Monday, October 6, 2008
Vote: Your Ancestors Paid For It (No Matter Your Race)
There are still a few days to register to vote in a number of states.
And some of us still haven't.
I don't have to lay the issues out there for you. You need only to go to your window, drive through your neighborhood, look at your pay stub, or consider your debt ratio. If that doesn't move you, call a relative.
As a last resort, you could turn on your television - or check the pic below.
No matter where a person stands on the issues, every vote this year is a critical one.
And unless you are solely descended from very wealthy Brits from the "right side" of the kingdom circa 1620 or so, there was a time in this country when some or all of your people couldn't vote.
-- The first Americans held down this continent for thousands of years before the establishment of the United States. But colonies and later the country habitually established and broke treaties with various tribes and pushed them ever-further off desirable land. It was 1924 before Indigenous Americans were ever given a say in the governing of the country that had taken the liberty of dismantling their civilizations and determining their very existence.
Since so many of us swear we have "Indian in our family" I could actually stop here. But a few more points ought to be made.
-- If you're African American - male or female- your ancestors' right to the franchise has never been a given.
Laying the infrastructure of the nation, and providing the forced labor that built it's banking system, it's trade relations, and it's very wealth clearly didn't guarantee the ballot to enslaved Africans in America.
Even when black men gained the vote after Emancipation in 1869 it was swiped away in the next 2 decades, and remained unattainable - particularly for black women, until 1965. The lynch rope, shotguns, and bogus laws ensured that.
And without community vigilance and action, odious collectives across the country - including Republican forces fearing Democratic votes - continue to perpetrate a fraud against black voters.
One need look no further than the voter challenge actions allegedly being geared up for this November in states like Michigan.
States like Ohio and Florida continue to be hotbeds for disenfranchisement of black voters.
-- White males were still seeking universal (white) manhood suffrage in the 1830s. Only the wealthiest landowners had been able to vote before it was finally secured
--White Male Immigrants from places like Ireland, Italy, and Germany were also barred from the polls in various locations. Quakers, Catholics, and ethnic and religious Jews each suffered the same fate at one time or another.
--White women, regardless of citizenship, didn't cast ballots until 1920.
--Even If your ancestors chose to immigrate in recent decades, your community's voice has likely been silenced by voter disenfranchisement or exclusion at one time or another.
--And undocumented residents from around the world don't have the right to vote in this pivotal election. Regardless of what America's varying views on undocumented residents may be, our policies impact their lives and the fate of their families. For many, citizenship may never be a reality, even as their labor helps to ensure the American dream - or at least convenience and low prices - for the rest of us.
But history shows us that citizenship has never been a safeguard against disenfranchisement.
Thieves of justice have set up barriers to full participation and citizenship for hundreds of years, all in the attempt to harness America's power and wealth to serve a privileged minority while enslaving or disempowering - on various levels - the vast majority of people.
We can point the finger in any direction we'd like, but we all help to uphold such a system - even as we ourselves are overlooked and dismissed by our political infrastructure and elected officials.
Many of us contribute to the madness every time we seek to exclude or support the exclusion of tax-paying American citizens from the freedoms and rights guaranteed by citizenship simply because they are of color, gay, working-poor or disabled.
By doing nothing, and by creating a system of acquiescence where we don't care, don't pay attention, and don't vote - we undermine our rights. We step on the dream of having a country that actually works for all of it's citizens.
Certain interests are hoping Americans continue to do that. Thus far, many of us are falling right in line.
Right now, someone's coming up with another inane television competition show based on the premise that Americans will put more energy into voting for a fly-by-night or has-been singer, dancer, spoon-player or nose-picker than they will into voting for the President, governors, and congresspeople who will determine the fate of the nation we live in.
If we allow that to happen - if we continue to allow that to happen - then nearly every American dishonors the flesh, blood and sacrifices of their ancestors, recent and distant, who have paid for our right to be here.
Don't go out like that.
ACLU Voting Rights Timeline
Rock the Vote
Vote for Change
Questions about Voter Challenges?
Voting Rights Resources
And a little celebrity levity to lighten the post: