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.