January 20, 2022

Cori Bush Op Ed: “They tell us slow up; we tell them catch up”

As seen in the St. Louis American Opinions in response to the U.S. Senate’s failure to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.

On Monday, we honored the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was not a celebration; it was an acknowledgement of the work that Black history makers in St. Louis have done and continue to do to advance his vision for racial justice. Above all else, it was a reminder of how much work we have left to do.

In the last year alone, Republicans filed more than 440 bills in 49 states, including in Missouri, to chip away at our voting rights, impose harsher voter ID requirements, limit the number of drop boxes for mail-in ballots, and make it easier for people to be purged from voter rolls.

The intention and consequence of these bills is to suppress, subvert, and disenfranchise Black voters. For Republicans, the prospect of building Black political power in our country is so dangerous they have used every tool at their disposal to systemically deny Black voters from exercising our most fundamental right. 

The U.S. Senate is attempting to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. Democrats are leading yet another effort to safeguard our democracy. But even in the face of history repeating itself, and Black folks yet again losing access to the ballot, every congressional Republican and two Democratic Senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, refuse to act. In the face of the ignorance and cruelty of these Senators, let us remember the words of Dr. King’s 1957 “Give Us the Ballot” address.

“We call for a liberalism from the North, which will be thoroughly committed to the ideal of racial justice and will not be deterred by the propaganda and subtle words of those who say, ‘Slow up for a while; you’re pushing too fast.’”

Manchin and Sinema are telling us to slow up, while our communities can’t take time off to vote without being scrutinized by employers because Election Day is not a national holiday.

They’re telling us to slow up, while communities like St. Louis with a majority of Black voters still face disproportionately long wait times at the polls.

They’re telling us to slow up, while Black folks in this country continue to show up to the ballot box only to find our names purged from the voter roll.

They’re telling us to slow up, while Black political power in our country is being gerrymandered away through surgically drawn maps that slice up our communities and rob us of our voices.

They’re telling us to slow up, while they deny us our voting rights in favor of the Jim Crow era filibuster.

Let’s make plain what the filibuster really is. It is an arbitrary Senate rule that is a relic of Jim Crow. For 100 years, this arbitrary rule has been wielded against our community to stall civil rights legislation.

So, for us, it’s simple. When exceptions to the filibuster are made to raise the debt limit and to push through Trump’s Supreme Court nominees, we refuse to believe that you can’t make the exception so that Black and brown folks, folks with disabilities, folks with criminal records, and so many more of us can have our right to vote protected. 

Still to this day, they tell us to slow up while our children live in poverty. 

Slow up, while parents can’t afford childcare to be able to go to work. 

Slow up, while underpaid teachers spend their own money to provide students with the basic needs our government fails to provide. 

But while they say slow up, we say catch up because we feel that fierce urgency Dr. King spoke of.

Catch up, because we are not going to stop pushing to secure our right to vote, no matter how many times they deny us.

Catch up, because if we do not defend this right to vote, Republicans will keep working to block the teaching of truth about American history in our schools. Let’s be clear, Black history is American history.

Catch up because we need to end redlining, need reparations, and need universal healthcare. We still need to end police brutality, end our incarceration crisis, amend the 13th amendment, and end modern day slavery through the criminal justice system.

We still need to eliminate the racial and gender wealth gaps, end to environmental injustice, and create safe housing for every single member of our community who is unhoused or housing insecure. 

When they say slow up, we say catch up.

While we push them to catch up, St. Louis will not let up. We came here to Congress to save lives, and that’s what we’re going to do.


Congresswoman Cori Bush sits on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, serves as the Progressive Caucus Deputy Whip, and proudly represents St. Louis as a politivist in the halls of the United States Congress.

Source: Congresswoman Cori Bush, Missouri's First District