On The Morning of the Election (Or, “Your Abstention Will Not Protect You: Voting and Radical Black Feminist Politics”)
By C. Riley Snorton and Mecca Jamilah Sullivan
Today marks the conclusion of the voting period, which will settle numerous electoral decisions, including various seats in the Congress, local and state referenda, and most notably, the Presidential seat. Yesterday, we read a number of eloquent arguments about why some people are choosing to abstain from voting. And while we respect our friends and the decisions they are making, we are troubled by the suggestion that abstention from voting marks a step toward an ethical higher ground. In our view, this is simply not the case.
The Moment of Truth is Near: Election Day Eve
First, one could walk away from watching the coverage of Sandy with the impression that areas such as Harlem and Red Hook in New York were not impacted by the storm and their residents are not in need of assistance. I know they are because I’ve talked with them. Second, it’s interesting how those displaced by Sandy have been referred to as “residents” while those displaced by Katrina were referred to by the Associated Press and other media sources as “refugees.”
To the Youngins Planning Not to Vote
ro-Americans attempting to vote in Alabama
Reflections of a Reformed Non-Voter
I get it. Up until I was in my late thirties, I could’ve given a shit about politics. As far as I was concerned all politicians were corrupt and could give a shit about me so it didn’t matter. I had my own life to live & taking the time to go to a polling place just to cast a useless ballot? I had far more important things to do.
It amazes me now when I think back on how certain I was of my position. Voting was a waste of time because I felt it didn’t make a difference. So I understand. I’ve been your age. But I ask you for a few minutes to suspend this kind thinking and remember that you have not yet been mine. And only if you’re lucky will you get to be. For a few moments, I’m asking you to listen to your elder.
Far be it for me to try and lecture young people on what they should or shouldn’t do with their lives. Anyone who knew me then would agree that the fact that I survived that whole period is a miracle in and of itself. And in one piece, and my soul in tact. No doubt. So I’m not coming from any lofty place of knowledge to bestow upon you.
I just want to share a few observations that changed my view over the years and helped me realize things that actually did matter for my life and, ultimately that of the lives of my children, who fall within the age group I’m speaking to here.
I write this because time taught me that my previous views about voting were only partially informed and I’ll attempt to fill in the holes that I later realized that I missed. First of all, I realized that when I was three years old, my parents couldn’t vote legally. There were all kinds of discriminatory Jim Crow laws designed to keep Black people from voting. Black men and women took their lives in their hands if they dared to go to the polling place. The obvious reason that some folks didn’t want Black people to vote is because they would vote for people who would pass legislation that would benefit them.
When I pondered why there was such an effort to keep certain people from the polling place, I had to concede that, in spite of the evidence that brought me to my indifferent stance, voting must matter. And the fact that I was actually born on this planet while some of these things were still happening was a little jarring for me when my eyes opened. That was just the crack in the veneer of my strongly-held position on voting. Remembering the sacrifices of those who went before me. An interwoven mix of ancestors without whom neither I nor my friends would exist.
When I looked a little deeper at the history of voting rights and the reasons behind all the turmoil, it was clear that, in spite of the obvious gamesmanship that is the body politic, a certain faction was consistent in their efforts to keep the portion of the population that would likely vote against them from voting. Without delving into the pit of political party policies over the centuries, I’ll just say that the group that consistently worked against voting rights for all American citizens often represented the interests of the rich, the White, and the male.
The Women’s Suffrage movement was fought over 100 years before women were allowed the vote in 1920. Pioneers like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Ida B. Wells, just to name a few, spent their lives and died still fighting for the cause for voting & civil rights. The violence inflicted upon citizens merely trying to exercise their democratic right to vote is an alarming reminder of the lengths some will go to in order to control the inalienable rights of others. Why? I had to ask myself, why, if my vote didn’t matter would such powerful forces put so much effort into keeping me from doing it?
The Columbus Free Press is reporting that the Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted allegedly ordered for “experimental software patches” to be installed on vote-counting machines in a number of Ohio counties.
According to the newspaper, voting rights activists are concerned that the software patches, which are usually used to update or change existing software, could potentially affect over 4 million registered voters, including those who live in Columbus and Cleveland.
Ohio law allows for the experimental use of voting equipment as long as it’s restricted to a limited number of precincts, and under the experimental label, equipment can legally be used without certification.
The Free Press revealed the contract between Husted’s office and the contracted vendor Election Systems and Solutions reads that the software has not been and does not need to be reviewed by any testing authority at the state or federal level.
Election Counsel Brandi Laser Seske sent out a memo to Secretary of State personnel yesterday, detailing the software. In the memo, she explains the software did not require review because it is not “involved in the tabulation or casting of ballots … or a modification to a certified system.”
Matt McClellan, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, told theGrio that no patches were installed, describing instead a reporting tool software meant to “assist counties and to help them simplify the process by which they report the results to our system.”
McClellan said the tool serves to cut down on the amount of information precinct workers would have to key in by hand by allowing the results to be output onto a thumbdrive and uploaded at once into the Secretary of State’s system.
The state of Florida has an unfortunate history of disenfranchising voters. We all remember the “hanging chads” of 2000. Less well-known is how Florida wrongly labeled 12,000 eligible voters as felons, 41 percent of whom were African-Americans, and kicked them off the voting rolls that year, which could have very well cost Al Gore the election. Florida attempted another controversial voter purge in 2004, but was forced to scrap the plan after public outcry (history is repeating itself this year). The 2008 election, however, was noticeably smooth in the Sunshine State, producing a surprising victory for Barack Obama.
Following the 2010 election, Florida Republicans concluded that it was a little too easy to vote in the state. “I want the people in the State of Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who is willing to walk 200 miles for that opportunity he’s never had before in his life,” said GOP State Senator Michael Bennett. “This should not be easy.”
Upon taking office in 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott and the Republican legislature drastically changed the state’s election laws by preventing ex-felons from being able to cast a ballot after serving their time, cutting back early voting from fourteen to eight days, and severely restricting voter registration drives.
This is the second in an occasional series on issues of race, identity and politics ahead of Election Day, including a look at the optics of politics.
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) – A tall, caramel-complexioned man marched across the steps of the U.S. Capitol to be sworn into office as a jubilant crowd watched history being made.
The man was an African-American of mixed-race heritage, an eloquent speaker whose election was hailed as a reminder of how far America had come.
But the man who placed his hand on the Bible that winter day in Washington wasn’t Barack Obama. He was Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate.
His election and that of many other African-Americans to public office triggered a white backlash that helped destroy Reconstruction, America’s first attempt to build an interracial democracy in the wake of the Civil War.
To some historians, Revels’ story offers sobering lessons for our time: that this year’s presidential election is about the past as well as the future. These historians say Obama isn’t a post-racial president but a “post-Reconstructionist” leader. They say his presidency has sparked a white backlash with parallels to a brutal period in U.S. history that began with dramatic racial progress.
Some of the biggest controversies of the 2012 contest could have been ripped from the headlines of that late 19th-century era, they say: Debates erupt over voting rights restrictions and racial preferences, a new federal health care act divides the country, an economic crisis sparks a small government movement. And then there’s a vocal minority accusing a national black political leader of not being a “legitimate” U.S. citizen.
All were major issues during Reconstruction, an attempt to bring the former Confederate states back into the national fold and create a new era of racial justice. And many of the same forces that destroyed Reconstruction may be converging again, some scholars and historians say.
.BEFORE AND AFTER THE ELECTIONS:
HONORING OUR HISTORY IN STRUGGLE
Los Angeles Sentinel, 11-01-12, p.A-6
he current presidential campaign and
election have become a crucial battleground and critical time of testing for us as a
people. It is not that this election will mark
an end of history, if President Obama loses,
or be a life-altering experience if he wins. In
any event, there will still be pressing problems of oppression, evil and injustice in the
world, and thus, the urgent and ongoing
need to resist, resolve and end them, and to
build and sustain a movement for the radical
reordering of U.S. society, its priorities and
practices, and the exceptionalist, selfdeceptive and destructive way it conceives
and conducts itself at home and in the world.
Therefore, in assessing the actual
things at stake in this election and the critical role we must play in it, we must do several things. First, we must recognize that
elections have never been and will never be
a cure-all, panacea or path to paradise. They
are always, including this one, a means to
some larger end. The strength of any election is the effective participation of the people, its calling into action an aware, organized and engaged people in pursuit of power over their destiny and daily lives and in
conscious and active concern for the quality
and direction of their lives, the promise of
their future, and the well-being of the world.
Here, it is clear that full Black participation
is not only key to the outcome of this election and to keeping vital gains we’ve made
during the Obama Administration and in
other areas and eras of struggle, but also in
regaining our historical initiative and expansive self-conception as a people.
Second, then, to understand the issues
involved in a useful way, we must, at one
point, separate the meaning of this election,
from the special meaning President Obama
has for the overwhelming majority of us. In
this heightened sense of meaning, he has
become, not simply a President or worldrenown politician, but rather the symbol and
substance of an awesome achievement that
engenders in many a respect bordering on
reverence, usually reserved for the divine
and that makes our people forget they, themselves, made the miracle they credit him
alone with achieving. Thus, he is, in many
quarters, given an unwise and self-defeating
immunity from criticism, questioning and
Such an unreflective posture deprives
him of the necessary and useful support and
push towards the progressive, which he has,
himself, conceded he needs and invited. Also, it relieves us of the ancient African ethical responsibility “to bear witness to truth
and set the scales of justice in their proper
place, especially among those who have no
voice.” And it sets the stage for immobilizing disappointment in loss or failure of the
elected persons to act and achieve in ways
we had hoped or expected. But rightfully
read and engaged, elections are not the beginning or end of our struggle, but one particular and important field in our whole historical struggle for good in the world. Thus,
we must know and honor the whole of our
history and act accordingly.
The election, then, is not simply about
Obama, but about us, about what we stand
for and oppose, about our shared vision and
aspirations for our people, society and the
world. Also, it’s about which candidate, in
an imperfect world, comes closest to this,
even with serious expected and unexpected
flaws and failures to perform. And we know