Black Voters Must Rise up Against Apathy and Arrogance

Bishop T.D. Jakes and the Rev. Jesse Jackson converge at the "Keep the Vote Alive" march celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act in 2005./Reggie Sanders/PRNewswire

By Dennis J. Freeman       

We have been silent for too long. It is now the time to act. African Americans can no longer afford to sit still on their laurels and not vote. This country is at an impasse with so many difficult issues going on around us that all Americans are affected.

However, African Americans are certainly feeling the brunt of these problems. Unemployment rates are still high. The immigration issue has divided the nation. Talks of possible repealing the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (originally implemented to give freed black slaves the right to become naturalized citizens in this country) by conservative lawmakers are garnering national attention.     

Our education system continues to be convoluted by union power, inept educators and uninvolved parents. The national housing crisis has placed many families on the brink of losing their homes. And we are a nation who is at war. Can we afford to sit at home and not head to the election polls on Nov. 2? That would be a resounding and emphatic no. Here’s why:

According to the Economic Policy Institute report released earlier this year, the unemployment rate for African Americans was projected to be at a 25-year high. In the public schools system, black boys continue to flounder at an alarming rate. More than half of black male students went without receiving their high school diploma during the school year of 2005-06, according to the Schott Foundation for Public Education.

 The housing crisis is just as bad, if not worse. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, African Americans (21.6%) are more at risk to losing their homes than any other ethnic group.   

No American citizen should ever miss a time to make an impact on this nation with our ability to vote. For African Americans, though, it is imperative for us to vote. This is what the democratic process is all about.

This is why millions of people have laid down their lives for. From the Civil War through the riotous Jim Crow and Civil Rights era, sacrifices were made by many unmarked names in our country’s history in the name of freedom, justice and equality.

So how dare we have the audacity of being so smug and comfortable in our lives that we cannot get off our lazy duffs and cast our vote when it is time to do so. Somewhere and sometime after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, African Americans have become less visible at the polls even though as a group of people, blacks had their highest vote turnout during the 2008 Presidential election since the U. S. Census Bureau began collecting those numbers in 1996.

Because of this history of disenfranchisement, intimidation, illegal gimmicks being concocted to honor their votes, there are many African Americans who have become leery of the political system, thus causing a tidal wave of non-voters. The presidential election in 2000 is a prime example of disenfranchisement.

Numerous black voters did not have their votes count in the state of Florida, due to faulty election machines and the porous aftermath in which state elected officials and the U. S. Supreme Court handled the matter.

 When you think about intimidation at the polls the thought of southern bigotry immediately comes to mind. During the tumultuous Jim Crow era, African Americans in the South faced relentless tactics of intimidation at the polls to discourage them from voting.

African Americans have been able to overcome dead-on racism and the savages of bigotry to fight for their right to participate in the democratic institution called voting. Today, African Americans are fighting against other dangerous ills for the chance to vote. Apathy has replaced racism. Arrogance has supplanted bigotry as enemies of the black vote.

Being cool has displaced purpose. Civic responsibility has been replaced by political ignorance. We are more concerned today about the celebrity world than we are about the education of our children. Future generations need for us to vote. If we don’t vote, generations will be adversely affected by our ineptitude to make a difference.

History has a way of repeating itself. If we do not get out and vote, whether for this upcoming election or for the next one, the more and more history will come back in full circle. And that is something African Americans cannot afford to let happen.

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