that's almost like a coup," Monroe said. "If the state of Virginia can do it, we can just about to it everywhere."

Reverend Emmett Price agreed, lauding the decision as important recognition of the systemic barriers between African Americans and enfranchisement.

"It's an extremely bold move," said Price. "Not because of the voting opportunities and not because these are felons, but somebody is willing to go back in history and correct some of the culture of white supremacy at the time."

Irene Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist. Emmett Price is a professor of music at Northeastern University. To hear more from the Reverends, tune in to Boston Public Radio above.


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