Looking back, stepping forward: The black vote legacy

By George Ploss

We African-American people have the great American choice to choose between random white guy blue and random white guy red. Why care to take part in a system that doesn’t care to take part in our lives unless it’s for a negative aspect? Why believe in an evidently corrupt, inequitable system of governing that continues to disenfranchise on one level or another? Whether it is from proportional representation to Katrina, affirmative action to anything, why should we care?

Because we live here.

Every day we get accepted to college, locked up, knocked up, get hired, get fired, buy stuff. We take part in this system whether we know it or not, and those who don’t vote lose a fundamental right to enact peaceful social change in an ever-changing America.

Freedom is an overused word that is thrown around this country to get votes and resonate unilateral sentiment for political agendas. But we are not free unless we exercise our freedoms.

During Civil War Reconstruction, throughout the southern states, African-Americans held offices from congressional seats, to Senate seats, to State Representative seats and so on. But due to domestic terrorism sanctioned by local government, lynching and murders were among numerous scare tactics to disenfranchise black American citizens throughout the South. Our voice became muted through institutional racism, grandfather clauses, Jim Crow, extended slavery, segregation and informal and diluted aspects of our system of government.

In 1870, the 15th Amendment was ratified and granted us the right to vote. However with all the hindrances above, our right to vote wasn’t protected until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which shattered the foundation of southern state disenfranchisement.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, African-Americans average a 30 to 40 percent turnout for presidential general elections. Mid-term election turnout is significantly lower, even though local politics have more of an effect on our everyday lives.

This column is simply a rallying call to get my brothers and sisters involved and actually vote. We’ve faced harsh realities in this country and continue stride but right now our biggest struggle is the struggle not to take our freedom for granted, to exercise them in the process of democracy because the moment we stop believing in it is the moment it fails.

Of course there are problems everyday that actively and overtly attempt to steal our civil right to vote, basic minority access to polls, electronic voting and its looming threat of cyber disenfranchisement, eyeball challenges and the like.

But when have systematic stumps stopped us from progression? A constant theme I recall in this column is to continue our legacy of democratic excellence.

To be a patriot is to criticize and exercise, not patronize. That was my Jesse Jackson moment. One Love.