Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Black Voting Practices and Possible Implications for America's Future Political State

At Professor Paula Giddings’ lecture on Ida B. Wells, a special statement stood out to me as striking and almost saddening.  As Giddings discussed the brutal communal ritual of lynching and its prevalence in the racist South, she also discussed practices and perceptions of both whites and blacks. One of the practices was voting.  Professor Giddings noted that around ninety percent of blacks went to the polls during the time of Wells’ era—a period where fighting for equality and ending racism, segregation, economic, social, and political struggle was the primary agenda of African Americans.  This is also when African Americans recognized a dire need to express their voice and ensure it was reached to the public by any and all means. 

This adamant past devotion to voting forced me to ponder the current state of black voting affairs.  I knew that current voting habits definitely would not reflect past practices, nevertheless, I still wanted to research exactly how great the disparity is.  After researching several polling sites, I found a consistent trend reavealing that around sixty to sixty five percent of blacks currently vote in Presidential Elections (2008 and 2012).  While I was pleased that this number was not lower, I felt uneasy about the thirty percent decrease in participation since Wells’ period and Jim Crow. 

It appears that dehumanization, segregation, lynchings, oppression, discrimination, and white supremacy is what bred this sense of urgency and necessity among blacks in regard to voting.  Moreover, it is obvious that since blacks have reached a considerable amount of progress (Civil Rights Movement--Voting Rights Act, Civil Rights Act, desegregation, Brown V. Board, etc), citizens do not feel as pressed or concerned about voting.   Many feel no incentive to go to the polls since they have reached a level of complacency and comfort.  I understand that we have made significant social, racial, political, and economic progress as a nation, but I feel that in order to preserve that progress and build upon it, we must continue to do what brought us to that point—share our voice and vote.  It is our constitutionally sanctioned right (that was so persistently and passionately fought for by blacks) and the ultimate means to our end of maintaining a system based on equality, opportunity, and liberty.

Do you think this lack of effort and sense of civic duty could or will eventually translate into a rebirth of some form of slavery?  The extent may not necessarily be to the extreme of the past, but maybe a condensed version where blacks are in opposition to every decision made by those in office could emanate.


  1. To be honest with you, I am surprised that the current black voter participation is as high as it is. I have several theories of why participation has dropped in the black community. I think a lot of blacks have simply forgotten or maybe not be as knowledgeable of the past struggles of blacks earning the right to vote. Since taking African American History this semester, both my eagerness and dedication to vote in every election (whether locally or nationally) has increased. I also think some institutional practices are somewhat responsible for the decline in black voter participation. I attended a seminar this semester that discussed how the Election Day is always on Tuesday, making it more difficult for workers to vote. Lower income voters are less likely to vote because they have to take off work (losing pay), find a voting sight (spending money on transportation), and stand in line to vote for hours (taking away more time they could be at work, making money). For some, voting is a costly expense. I am not by any means justifying those who do not vote. However, I do not believe that everyone who does not vote is ignorant or lazy. My last theory for why black voter participation has decreased is that some blacks do not consider themselves Americans. Some blacks would prefer not to vote and put their trust in the American government, the same government that enslaved, lynched, and segregated them for hundreds of years. To answer your question, I personally do not believe that the decrease of black voter participation will eventually lead to any form of slavery. I do not think the current generation would let it happen. However, I do think it could lead to blacks becoming even more separated from mainstream America. I also think it will lead to less representation of blacks and other minorities in the local and national government. As of now, the black voter participation is decent but I cannot help but wonder how it will be affected at the end of President Barrack Obama’s second presidential term.

  2. Morgan, you make a very interesting point about many blacks feeling they have reached a level of complacency and comfort and thus do not feel pressed about voting. I personally, don’t think this lack of effort and sense of civic duty will ever translate into a rebirth of slavery of some sort. Based on the facts that you have shared here, I do find it to be quite sad that something (voting rights) that was “persistently and passionately fought for by blacks,” as you aptly stated, is now overlooked out of complacency.