In the current political climate it is important now more than ever to understand the consequences of our actions, especially as people of color. Voting, has been something that has been substantively denied to POC since the beginning of time. Even after the emancipation of the slaves in the South it was nearly impossible for the newly freed black population to exercise their rights, and power, as citizens of the U.S through the use of the Black Codes, intimidation, and other legal and illegal means even after the enactment of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.Â Why has the black vote faced such harsh and unyielding opposition? The answer is simple.
Votes, not necessarily voting, are power
Make no mistake about it. It is the way that citizens of the U.S. voice their opinion through the election of their governments officials. In theory, voting for our elected officials, even with the buffer of the Electoral College, should result in a responsive, representative government.
So where is the utopian society that perfectly reflects all our desires as Americans?
The policies that are implemented are a result of the choices that the elected officials in office make on our behalf. The lack of representation that many of feel is very real. And the problem is simple, people do not equal votes. The solution on the other hand is complex.
We have to vote
This is the part of the article where you can collectively sigh. No we don’t vote enough. But, no one does.Â The highest turnout that the country has had in 2 decades was in ’08 when the Obama-McCain election brought slightly over 30% of the voting age population out to vote. However, black people have a higher stake in the outcome. A lower voter turnout in the general population can become an opportunity for a subgroup to gain a more powerful position in the Nation and ensure that our concerns are addressed with urgency and respect if that subgroup participates at a rate that is greater than the general population’s. In short, if non-minority voters do not largely turnout, minorities can increase their piece of the pie by outperforming the general population. Now more than ever minority groups have an opportunity to be heard over all others by voting at a high rate. We feel like they don’t matter, like it’s just a formality, and there won’t be any like result. That’s sometime true if we just leave it there. Twice as good for half as much? Here it is in all its glory.
Voter’s don’t (always) equal votes
So we do actually go vote. Check. We make sure our friends vote. Check. And we got our (insert candidate here shirts). Check, check, check. Any minute our representative government will come along with all kinds of changes that now represent our nation in its entirety. Nope. Because this operation has been running secret plays since the game started and as people who are late to the game we are facing organizations that have been in place before we even became citizens. We have to work… well let’s not do the calculations.
Insidious legislation is in effect all over the United States as we speak, making it difficult for people who may be poor or sometimes unknowledgeable to make the necessarily preparations adhere to the requirements if able or combat such legislation if not. In this way it is up to people who have learned to navigate suchÂ treacherous waters to lend their skills to those who may not have, so that all people are able to exercise their fundamental right to vote. People use many different tactics to limit the power of underrepresented groups, legally or illegally, and by the numbers they depend on inaction.
Finally, it depends on the individual to speak up and ensure that no individual infringement of the right to vote goes unnoticed. Every state has voter laws that the state must follow and every state has some sort of ethics commission that dictates the code of conduct that campaigns must follow. If you observe policies that even seem to be improper it is important that you let someone know as soon possible so that the proper procedure can be enforced and that behavior can be disallowed in the future. Every vote does count, but no more than everyone else’s. While the imperfections of our political system may be arduous and the amount of effort for compliance may be great the consequences of inaction and complacency are more dire still. It is up to every individual to do their part to ensure that every person is able push this nation in the direction that they feel is best as is their right. The tyranny of those that would silence the disenfranchised cannot be allowed to stand.
Do your part and get out and vote.