This week marked yet another debate, and to tell you the truth, we are losing interest as we get closer to Election Day. Why? Because, the closest candidate we had that represents our lives, was Andrew Yang. Hmm. Here’s the thing though. They desperately need Afro-Americans to get out and vote. Earlier this month on February 7th marked the 150th anniversary of the 15th amendment, granting freed slaves the right to vote. “The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal government and each state from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” (Wikipedia)
So, regardless of how we feel about it, we have a duty as Americans no matter our skin-tone and we have an obligation as Blacks to honor a privilege our ancestors never received. Before addressing why voting is very important for Black people, let’s examine why we don’t vote to begin with.
1. The Electoral College
The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. Your State has the same number of electors as it does Members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member in the House of Representatives plus two Senators. (Archives.gov) I mean honestly, the wording itself is enough for Blacks to question the legitimacy of one vote. According to Stacey Abrams, the electoral college is a “classist, racist system whose time has passed and we need to get rid of it.” (The View) It came about in 1787 during the Congressional Convention. A committee formed to work out various details including the mode of election of the president, including final recommendations for the electors, a group of people apportioned among the states in the same numbers as their representatives in Congress but chosen by each state “in such manner as its Legislature may direct”. Vague much? Indeed. This is where it’s a little bit sticky for Blacks living in America during this first election.
The Three-Fifths Compromise was another major decision made during the convention which questioned whether slaves should be allowed to vote and how those votes would count versus Whites. The votes would also reflect the number of seats a given state would be allowed in Congress (House of Representatives) as well as tax breakdowns within the Union overall. James Wilson purposed a resolution that said count three out of every five slaves as people for this purpose. Its effect was to give the Southern states third more seats in Congress and a third more electoral votes than if slaves had been ignored, but fewer than if slaves and free people had been counted equally. (Wikipedia) Yeah, more confusing math equations, that serve to strip Blacks of individual human rights. So in nonmath terms, the Electoral College by design does not represent the accuracy of Black Americans. And it’s all in the history books.
2. Governmental Mistrust
During the early days of Obama’s first campaign, many Blacks spoke out about the very real and deep fear they had. Many proclaimed they weren’t going to aid with what they saw as Obama’s ultimate demise. They’ve killed off tons of our leaders and Obama looked like the biggest target. People refused to vote for him on these terms, they were afraid for him, Michelle, and their Black daughters. Understandable. Fear is a very powerful feeling. This is why politicians use scare tactics to spread disinformation. There’s a clip of now-deceased Senator John McCain talking in one of his campaign rallies where he abruptly pulls the microphone away from a White female senior citizen who stated that she’s afraid of Obama becoming President because he’s an Arab. The lie detector test determined that was a lie. But as we can see moving in fear never sets us on the righteous path forward.
3. Legal Discrimination Is Still Here and Access To Resources Are Still Not
Think about it this way, if the entire system is built to keep us from achieving equity status then why do they need our vote right? Word. Do you remember learning about Brown vs The Board of Ed? Separate and there has never been anything equal about it. For the Black eighteen-year-old and older, we have realized issues that we have not seen addressed. Take a wild guess who leading in polling numbers when it comes to Black voters. Biden has put his career, life, words, and money where his mouth is as far as we are concerned. Maybe seeing is the only way we believe and we saw him ride out with the Obama Administration.
So now that we know why you feel the way you do, let’s talk about why none of it has a bearing on your vote in 2020 and what your vote will represent.
Record Keeping and Record-Setting
Saundra Ardrey, a Western Kentucky University political science professor, who began the Bowling Green-Warren County’s NAACP “Black Votes Matter” program said this “To vote is to exist. If you’re not voting, then you’re not part of the political socio-economic system and you have no participation and you have no input.” There is true power at the ballot box because numbers don’t lie, only news reports do. They cannot continue to count us out when we’ve opted to be counted in. A lot of Black and poor Americans, in general, live in underserved and almost forgotten communities. Those same communities have the power to sway an election more pressingly since there aren’t that many voting trends for the politicians to target. Our generation can set the precedents. You see, they too require the numbers to help them place ad dollars on the right radio stations and tv networks. I also want to note that many of us assume that we are treated the most unfairly and have been for the longest duration when the facts show that Native Americans are worst off than Black Americans. Today, a greater percentage of Native Americans live in poverty than people of any other ethnicity; there are more white people who are living in poverty than any of other race; more than a quarter of blacks and nearly a quarter of Latinx are poor. (CityLab) Voting in local, state, and national elections can drastically change the face of leadership.
Uplifting Social Consciousness
Mind your business. That’s what Black teens hear from family members when they reach that critical thinking age where you no longer solely rely on your family’s point of view. They say that because their job is to keep you safe at all costs. Millennials had it different. Our access to the information highway allowed us to learn and process new information at a speed never before seen. We are the ones who heard Obama’s call for a change we need and we voted for the first time in our lives for a Black President — then he won. Success. Now we’re in our Thirties living through the Trump regime and it’s like huh. That’s because our parents and grandparents haven’t figured it out. Do you know that not voting is still voting?
Political interest is shaped by a person’s economic and cultural resources. The unemployed, for example, vote less, because they are less socially connected. Older, less mobile people in precarious housing vote less because of the architectural barriers preventing them from getting out. And families without access to technology vote less because they receive less information. (Equal Times). Access is a big keyword for Blacks. Remember though, our existence in this society began as a transaction. Access had been granted since Juneteenth but, some institutions operate simultaneously that continue to harm us. The media serves a dual purpose: to inform and to advertise. The latter being a mode of keeping poor people poor, keeping rich people safe, and ignoring everyone else in between. We all have a duty to understand and descry what’s real and what’s propaganda. I find that Twitter is a pretty decent tool when you’re just trying to firstly, not feel like you are alone or marginal in your political thinking, but mostly it’s a place to learn. We have access to all kinds of media, local, national, and international. When there’s an active shooter anywhere across the nation, Twitter reports go live first. Anytime there is a natural disaster, Twitter can help fill in the space between what the news is reporting and what you can watch in real-time. It is also easier to verify the authenticity of what is being shared versus platforms like Facebook, which the Russians target with fake new ads last time around or Instagram which is owned by Facebook.
Taking responsibility for yourself and your community begins at the ballot box. If your life only contains work and leisure then you have tons of time to mobile your community. The thing is that, while being Black in America we understand, that we need leadership. So I’ll ask you, dear reader, are you a leader or a follower?