The Legacy of the Black Vote – Who has the real power?
Black people understand the impact that voting has in their lives, no matter how they articulate this experience. The fight to secure the right to vote for Black men and women surpasses attempts to degrade our intelligence and humanity as a people. Black Americans are American, and it is without question whether this community should have a voice in the politics of their country.
It is not surprising that the Black vote is held to a high value in the American electoral system. White politicians spend millions of dollars creating strategies to exploit Black culture and colonize Black minds. They even go as far as to criticizing Black people when their campaigns fail, and their empty promises are exposed. Even still, White America suppresses the reality of Black Americans while uplifting the images and ideas that serve their political and economic agendas.
The “Black Vote” may then appear to be an oxymoron, a contradiction, but it is not. Figure 1 presents the influence that Black voters hold in the success of Democratic candidates. Possessing the most political power in America, Black people, amongst other communities of color, work, go to school, and contribute to the everyday systems in our lives. This is understood by White politicians who use Black political power to their own advantage. When Black people have access to resources that make politics, law and policy accessible, they act to improve their communities. To Black people its is not an issue of potential, we must organize ourselves towards what is truly possible.
“The vote is precious; it is almost sacred…”
John Lewis, U.S Congressman and Civil Rights activist asserts that the vote is a tool that must be used towards our collective liberation, and it cannot act alone to bring the change that we need. Black people have not lost confidence in the power of the Black vote, they have lost confidence in the American government, the justice system and legislators who overlook Black lives. During the election of President Barack Obama and the first Black family, America witnessed increases in Black voter turnout that reminded the country of the power and influence of Black people. This is the symbolic value of voting that creates change in Black communities and inspires Black leaders.
What makes the “Black Vote” so sacred? It reflects Black people, our values, beliefs and relationship to the world. Black people are not a monolith, and Blackness can be expressed and embodied in many ways. To expect Black people to limit their political perspectives is to not allow them to exist fully in their experience.
Black people navigate politics in more ways than we can truly conceptualize – from conversations at home about who is better qualified to represent our needs, to efforts in our communities to organize and distribute resources. It is not enough to chant “people power”, we must embody it.
Who has the real power?
The state and condition of Black people is the true measure of progress in America. A people whose success is so deeply intertwined with the destiny of the nation itself. As we excel to new heights in everything that we do we must always remember that power is not our goal. We employ power, we use it as a tool for our success. Our goal is not to conquer or colonize each other, it is to utilize our individual strengths towards our collective achievement.
Real power lies in one’s ability to have an influence and to empower.
Black people have an influence in America that extends beyond politics, impacting cultures and social institutions abroad. We are the trailblazers and innovators that will make America the country it has the potential to be.
We must use the platform that the “Black Vote” provides us at the table of politics. Even with Black legislators in positions of power, we need structural changes that will hold our institutions accountable. This is not the job of one person or one policy alone. It is a process that will take generations and more sacrifices, and as we benefit from the strides of our ancestors today, we fight for our children tomorrow.
55 years have passed since the Voting Rights Act in 1965, making it illegal for states and local governments to discriminate against African Americans exercising their right to vote. Before this, Black people were persistent at showing up to the polls to make it known that they had a voice and an experience that would not be overlooked.
Today, Black people honor this legacy through our dedication to bettering ourselves, our communities and our country. Our power lies in our ability to use our influence to heal and restore, and on our path, we will create an empowered world.
The San Diego Monitor-News has been serving Black San Diego since 1986