May 29, 2012 Houston, TX- Today marks the Texas Primary Election and this voting day appears to be just like any other: Experienced, older people of color are flooding the voting booths with the occasional young soul breezing through, to make their voice heard in the world. This is NOT ACCEPTABLE!! Young people of color should do any and everything in their power to vote today!!! Its time that we stop being complaining reactionaries, and become proactive prevention specialists. We cant continue to lay back, "acting" as if things are equal and ok, because we are reminded daily that they aren't. Nor can we continue to walk in voluntary ignorance because we don't care to dig deeper, using surface information, that is "privileged" to us. Now for the rebels out there, I understand that notion that our vote doesn't matter and part of me still feels that way, however, I have no proof that it does or doesn't and counted all joy, find it most logical to vote, because "WHAT IF...?"
During the Civil War Era, well into Civil Rights/Jim Crow Era, people of color fought to vote, fought to be considered as humans, as citizens. In the United States of America, people recognized early on the importance of voting, it meant that their voice mattered. After the Civil War the Constitution was changed to make sure Blacks had the right to vote, yet Whites in the South invented many ways to keep Blacks from voting. Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment, sometimes called the "Great Amendment," to help protect the rights of the freed slaves. It was added to the Constitution in 1868. It stated that all people who were born in the United States, including African-Americans, are considered natural citizens and have the same rights as all other Americans. It also prohibited any state from making or enforcing any laws that took away or hurt an individual’s civil rights. After the Fourteenth Amendment passed, many African-Americans still didn't have all the rights Whites had. Many Whites, especially in the South, continued to treat the Blacks unfairly. Voting was one of the many rights that were stripped from Blacks after the Civil War ended. Many Blacks didn't vote because some Whites didn't want the Blacks to have this power. Voting provided power to change things. These Whites said that Blacks weren't smart enough to vote and wouldn’t know who to vote for. They purposely did not tell the Blacks when or how to vote and did other things so Blacks could not vote. The Fifteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1870 to protect Blacks’ voting rights. It prohibited the national and state governments from refusing citizens the right to vote because of their race, color, or because they were a slave at one time. After the Fifteenth Amendment was passed, a large number of Blacks voted during the late 1860’s through the 1880’s. The African-Americans used their voting rights to gain political power and to protect their rights. Soon, southern states started passing laws to make it harder for Blacks to vote. Some states passed laws that required people to pay a poll tax before voting. Others required people to pass a reading or writing test before voting. Since most Blacks had been slaves their whole lives, they had little money to pay a poll tax and did not know how to read or write. Some people were still trying to take away the civil rights of African Americans. Although many were against the amendments, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments played an important part in the Civil Rights Movement. The amendments declared that Blacks were real people and should be treated as equals and not as property. The amendments also gave Blacks the right to vote, making it possible to change things. (http://library.thinkquest.org/J0112391/the_right_to_vote.htm)
So now that we have had our history lesson, AGAIN, why is it so difficult for our Black Youth to vote? It isn't but connecting the importance of voting with the act of voting seems to be. According to www.DuBoisCentral.com, "In the United States, the right to vote is often taken for granted and for many years, turnout at all but the most highly contested elections has been dismal. Too many Americans forget, however, that the extension of votes to women, African Americans, and (to some degree) poor whites is a relatively recent phenomenon and was won only through concerted struggle. Even today, the struggle to maintain the right to vote is necessary." We are all aware of the recent enforcement of the Voting Act of 1965, and while it hasn't landed in Texas just yet, its coming. When you think about it there is really no need to because young, African American voters (especially those that are most affected) are NOT voting. Many head to polls for national elections (i.e. Presidential Election) but not for the election of local politicians. These are the individuals that make decisions to affect our daily life. The DA is an elected position, that is pushing imprisonment for our people. The judges are elected to the bench, that are sentencing our people. The school boards that have never lived in the areas in which our children are attending school, are elected to those seats and making decisions that drastically limit our teachers and damage our students education.
Yet, we still don't vote. Maybe some of us ignorantly just don't care and are often drawn in Mass Media's attempt to skew the data, hide the facts, and put in its place some politicians opinion about things that only affect a select population. "It's time for black Americans to set and clarify their priorities and act in concert with them. The choices made today will impact not just their own future, but the future of our whole nation," states Star Parker, of CURE (Center for Urban Renewal and Education).
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