What Young Black Activists Need To Know About Voting.
(ThyBlackMan.com) I just read a truly disturbing article on why some young black activists have decided not to vote in any more presidential elections. I cannot stress enough that these are not your garden variety social and political dropouts, these are activists declaring that they will not vote in presidential elections. I don’t know how widespread this sentiment is, but if it was strong enough to prompt an article, it is strong enough to be cause for alarm.
One of those interviewed, Koya Graham said she wouldn’t vote because of disillusionment with Obama’s failure to do much for the black community. She emphasized the unarmed black men who have been killed by police and pointed to the limitations of the presidency to do anything about it. She is focusing on organizing and empowering on the grassroots level in lieu of voting.
Another interviewee, Kelton Latson, reported that he only votes in
local elections, “mainly because that right-there, first-hand affects you the most.“
Others reported similar disillusionment regarding presidential elections.
While I admire the fire and dedication these young people display in their fight for justice and equality, as an elder, it is my obligation to point out the flaws in their position. I love these young people and hope this criticism is accepted in the spirit in which it is given.
Ms. Graham says she voted for Obama because he ran on a platform of change and she didn’t see any. She believes the lack of change is the result of the limitations of the office of presidency. To a certain extent, she is correct. The president is limited in what he can do to promote change, justice and equality. But Obama ran as a Progressive and turned out to be a moderate Republican.
True, he undid much of the damage done by his predecessor. But black people have not fared well during his administration. Although I defended Obama vociferously throughout his first term, as the campaign for a second term began, there were signs that he might not have been the shining prince we thought he was. As the second term advanced, it became clear that he was not. When I have suggested that perhaps Obama as not what we thought he was, I have been screamed down by hysterical black folks who assumed I was unaware of the racism he had encountered. In their eyes, any criticism of Obama was blasphemous. The lesson to be learned here is that abstinence from voting is not the answer. The answer is that no politician should ever received carte blanche and they must be held accountable.
Kelton Latson’s assertion that local elections are more important than presidential ones is absolutely correct. But local vs. national elections is not an either or proposition. An historical perspective is crucial to understanding how much presidential elections do matter. African Americans don’t vote just to affect positive change. We also vote to fight off the endless negative forces in this country. The fact of the matter is that we have had more significant negative actions from presidents than positive. Andrew Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, and Ronald Reagan are just a few of the racist presidents who have had profound effects on the state of Black America.
We are faced with the very real possibility of another, racist, narcissistic, intellectually challenged demagogue becoming president. Nobody would love to have a true two party system for electing officials than me. Unfortunately, ever since the GOP welcomed the racist Democrats
into their party in the 1960’s that has not been the case.
Our young activists cannot be disenchanted because one election did not yield the results they wanted. This isn’t a sprint, this is a marathon. Young people need to be idealistic and feel that they can change the world. But they also need to avail themselves of the wisdom of their elders (in itself an African concept) and understand that the struggle did not begin with them. Elders like me weren’t born elders. We had the same fire they have, when we fought against segregation, lynchings and apartheid in South Africa.
I can remember when I said there were no differences between Democrats and Republicans and was brought back to reality by one of my elders. No president is going to undo the corrupt system that is the United States. But there is a world of difference within the confines of challenging some of the status quo and making things worse. The Black Lives Matter
movement does not exist in a vacuum. It is a political, cultural, historical and economic issue. The battle in which our young activists are engaged is the same battle that has been going on since black folks have been in America and it will continue long after they are gone. It is a battle that must be fought on every level.
While many members of my generation as confused as anyone else, I still hope that these young activists can find suitable mentors, or at least advisors, to help deepen their understanding of the war we are in. It is as much a war of ideas as it is anything else.
Staff Writer; William Griggs