Reverend Barber: Civil Rights, Voting, and the 2020 Election
For Rev. Barber, the fight to end voter suppression is intimately bound up in the campaign to remake the moral agenda of the United States.
On September 22, in a special event cosponsored by the Latino Research Institute and the School’s Social Work Votes campaign, pastor, author, and social justice advocate Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II delivered a virtual address on poverty, civil rights and voter suppression, and recommended steps for getting out the vote in 2020 among the populations social workers serve.
Among his many affiliations and distinctions, Rev. Barber is president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, and a visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary.
The event was moderated by current CSSW student Sarah Jamgotch and featured opening remarks by Dean Melissa Begg. Filmmaker Gilda Brasch, who made the award-winning documentary short Let My People Vote, made a brief appearance to introduce Rev. Barber. She paid tribute to him as one of her “social justice heroes” and spoke of the impetus behind her current documentary project, Stronger Than the Bullet, which follows three generations of women—in three states—as they fight for voting rights during the 2020 election.
Words from Rev. Barber
On voting and coalition building:
“If we’re serious about this country, and serious about not being in the space we’re in now ever again, and serious about moving forward and having a reconstruction, then poor and low-wealth people, their allies, and their moral leaders are the key. It’s the only place you can expand the vote.”
“When a nation is in trouble, the only way for it to be saved is if the stones the builders have rejected become the cornerstones of a new society…. The rejected have to lead the revival.”
“Before you get to the strategies, you have to first understand what you’re being strategic against.”
“What we are seeing now—the division, the pitting races against each other—was part of a political design to split poor people from each other who ought to be natural allies in building.”
On social work:
“Social workers have to go to work. The reality of the regressive politics we’re seeing is countering everything you try to do. You try to fix something, and the policies tear it down.”
“Social workers are not only called to work on the immediate work. They are called to work on the system that creates your work’s necessity in the first place.”
On health care during COVID:
“We are going to have to face necropolitics [people murdered by policies]—the politics of death. And the necropolitics we see now ought to scare us to life.”