On August 28, 1963, Dr. King delivered his well-known “I Have a Dream” speech declaring, “We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote, and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
And, here we are nearly six decades later still fighting for the right to vote, even though a voting rights act was passed more than 50 years ago. Voter suppression is alive and well in America. From poll watchers to post office slowdowns, from long lines to long wait times, from broken voting machines to strict ID requirements, from Russian interference to voter apathy. And, unfortunately, too often stereotypical statements are made suggesting that African Americans are just not interested in voting.
As Rashawn Ray and Mark Whitlock write in their 2019 article, Setting the Record Straight on Black Voter Turnout, “Black people not wanting to vote simply isn’t empirically true relative to other racial groups. We must take into account the ways that Blacks are systematically denied the ability to vote. With the rolling back of the Voting Rights Act, we are seeing from North Carolina to Texas and the upper Midwest the ways that Black voters are targeted. So, before we chastise Black people, can we address voter disenfranchisement and gerrymandering and set the record straight on voter turnout?”
Frances “Toni” Draper, AFRO CEO and Publisher
Nearly 60 percent of African Americans voted in 2016 and even more in 2012. But the question is how many African Americans still are not registered to vote? How many are eligible to register, but for one reason or another believe that they do not have the right to vote. How many are still being denied their constitutional right to cast their ballot?
All elections are important, but the upcoming presidential election is critical. The current occupant of the White House claims to have done more for the Black community than any president besides Lincoln. Really? “This may be the president’s most audacious claim ever,” Michael Fauntroy, a professor of political science at Howard University, told the New York Times. “Not only has he not done more than anybody else, he’s done close to the least.” It is hard to fathom how anyone can vote for a person who consistently denigrates Black people and women, who falsely claimed that, if it had not been for him, no one would know about Juneteenth and who recently retweeted a video of a supporter shouting “white power.”
However, it is not enough to complain about number 45; it is not enough to abhor his outlandish fabrications; it is not enough to doubt his sanity and competency or to complain about his racist and sexist comments. We must vote. We must encourage our friends and family members to vote. We must advocate for and promote voter registration. We must help people get to the polls or mail in their ballots. And, we must continue to hold our elected officials accountable after the votes are cast and counted.
As the AFRO celebrates the 128th year of its founding this week, we also are celebrating the selection of Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as Joe Biden’s vice presidential running mate. When elected, Sen. Harris – an extraordinary legislator, prosecutor and fearless champion for justice will become the first Black vice president in the United States. “My mom and dad, like so many other immigrants, came to this country for an education,” she recently said. “Mom from India. Dad from Jamaica. And the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s brought them together. That spirit of activism is why my mom, Shyamala, would always tell my sister and me, Don’t just sit around and complain about things. Do something.”
Let’s make sure we ‘do something’… Vote!
Frances “Toni” Draper
AFRO CEO and Publisher