Right to Vote
I must warn you that this is my very first time writing and posting a blog. This personal style or type of opinion, I have recently learned is the main form of expression found on many social media platforms and commonly associated with the professional blogger. I’m not afraid to admit, my blog will not be as polished as other blogs typically posted, but I tried to give you the reader, my best effort as a virgin blogger from my point of view. So, here goes…
I decided to change my Political Science civic engagement assignment to voter suppression in the twenty-first century after listening to a brief Suffolk University students group video presentation on the history of voter oppression. Watching this voting rights presentation made me wonder what the difference between ‘voter oppression’ as it was called during the nineteenth century and calling it ‘voter suppression’ the term associated in our political society.
I am considered a ‘Baby Boomer’ voter, someone born between 1946 and 1965. I was born during the 1960’s era of the Civil Rights Movement and remember seeing Black people on television march in protest to be recognized as equal under the law and allowed the right to vote as American citizens. I have painful memories of being discriminated against many times throughout my life. I remember when I was 7 years old, being caught downtown Boston in a racial riot, not understanding why Black people were running through dark streets. I held on tight following my mother, hiding with her behind parked cars, crying so hard that our long ride back home was a complete blur to me. I was too young to understand what Martin Luther King was talking about on television, because conversations about voting, public demonstrations or politics were not major topics I ever heard discussed in my family. I was always aware that Black people were not allowed the same freedom as White people throughout my childhood because it was taught within the homes of the Black community.
In the Suffolk groups presentation, I heard about voter oppression, which is defined as: malicious or unjust treatment of power under the disguise of governmental authority, an injustice towards specific groups of people; although the Thirteenth Amendment passed in 1865 had abolished slavery. White people still found alternate ways of intimidation through the Jim Crow Law after the Civil War to keep Black people oppressed. The passing of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868 gave Black people equal protections under the law, yet it wasn’t until the Fifteenth Amendment which passed in 1870, stated that all people of color were allowed the right to vote.
As the twentieth century began, American politics and racism were heavily intertwined during the 1920’s when the Ku Klux Klan made their presence well known throughout the United States. The Ku Klux Klan’s political influence still hindered Black people from going to the polls through voter suppression, which is defined as: a strategy used to influence the outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing specific groups of people from voting including poll taxes, literacy tests, and black codes. I used to recall hearing many of my older relatives reminiscing how they had to live through segregation, especially how they were expected to interact with White people, yet I can’t even recall hearing any of my older relatives ever talk about politics or mention if they ever voted, even though Black people had earned that right.
My lack of family or community political exposure had taught me to not get involved with American government, politics and especially not to vote. Even friends and coworkers I associated with in my twenties and thirties, never talked about politics, going to vote or saw the need to vote because they believed their votes wouldn’t count. It was also a big community misconception that once a Black person registered to vote, the police would find them if they had any type of legal tickets on file, so again Black people refused to even register to vote. It wasn’t until a young Black politician named Barack Obama running in 2008 Presidential election, I finally decided to register to vote for the first time ever. I hoped that maybe this was the change that Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King had dreamed about, had sacrificed his life for and it was my responsibility as an American citizen to exercise my right to vote, a time to acknowledge that Black people fought throughout the centuries to be recognized as American citizens. I have continued to vote in every election since then, hoping that my vote as a Black American will make a difference in government, whether good or bad politicians are elected.
I strongly believe that after surviving the last four years of daily chaos with the current president, it is time for every qualified American no matter what Race, Creed or Religion to get registered, go to their local polls safely or mail in their ballots, so our country can try to rebuild from the chaos left by the Trump administration. As a Baby Boomer, I don’t go to vote for myself, I cast a vote for change in my children’s future and for the future of their children and especially for the future of our America. With so much political corruption on the rise within our government, racism against minorities has recently been brought back to life by our current president. Politico reports the Trump campaign has embraced white supremacy and called for members of the Klan to go to the polls in order to intimidate minority voters exactly how the Klan did in the 1920’s. Not one single minority adult person over 18 should be afraid or too intimidated to vote, especially not in the twenty-first century, even if voters are experiencing newer political tactics within their communities. Namely voter purging which results in removing resident information from active voter registrations, poll closures that limit available voting sites resulting in longer wait times and restrictive state laws including gerrymandering that allows one political party to alter district votes. With the upcoming 2020 election between President Trump and former Vice President Biden less than two weeks away, I feel certain that this election will be decided on November 3rd without states counting mail-in ballots due to the threat of COVID-19 or the President falsely claiming poll fraud, ask for recount and hope Supreme Court Judges tell him he lost fair and square.
Bump, Phillip. “The long history of Black voter suppression in American politics.”
The Fix, The Washington Post, 02 November 2016.
Jim Crow Laws.” History.com Editors.” Updated: 19, August 2020
Sarachan, Risa. “All In: The Fight for Democracy Examines the History of Voter Suppression
in the United States.” Forbes, 14 September 2020
Smith, Terrence. Timeline: “Voter suppression in the US from the Civil War to Today.”
ABC News, 20 August 2020.
Suffolk Student Groups. “Empowered to Vote: From Oppression to Opportunity.” Join the BSU, Suffolk ACLUM, SuffolkVotes, Suffolk Historical Society, and Service After Hours.
Zoom, 13 October 2020
I really find your recalling of events, having lived through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It’s always great to hear another perspective on issues, and hearing your take on events faced, both in the times of Civil Rights and today, is certainly interesting. The overlying presence of suppression and disenfranchisement of voters is a serious issue that has been prevalent in our nation since it’s very founding. Voter intimidation, misinformation, and sheer suppression are issues that I’ve also tackled as a Suffolk Votes Ambassador this year.
In your recounting of living through the Civil Rights Movement, I can’t help but see parallels between the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s and the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests across our country. Between the overwhelming calls for change, and the unfortunate opposition to it, with protestors being labeled as violent or domestic terrorists, the two stand out to me as very similar. We have come a long way in granting equality for all Americans, but still have a very, very long way to go in fully achieving it.