The right of Black people to vote has been opposed since the passing of 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1870, which granted Blacks access to the ballot.
It declared that “citizens couldn’t be denied the right to vote by state or federal governments based on race, color or previous condition of servitude.” However, the 15th Amendment didn’t include women. That was the 19th amendment, passed in 1920.
Even with the passing of the 15th and 19th Amendments, some states used violence and intimidation tactics to restrict the ability of Blacks to vote. In 1940, some states in the south passed Jim Crow laws such as literacy tests and poll taxes to prevent Black people from voting.
It is now 2018 and these pernicious tactics to suppress the Black vote continues. In an Oct. 20 Washington Post article, “Democracy Dies in Darkness, Georgia’s voter suppression problem goes much deeper than Kemp,” Georgia’s secretary of state, campaigning to be governor, is accused of placing restrictions on 53,000 voter registrations, of which 70 percent of those are African-Americans.
However, Black people tell me they refuse to vote because they don’t believe their vote will make a difference. They believe that at the end of the day, disparities in housing, healthcare, employment, income, the criminal injustice system, racism and white supremacy will continue unabated. It’s difficult to find a sufficient response to them for their refusal to vote because in fact, gaping disparities continue to exist in America no matter what political party has been in power. With this reality, it is difficult not to be pessimistic about voting.
I find it interesting that while some Black people refuse to vote because they don’t believe their vote matters, yet at the same time, throughout history racist white people have gone out of their way and have spared no expense to prevent Black people from voting because they (racist white people) believe the Black vote matters.
I submit to you that if it were not for the Black electorate we wouldn’t have the freedoms we enjoy today. We still have a long way to go in order to eliminate wide disparities but we must use various strategies to take our power and bring about change.
There is an outside push and an inside push, which go hand in hand. The push from outside is led by the grassroots masses of Black people (mostly young) that demonstrate, shut down freeways, occupy police precincts and who can forget the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott.
The push from inside is led by the Black electorate who believe it is their responsibility to vote in order to change or enact laws that impact Black people.
I want to focus on the potential of the Black electorate because the 2018 midterm elections are upon us. Remember, racist people use everything at their disposal to keep Black people from voting because they believe the Black vote matters.
The potential of the Black electorate is prescribed by the degree to which we use our voting power to change our present reality.
Black people must be engaged and actively participate in every decision that affects us at all levels of decision making. No decisions should me made about us, without us. Remember, don’t be wedded to any political party, Black people must know for whom we are voting and why, Black people must hold accountable the people we elect and the most powerful person in public policy is not the elected official but the active citizen.
S0, vote Nov. 6 (or before) because they believe your vote matters.