18 Aug


Synergy is two or more things functioning together to produce a result not independently obtainable.

The Suppression of the African-American vote deserves a blog entry all its own. I recently wrote about the general suppression of early voters in Ohio. Such behavior is disgraceful. But, suppression of the African-American vote is truly beyond the pale of thinking Americans.Perhaps no one is thinking. Perhaps the intent is not so deliberately racist as it appears. However, I find it difficult to believe what is happening in Ohio and simultaneously in so many states had not been planned.

General systems theory would remind me of serendipity; perhaps it is simply a “surprising happenstance” that the votes of those groups who so strongly supported Barack Obama in 2008 are being systemically suppressed throughout the country during the 2012 election. 95% of African Americans in the U.S., 97% in Ohio, voted for Barack Obama in 2008. “With population growth and increased voter participation among blacks, Latinos and Asians, members of all three groups cast more votes in 2008 than in 2004. Two million more blacks and 2 million more Latinos reported voting in 2008 than said the same in 2004. Among Asians, 338,000 more votes were reported cast in 2008 than in 2004.”  An even higher turn-out among these groups is expected for the 2012 election.

It is estimated no fewer than 93,000 persons voted on the week-end before the November 2008 election. Since not all county election boards keep a daily tally of voters this number may be far lower than actual votes cast. There is no way to prove the race of voters on that or any other week-end. However, we do know that African-American churches “Souls to the Polls” projects bus hundreds of thousands of African-Americans to early voting after church services on Sundays, including the final Sunday before election day. We do know that getting to the polls, early or on election day is a struggle for single mothers, students, older persons, those relying on public transportation, and those working longer hours for less pay. We have a collective a memory of who was left standing in long lines, who had to leave the lines without voting in 2004; and who formed long lines throughout the interior hallways, and out the door to wrap themselves in a line extending around Veteran’s Memorial and into the parking lot on week-ends in 2008. African-Americans stood witness as far larger percentage of voters in-line than the percentage of African-Americans living in Ohio. For African-Americans, wek-end voting is a necessity, not a convenience.

The recent efforts in Ohio,Pennsylvania and other states to make it more difficult to vote are being justified using the same arguments which were used to deny African-Americans and women the right to vote; which later were used to impose a poll tax or literacy test to deny African-Americans their place at the polls. Now, we face a bigger hurdle. The systemic institutionalization of voting rules meant to turn voting rights into mere privileges as a means of controlling whose vote will get cast,and counted.

We elected an African-American president, while white men thought they could still hold onto power. Putting a woman, Sarah Palin,on the Republican ticket was not enough to overcome the changing demographic. What’s next, a woman president? An African-American woman president? A Latino, Latina or Asian president?

I believe what we are seeing is synergy, not serendipity. Racism coupled with the power held by state Republicans to regulate voting is threatening our elections. On NPR this morning a man was questioned about his opposition to congressional candidate Christie Vilsack. His reason for opposing her, “No way. It’s a man world”. It really isn’t; not any longer. The only way to keep the U.S. “a man’s world” is to suppress the vote of those who would easily and happily live in a multicultural America.

On August 6, 2012 The Honorable John Lewis (D-GA) stated on his facebook page: “47 years ago today, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. It is a shame and a disgrace that today we bear witness to a deliberate and systematic attempt to make it impossible for some among us to vote. It is an affront to those that suffered and struggled, and especially to those who gave their lives so that others would be free to choose their own elected leaders. We must resist every effort to make it harder and more difficult for people to register and vote.” Yesterday, I listened to an interview of Congressman Lewis on CNN where he was asked whether the racist environment during his civil rights days marching with Dr. King for the Civil Rights,where he was set-upon by dogs,hosed,beaten and jailed was worse than what we see and hear today. Congressman Lewis said  (I paraphrase) “It is the same. But then, it was only in the South. Today it is everywhere in the country.”

The struggle for the right of African-Americans to vote continues as we demand the restoration of week-end voting in Ohio, the removal of unobtainable documentation requirements for and end to voter ID in Pennsylvania, and a slew of other burdens and obstacles to voting across the country. If the vote of one person can be denied, the vote of every person can be denied. While it is clear what is being denied to African-American voters we must recognize it could also be denied to every voter, even to those like SoS Husted. He and his party may not always hold power. They should not forget they are simply one of us, as we are all part of the whole. The precedent he is setting treats the right to vote as a privilege to be controlled and doled out according to the whims of those in power. This is dangerous to all Americans.

Once again, African-Americans are on the front-lines defending the constitution we all love, witnesses to the need of those in power to oppress even it means their own self-destruction. We must stand together or we will fall together. As Sen.Robert Kennedy once said,  “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” African-American,white,Latino,Asian,men,women we must stand together against the folly we are witnessing.




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