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Black Voter Participation - Eating An Elephant
9/10/2014 4:15:12 PM

By Barney Blakeney

Let the games begin. Candidates for public offices are going into the home stretch of the campaign season and the madness heightens. Voters will go to the polls Nov. 4 for what is being called midterm elections. That term itself is demonstrative of the madness that is modern elections.

Just because the United States doesn’t elect a president in odd number election years what makes them mid-term elections? During odd- number election years voters elect everybody from governors to local dogcatchers. Speaking of dogcatchers, state representatives are elected to two-year terms in odd number election years. Every election is vitally important.

I’m disappointed that after Black folks were given the right/privilege to vote with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 our leadership didn’t focus on the need to educate the new Black electorate about the importance and role of consistent voting in the political process. Instead, the past 60 years Black leaders have told us it’s important that we register to vote. Evenso, less than half the eligible Black voters take that initial first step to participating in the process.

The history of voting in the United States is a sordid one. From the very beginning Black folks were left out of the process. Apparently our nation’s founding fathers didn’t consider Black folks human. They asserted that all men are endowed with certain inalienable rights such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but those rights were not extended to their Black slaves.

Even after the Civil War decided that Black folks would become citizens of this country, we still were denied our right to vote. We won it with our freedom then Jim Crow took it away. It took another 100 years before the inalienable right of Black folks to participate in the election process would be honored. During that 100 years Black folks paid more than time. No one knows how many Black folks were lynched, shot, drowned murdered, beat up, maimed or humiliated in the effort to prevent Blacks from participating in the election process. No one bothered to, or could, keep count. I’ll bet every Black family, whether they know it or not, has had some member brutalized or murdered relative to Black participation in the voting process.

Who was the writer who wrote about life being a crystal stair? Participation in voting has been no crystal stair for Black folks either. That’s why I grimace at Black folks who callously fail to exercise that right.

During a recent election, I asked one of my neighbors if he was going to vote that morning. The fool said he’d passed the polling place on his way to buy a beer and saw that the line was too long. He returned to his porch, sat down with a cigarette and drank the beer instead of standing in the line. That guy died recently. He didn’t have healthcare insurance so when he contracted AIDS, he couldn’t get the best medical attention. Like millions of Black folks, he didn’t know that his participation in the election process might serve to elect political representatives who would insure government provides the best care available to citizens regardless of their ability to pay.

Oh yeah, that’s why I started writing this piece. I’ve been seeing two S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley political ads - one in which she talks about saving some eighth grade girl from suicide and the other about getting some Black welfare recipient on a job. I have never seen so much bullcrap in my life! The ads look fake! They just exude bullcrap.

I’ve rarely seen anyone so obviously disingenuous. But that’s who the electorate in South Carolina chose as their governor. Nikki Haley should be the poster child for Black voter participation. White voters should be paying attention as well. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t no Vince Sheheen fan either. The brother has a lot more to show me than just being the lesser of two evils. I think my dog Queenie could do as good a job as either of them. That’s why we need to be careful about who we elect dogcatcher.

Like many Americans I think our political system is broken, not hopelessly, but severely broken. The system is broken because Americans fiddled away as Rome burned. Scoundrels and scallywags usurped the system for their own benefit, and because some of us got a little sumpin’ sumpin out of the deals, the rest of us went to sleep.

It took 200 years to pull the wool over white folks’ eyes, but only 60 years to sucker Black folks, the new kids to the game. Capturing the ideals the nation’s founding fathers set forth is a big order, but you eat an elephant one bite at a time. Black folks know what exclusion from the political process means. We see the results of that exclusion in our daily lives. I suggest we start our elephant dinner with the Nov. 4 elections and continue the meal every election afterwards.

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