By Ashani Williams || Layout Assistant
With the election right around the corner, it is very common to hear our political leaders discuss “the Black vote.” But, what is the Black vote?
It is no secret that our country was built on racism and marginalization, and the right to vote has served as just another opportunity for oppression. As we all know, or I hope as we all do, Black people were not allowed to vote immediately, as we weren’t even considered human by the government. When we finally were given the right to, an egregious amount of voter suppression was created to hinder Black people from voting. This included literacy tests, where Black people were quizzed with absurd questions to be allowed to vote. The tests were given by racist white administrators, who already had the intention of denying them a vote before the assessment even began. The questions were so ridiculously difficult that even poor white people were beginning to get barred from the polls, demonstrating the blatant irrationality of the test, considering that the system was designed for whites to succeed. Once white society came to this realization, the Grandfather Clause was created, which permitted those same poor white folks who would otherwise fail to vote.
I could write pages on pages listing the different forms of voter suppression Black people have endured but, unfortunately, I can’t even say it’s a thing of the past, as it is still seen today with modern-day voter suppression. Whether it be random poll closings or strict photo ID laws, voter suppression continues to destroy our democracy. Unjust prison sentences and mass incarceration plague our nation and, due to the 13th Amendment, prohibit formerly incarcerated individuals to enact their right to vote, too. Our government commits to creating this voting difficulty because they are aware of the power we hold as a people and the impact we can make in the elections. Due to this influence, parties use different angles to influence the Black vote, no matter if the steps or reform they speak of are really just empty promises.
That being said, I will still be voting. I believe that withholding your vote CAN be a form of protest, but that only stands true if you are willing to stop participating in our American society as a whole, start a revolution, and create the government that you seek. Although I believe our current government is actively working against me and others who look like me, I understand I am not able to commit to terminating my participation in our society altogether; so from my options, I will choose the best leader I can, and continue to be an activist while searching for different ways to dismantle the oppressive system.
Withholding your right to vote as a refusal to participate in an unjust system can be a strong political move, but it only works if you choose not to vote as an act of protest. To categorize it as an act of protest, you must have action steps to dismantle the system. If you continue to perpetuate the system but refuse to help change it, you are not protesting it; you are silencing yourself. That being so, I urge you to vote. More importantly, I urge you to care.
Junior Ashani Williams is a layout assistant. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.