Colin Powell Talks Race, March on Washington and Voter ID

Colin Powell says President Obama needs to step up race discussion.

By Brentin Mock Aug 26, 2013

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was on "Face the Nation" yesterday, and just as he did last week in North Carolina, he read the Republican Party on their recent questionable policy decisions. Asked by news host Bob Schieffer what he thought of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, Powell curiously said he "could see why" they arrived at their ruling, but his bigger issue was with voter ID laws. Said Powell:

The concern I have now is many states are putting in place procedures and new legislation that in some ways makes it a little bit harder to vote. You need a photo ID. Well, you didn’t need a photo ID for decades before, so is it really necessary now?

Powell’s query mirrored a similar statement from Al Sharpton at Saturday’s "Realize the Dream" rally where Sharpton said, "We didn’t need ID to vote for John F. Kennedy. We didn’t need it to vote for Lyndon B. Johnson. … But suddenly we need it after we voted for Barack Obama."

Powell talked about the original March on Washington 50 years ago, an event he wasn’t aware of at the time because he was in Vietnam as a soldier. He didn’t learn about the march until later that year when he returned from the war. It was then that he realized it was "time for us to understand that segregation and Jim Crow-ism, and these awful laws are not just a burden for African-Americans, they are a burden for all Americans," he told Schieffer. 

Speaking on race relations and the Trayvon Martin case, Powell said that it was appropriate for President Barack Obama to address it and that he’d "like to see [Obama] be more passionate about race questions." Schieffer asked Powell if Obama should be doing more on race as the first African-American president. Said Powell:

I think he should speak out on these issues, not just because he’s the first black president but because he is the president of the United States. And this is a problem that affects all of America, not just black Americans. It is something that is still a residual effect of our history, the racism that existed by law, segregation, slavery, and I think we’re slowly, surely moving away from this.

Watch the rest of Powell’s discussion on race and the Republican Party: