By Dennis J. Freeman
Suppression of voting rights is nothing new for black folks. The black community has had to battle their way to equal rights under the law, including the right to vote, for centuries. Three years after the first black man in this country’s history was elected president, efforts to silence the black voice at the polls, has come full circle.
This time it is more quietly disguised in the form of the racist Tea Party movement, proposed legislation and voter registration and identification attacks. The 2012 presidential election will be pivotal. Not only will that election impact the direction of this nation, it will also serve as a marker to where the country is going in terms of voting rights and race relations.
Right now, voting rights and opportunities to block individual’s rights to vote freely and fairly are being targeted for extermination, according to a panel gathered at the NAACP’s Annual Convention in Los Angeles.
The black vote, which helped usher in President Barack Obama into the Oval Office in 2008, is under attack. A group of experts, civic participation leaders and think tank observers told a packed room at the NAACP’s Annual Convention that serious efforts are being strategized to offset the black vote in 2012.
Cracking and packing, bill proposals introducing new voter registration laws, blocking ex-felons from the polls are all part of a master plan to suppress the black vote in next year’s presidential election, leaders said.
Among those participating in the three-hour panel discussion were Judith A. Browne-Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and David Bositis, representing the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Representatives on the panel all shared different viewpoints on solutions to the voter suppression efforts being spread across the country.
But they all shared a common ground in that all the panelists agreed that the spearheaded efforts to being made in response to President Obama’s election is pointed in the direction of suffocating the black vote. Rev. William Barber, who didn’t serve on the panel, but gave the audience a short introduction to what the black community is facing, in terms of voting rights, worked the crowd into a frenzy with his fiery rhetoric.
“It is our calling on our watch to protect the right to vote and sacrifice the potential of our vote like only the NAACP has,” Barber said as he opened the panel discussion. “Today is not a one-time filler on the program. This plenary must reproduce that core in every great leader, in every state possible, in every church.
“This plenary must be our potential for Pentecost, where we have come for inspiration and we are filled with a fresh spirit. We come for inspiration. We come for affirmation, so that we can go north, south, east and west and engage in implementation of this get-out-to-vote effort that will make our forefather’s sacrificed worthy of the sacrifice. We will never retreat when it comes to our rights and we will never, ever, ever go back.”
In recent months, the NAACP has had to face a number of unprecedented legal battles when it comes to the right of voters, including beating back a case that claimed the New Black Panther Party intimidated white voters in one instance and fighting the state of Alabama to protect the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in another.
Bositis said redistricting won’t have the impact that many think it will if voters actually come out to the polls on Election Day.
“Is redistricting going to be ugly? Yes, it is,” Bositis said. “Redistricting won’t matter if people of color turn out to vote. What happened in 2010, people of color were situated in the right place to make a difference, but they did not turn out to vote.
“The dominant thing that is going to matter between now and 2012, things can be overcome. Voter ID laws can be overcome. After they redistrict laws in ways to disadvantage minority voters can be overcome. But bodies showing up at the polls and forcing their way and casting their vote-that won’t be overcome.”
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, MLB, racial and social justice, civil rights, and HBCUs. Dennis earned a journalism degree from “The Mecca” aka Howard University. “I write on what I am passionate about.”