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Think Independently About Candidates
10/29/2015 2:41:26 PM

By Barney Blakeney

This is the last opportunity I’ll have to share my thoughts about the upcoming November 3 municipal elections in this space. For the past few weeks candidates have asked who I endorse for the various offices being elected.

First, I’m just a writer. I can’t speak for this publication or any other, so any endorsement I’d make would be personal. And while I have personal favorites, I won’t share them publicly. I’ve done that in private conversation.

Secondly, I don’t think endorsements should carry a lot of influence in and of themselves. People and organizations make endorsements for different reasons, usually their own. Individual’s or organization’s reasons for supporting a candidate may not be the reasons you should support that candidate.

I don’t take a lot of stock in endorsements. Like everything else, they have their place. But I think one always should consider the source. I get real suspicious about endorsements from preachers or politicians - one’s too trusting, the other can’t be trusted.

Ever since I registered to vote back in the late 1960s at age 18, voting has been a treasured privilege. I registered for the draft because I was forced to by law. I registered to vote because I thought it was a right of passage.

I grew up listening to my parents talk about politics as the family sat around our old wood burning stove. I grew up thinking voting was a responsibility enjoyed by grown people. Registering and voting was affirmation of my coming into adulthood.

I also learned to think independently as I sat around that old stove listening to my parents talk about everything from walking to school in the snow and carrying their lunches in buckets to how money always seemed to flow when a Republican was in the White House.

I heard my daddy say that once when I was small. I didn’t know what the heck he was talking about, but there was no television and it was too early to go to bed so I hung on every word coming out of his mouth - understood or not.

Later I learned that Black folks of my daddy’s era, the early 20th century, predominantly voted Republican. Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, freed the slaves.

Newly freed slaves and the generation that followed them overwhelmingly voted Republican. Democrats in South Carolina violently forced Black Republicans elected during Reconstruction out of office. Decades later, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal helped sway Blacks to the Democratic Party.

Sitting at my father’s knee, hearing his stories and watching the Kennedy/Nixon presidential campaign unfold, I found politics a confusing subject. What I realized in short order, was if I wanted to understand politics, I’d have to learn about it myself. My father had grown up in a different world from the one in which I was growing up. As the kids say now days, “They flipped the script.”

Growing up in the late 1960s, the Black Power and Civil Rights movements were the substance of my political nurturing. Those influences reinforced the notion that I have to think independently. So as we go to the polls next week that’s the endorsement I want to share.

I realize not everybody has had the opportunity to learn about the candidates as I have, often voters depend on others to share their knowledge of a candidate so they can make an informed decision. But you can’t depend on someone else to give you the information you need. Most often they will give you the information they want you to have.

We still have folks out here taking money to provide false information, or carefully structured information, to voters they may influence.

In the absence of certifiable information, I always say look at what a man has done to gauge what he will do.

I read Charlene Crowell’s editorial column on banking redlining in the October 21 edition of The Chronicle and asked myself where were all the folks asking for my votes as well as those encouraging me to vote for them, as lending institutions across the country and right here in our community discriminated against minority borrowers.

Jesse Jackson in the same edition noted that 51 percent of Blacks age 17-20 who graduated or dropped out of high school are unemployed and that poverty in the Black community reaches beyond the individual into their neighborhoods, schools, grocery stores, healthcare providers and more.

When a Black voter looks around at his environment, does he or she really need someone else to tell he or she for whom to vote? It’s easier to figure for whom not to vote.

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