Others are not so sure
The Black community has approached this year’s election from several perspectives divided mainly by age and/or political perspective. But one of the more striking things about this year’s presidential election is not just the usual sense of duty owed to elders who as the saying goes fought and died for the right of Black folks to vote but a sense of desperation. There have been calls to vote as if your life depended on it.”
There is truth behind the moralizing and brow beating that some Blacks engage in to get others of the race to vote. Blacks were deprived of the franchise for much of their time in the U.S. During slavery most free Blacks were not allowed to vote. After the Civil War and the subsequent end of slavery the 15th Amendment gave Blacks who became citizens with the passage of the 14th Amendment the right to vote.
However, after the period of Reconstruction ended Blacks in the South were slowly disenfranchised, primarily by White intimidation and terror and voter restrictions.
“The adoption of poll taxes and literacy tests and grandfather clauses certainly stopped the exercise of the right to vote amongst the formerly enslaved. So as an example, in Alabama, in 1890, there were 140,000 Black men who were registered to vote. But in 1906, only 46 Black persons were registered to vote in the state.” Explained Gilda R. Daniels, associate professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and litigation director of the Advancement Projects national office.
Passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act opened doors for many Blacks to vote for the first time. By the end of the decade 1969 over sixty percent of Blacks were registered to vote.
“The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have,” said John Lewis. Based on this history and the failures of the current administration the elders are justified in encouraging people to get out and vote to change things.
According to the Washington Post, this year’s mobilization is on track to rival 2008, when historic levels of Black turnout helped propel Obama to the White House.
“Trump has presided over a sweeping U.S. government retreat from the front lines of civil rights, which advocates say has endangered decades of progress against voter suppression, housing discrimination and police misconduct,” wrote Amy Gardner of the Washington Post. Yet there is no evidence anecdotal or otherwise to support the idea that the government democratic or republican has been on the front lines in the fight against discrimination in U.S. society.
Consistent with this perspective is the view of many Black youths under 30 who appear to be less sold on the benefits of voting. In a poll conducted by The Conversation, 31% of Black Americans under 30 say they probably won’t vote in this election. According to The Conversation, unlike their older counterparts, only half of Blacks under 30 view the Democrats as any better than the Republicans on addressing the needs of the Black community.
Cathy Cohen, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago who studies Black youths’ political views, summed up this attitude in a recent podcast: “They’ve seen the election of Black mayors, they’ve seen the election of the first Black president, and they’ve also seen that their lives have not changed. According to a survey conducted by The Conversation about half of our Black survey respondents under 30 say they don’t often vote because it “doesn’t make a difference.”
“Far too many eggs are placed in the voting basket. The point is if you are going to vote we should be doing so based on ideas that benefit our class. While the current administration is racist and anti- working class, the Democratic Party candidates don’t offer a solution to the problems we have, in fact, they don’t even pretend to. There are 365 days of the year what are you doing the other 364 to advance our struggles,” said Brian Taylor long-time activist for Black and workers’ rights who has organized against police violence in Cinnicinattii.
“They say Black people died for the right to vote but that is not exactly true. Black people died for a lot of things but the main goal has always been freedom. The vote is only a means to an end and if you are being given a choice of being shot in the head or stabbed in the back it makes little difference at the end of the day. That’s no choice at all. We say the most important vote we can make in 2020 is to vote with our feet in the streets and keep the protests going,” said anti-police violence activist Brock Satter of Boston MASS Action Police Brutality.
So when people are saying that you must vote it should be kept in mind that there are a variety of viewpoints on the issue. Voting for many is just a beginning a means to an end but not end itself.