Saturday, August 7, 2010

White America Got Nothing to Whine About

If you're not aware of the "Obama doesn't care about white people's voting rights" paranoia, google it. Until then, here's why I get incensed about accusations of anti-white voter intimidation:

h/t Dr. Joe Feagin of
from theRoot (which has become in some respects too conservative for my tastes, btw):

Despite the defeat of Jim Crow and the key role African-American voters had in electing the first black U.S. president in 2008, many blacks still face barriers to voting.
By: Cord Jefferson
Posted: August 6, 2010 at 6:47 PM

Despite the defeat of Jim Crow and the key role African-American voters had in electing the first black U.S. president in 2008, many blacks still face barriers to voting.

Nearly half a century after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which was signed into law by President Johnson on August 6, 1965, 96 percent of African-American voters voted for a president who looked like them for the first time in the nation's existence. It was a big victory for blacks -- politically minded or otherwise -- and the days prior to it galvanized them in a way they'd never seen before. (In Georgia, 85 percent more blacks voted in the Democratic primary in 2008 than had in 2004. Sadly, the good news ended there. Because although an unprecedented number of African Americans went to the polls for Obama, it was still just 60 percent of those eligible (compared with just under 62 percent of all voters). Besides that, there are also thousands more blacks who have been disqualified from voting due to simple, nonviolent run-ins with the law. In September 2008, a full 8 million of-age African Americans were still not registered to vote.

It's the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act today, but is there really much to celebrate?

In a post titled "How Do You Disenfranchise 1 in 8 Black Men?" Huffington Post blogger Dan Froomkin shed light on one of the most obvious yet little-discussed ways that blacks are barred from casting votes: criminal disenfranchisement laws. Currently, 10 states -- including Florida, Virginia, Arizona and Kentucky -- permanently disenfranchise at least some convicted felons, and 20 more require criminals to complete prison, parole and probation before being allowed to vote again.

These laws, as you might imagine, have had a disproportionate impact on African Americans:

An estimated 5.3 million Americans, 4 million of whom are out of prison, are denied the right to vote based on their felony convictions. About a third of them are black, including 13 percent of all African-American men. ...

In Virginia, almost 7 percent of the entire voting-age population is disenfranchised because of a past felony conviction, and almost 20 percent of the state's African-American population is locked out of the voting booth.

In Alabama and Florida, almost a third of all black men are permanently disenfranchised, according to Human Rights Watch.

In an attempt to help restore some of these people's voting rights, Democrats introduced HR 3335, the Democracy Restoration Act of 2009, in July of last year. It would allow anyone to vote as soon as they were released from incarceration. It has currently not been passed in either the House or Senate. In the meantime, states with criminal-disenfranchisement laws are working to make them stricter. Mississippi, for example, recently added nearly a dozen crimes to its list of disenfranchising offenses, including timber larceny and shoplifting.

Even for the majority of blacks who don't have criminal records, the road to the polls is a difficult one. According to a 2006 study from the Pew Research Center, regular voting is largely a habit of the affluent and educated, with 37 percent of whites self-identifying as regular voters, compared with only 31 percent of blacks. The study also found that the majority of those who didn't vote said they didn't understand politics; others complained that voting didn't help change anything. In black communities, which frequently struggle with inadequate schools, poverty and a justified mistrust of the government, not voting has become practically a matter of course.

Of course, even blacks who are motivated to vote are regularly impeded by underhanded attempts to mislead them. For five years now, lawmakers have attempted to push through the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act, to no avail. That means it's still not a federal crime to knowingly lie to voters in order to keep them from the polls, even during a federal election. Maryland Senator Ben Cardin spoke to the Deceptive Practices Act's importance in 2007, citing a false flyer that had been handed out in black communities in Milwaukee during the 2004 presidential election: "It states that you can only vote once a year, and if you're found guilty of anything, even a traffic ticket, that you cannot vote in a presidential election. And that if you violate any of these laws, you can get 10 years in prison and your children can be taken away from you." The flyers bore the false name "Milwaukee Black Voters League."

Then there's the story of ACORN, the nonprofit organization that sought to register minority and low-income voters until it was pointedly -- and falsely -- accused of fraud by Andrew Breitbart. Though ACORN was eventually exonerated of accusations that it broke the law, its vindication didn't come in time to wholly repair its reputation. And so another avenue by which blacks became enfranchised went away.

Today, in honor of the Voting Rights Act anniversary, President Barack Obama implored every American "to honor the legacy of the brave men and women who came before us ... by exercising the rights they fought so hard to guarantee." As it stands now, however, nobody's expecting much of a black voter turnout come November. The question is, can you blame us?

Cord Jefferson is a staff writer at The Root. Follow him on Twitter

Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

African American voting rightsblack voting rightsblacks and disenfranchiseblacks and disenfranchisementfelony disenfranchisementPoliticsvoter disenfranchisementVoting Rights Act 45th AnniversaryVRA 45th anniversary


Source URL:

No comments:

Post a Comment

This isn't too complicated. If you disagree with me, I'm more than happy to have an honest discussion. I'm quite open to learning new facts and ideas. I'm dying for a conservative to explain their ideas in a sensible way.

But, I do have rules, and they also apply to those who agree with me. They just get the benefit of my already knowing the fact they'll be referring to.

So, here're the comment thread rules:

1 - Use facts.
2 - Refer to policy.
3 - Don't rely on theories and conjectures. Show me how, for example, a public health insurance option will lead to "rationing" of health care.
4 - No unfounded attacks on any entity.

If you break those rules, I will edit your comment to my own whimsical satisfaction.

Lastly, perhaps most importantly, I'm not going to entertain too much pro-white/racism-denying discussion. I want this to be a space to discuss strategies to fight racism, not space where I have to fight racism. I want anti-racists to be able to come here for a mental respite. If what you're interested in doing is attempting to demonstrate the fallacy of anti-racism by repeating the same ole comments and questions and accusations we hear all the time, please do that somewhere else.

Share This Article

Bookmark and Share

But Don't Jack My Genuis