During the 1960s, African Americans fought diligently for the right to be able to legally vote with many sacrifices being made along the way.
Black people wanted the right to legally vote without the fear of being oppressed or the actuality of being disenfranchised by those who used their power to deny that inalienable right.
History shows us that many people—especially Black people—were forcefully arrested, mercilessly beaten, drenched with water hoses, attacked by vicious dogs, and even brutally murdered to obtain that precious right to legally vote.
If we take a moment to think about every major piece of legislation that has impacted Black people from inception in this nation we will see one common denominator—an elected or appointed official used their legal power to enact laws that impacted their respective constituents.
From this country’s inception to now, there have been elected and appointed officials, abolitionists, activists, lawyers, community leaders, freedom fighters, religious leaders, and many others who have found themselves fighting to ensure there were laws in place that empowered and protected Black people, versus causing harm and disruption.
Many of the laws that have impacted Black people have been passed by elected officials we elect. In other words, regular people who we chose to vote for—or not.
It is baffling when someone chooses not to vote for whatever reason. In all actuality, a non-vote is a vote in favor of whoever wins and against whoever loses, because a non-voter did absolutely nothing to influence the outcome of the election positively or negatively.
It is gut-wrenching and mind-blowing when non-voters utter things like:
“I don’t vote, because they are going to do what they want anyway”
“I’m only one vote”
“My vote doesn’t matter”
Those statements couldn’t be further from the truth.
The only way to ensure those false narratives come to pass, is by refusing to vote altogether. A choice not to vote ensures that whoever runs for a particular elected office, and wins, gets to do whatever they want to do without any accountability or awareness on the non-voters part.
And best believe, whatever decisions get made, they will influence everyone under their jurisdiction and purview, whether we like it or not.
Adults and voting-aged young adults cannot be apathetic when it comes to voting. If adults are not involved in the political process, there is a strong likelihood that their children won’t be either. If voting-aged adults don’t display a desire to choose who represents them and makes important and life-altering decisions on their behalf, then chances are their children won’t either.
For many, there is a sense of despair and discouragement with the political process, which brings about mistrust and a lack of faith in the process, especially as we continue to witness recurring unconscionable acts happening to Black people, day after day.
These recurring attacks on Black people can be extremely taxing and overwhelming and as we see in Washington D.C., even when Blacks are told to vote to put people in office who can bring about change, politics gets in the way, and nothing gets done.
At this very moment, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R.4), the For the People Act (H.R.1) and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R.1280) have all stalled in the U.S. Senate, although the Democrats have control of the House, Senate, and the White House. All three of these bills would directly help Black people relative to voter access, protecting voting rights and ensuring there are modified policing practices and law enforcement accountability.
In the 1960s, the Rev. James Cleveland delivered to the world a very popular gospel song entitled “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired”, which featured the lyrics:
I don’t feel no ways tired
I’ve come too far from where I started from
Nobody told me that the road would be easy
I don’t believe He brought me this far to leave me
The song itself encourages individuals to look past their frustrations and fatigue and focus on God during challenging times and while dealing with difficult circumstances in life, having faith that things will change for the better. For many, it is frustrating to continue voting and demanding change, just to be let down repeatedly.
There must be a level of accountability and proactive leadership that should be consistent from all elected officials across the board relative to how all issues that impact the African American community are investigated and addressed. It is beyond time for changes to be made to ensure the future of this country treats Black people equitably across this nation, relative to laws and justice.
As frustrating as things may seem, Black people can’t give up or ignore their precious right to vote—a right that was fought for by so many. As frustrating as it may be, Black people must remain steadfast and unmovable, always focused on the end goal and to see change come to fruition. Black people must continue to vote and not squander or ignore that precious right.
This is not the time for political apathy or to rely on others to speak for us.
Be sure to vote in every election and let your voice be heard. There are absolutely NO excuses for NOT voting. Our voice is our vote and we should all use it!