Is There a Place for Black People in Politics?
The history between Black people and American politics has been a tumultuous one, similar to the relationships Black people have with most American ideologies, all the way back to that “all men were created equal” statement. What good is having the right to vote – what does it mean – when we live in a country that creates policy that disproportionately impacts Black people? What good is the American political institution for Black people if there are so many barriers and cases of non-success in regards to the system working for us - or with us - at the very least?
In seven months the 2016 presidential election will be in full effect when millions of Americans vote for the next person to run our country, but as a Black American I am truly questioning whether or not I will participate. I did cast a vote on March 15, but am I willing to participate in choosing the lesser of two evils in November? We shouldn’t have to, but this is the political reality Black folks face knowing that our vote, while fought for vigorously by candidates, isn’t reflected in policy.
History Repeats Itself
After hundreds of years of Black Americans being barred from the political process through voting, in 1965 the Voting Rights Act was passed and since then in 1970, 1975, and 1982 Section 5 of the Act, that states there will be no use of discriminatory testing or devices that would exclude folks from voting, was extended until 2007 when it was renewed again.
The function of American government is to serve the people, it was created for that purpose specifically, yet the need to renew rights that are as fundamental as voting upholds the centuries-old understanding that not all men were created equally, and the rights of some are subjective to who holds the power. Unsurprisingly, because of who is impacted by these laws, voting legislation is still up for debate. In 2010, some southern states became vocal about their objection to the law written in Section 5 and since then a total of 22 states have implemented some kind of voting restriction (18 of which were passed by republican controlled legislatures) for midterm elections into their state law.
If you haven’t made the connection yet: in the 2008 presidential election, voter turnout for people of color increased significantly; in 2010 when mid-term elections were held, these new voter restrictions that were passed suppressed voters of color through cuts to early voting, voter ID requirements, and registration restrictions.
Lack of Political Advocates
It has been studied that when support in the Black community rises around a policy, the chances of that policy being achieved actually decline; this is regardless of how well represented the Black community is in a given political body. This shouldn’t be surprising when the reality of our policy-making body is 65% white and male. When systems such as the prison industrial complex intertwine policy with socioeconomics and result in the government making money off of the Black community, it would only make sense that bodies of government work in opposition to policies that would benefit this same community.
“My plan is to run for office, sooner rather than later,” said Broderick Dunlap who is a community organizer that most recently worked on raising the minimum wage in California. “People of color are the majority and it is time we act like it.”
Dunlap’s advocacy comes in the form of getting himself into these positions and inspiring our community to do the same. “Without Black people there would be no America. I just feel we need to take what's ours and stop asking for it…Instead of waiting on a politician that hopefully shares our views we need to support a candidate of our own.”
With the election of Barack Obama in 2004 and 2008, and the state of race relations in America, I believe more and more Black people are realizing the importance of not just political education, but involvement as well. And that involvement looks different for everyone.
Dari’Anne Hudson writes about politics on her blog, with the goal of making “politics understandable and entertaining for [her] peers.”. She has seen the engagement between social action and political leadership grow stronger and see’s her role in politics as an informative one.
“The Black community is constantly engaged in finding its political voice,” Dari’Anne shared, “I want to impact that journey by offering information to those who are uninformed. I want to be a catalyst for bringing information and ideas to the table in order to further our community.
Since the inception of American government, this institution that was created to govern and serve its people has intentionally disenfranchised Black people. If this same government states that “all men were created equal” at what point do our political systems – local, state, and federal – support that statement and include Black people in the political process?
The reality of politics for Black people in America is that The Establishment is scared of what could happen when we do have mass political education and understanding and are prepared to use that knowledge. As we prepare for revolution and impactful change to this government, we need folks attacking from all sides, all perspectives, and we need Black folks that want to be catalysts themselves – inspiring and recruiting our community to change the system within their capacity.
Power to the People
How can you make change? I shared some things below that I felt like were good starting points:
Reflect: We need revolutionary thinking; what is revolutionary about your stance or thinking that influence change? What changes need to happen in our political system and what does revolution look like to you?
Act: Join a campaign by campaigning, donating, or subscribing to a candidates email list; Attend a town hall for your city; activate against our current political state at local, state, and federal levels.
Links to read later: What color is your state? Your district? How does this impact your community? https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_municipal_elections,_2016 http://www.270towin.com/2016-senate-election/ http://www.270towin.com/2016-house-election/ http://www.270towin.com/elected-officials/