Power to the people(?)

In America, it is said that the denizens of this country have the power to change how rules and regulations work in due time. The leaders in charge of the government must listen to the people and always have an open mind to the opinions of the people, no matter the ethnic background, sexual orientation, skin color, or gender. That’s what many people would think at first glance. Going deeper into the lifestyle, backgrounds, and beliefs of America, there are a ton of, ah, how do I say, “asterisks in the contract of being an American”. This country may claim to be the land of the free and home of the brave, BUT, think of this: what if the land is only free to roam in its confines and brave enough to “discover” what’s been experimentally tossed into this melting pot of a country by the people in charge. If I were to say that America has equal opportunity to venture beyond its figurative “box”, I’m pretty sure I’d be lying through my teeth. The people are said to have power, but in reality, civil duty is just a front to see what strings can be pulled and what gaps need to be sealed to keep the “peace” in check, and let’s be honest, one of the major deciding factors in this quest for control is the African American population of America.

Black communities are a major wild card in the majority of what happens and doesn’t happen in America and every year, voting shows what “that side” has to say about what is going on. Now due to the overall premise of voting, logistically speaking, it gives citizens a enormous amount of power and their disposal. The black community typically uses its given power to affect vote turn-outs, whether it be for the blatantly good or respectively, the “very-hard-to-acquire taste” policies given to take into consideration. But naturally, there are roadblocks to keep the voices of the people from being heard. Voting restrictions for black people have been in effect ever since the mid to late 1800s. Starting from blatant roadblocks like the grandfather clause (since blacks were just getting out of slavery when their right to vote was given, many voting centers would require potential voters to say whether the grandfather was slave or not. If he wasn’t, with luck, the voter could vote. If he was though… well, so much for civil duty.), to more hidden restrictions today like having to drive out very far to voting centers or having large-scale voter purges (where the validity of a person’s particular ability to vote is challenged or relinquished, voiding their ability to vote). Case-in-point, the 2000 elections where Florida withheld African American votes or ensured they weren’t tallied in the official count-ups. That lead to George Bush winning the sunshine state by 537 ballots. There no way of telling if those votes could have turned the tide or not but it sure as hell would have helped find out if they were tallied.

Having the power of voting blatantly taken away from them leads to many black voters not voting at all. I personally remember hearing my aunt say after she found out that these roadblocks were strategically placed to hinder the voting for people in her community, “What’s the point of voting if I can’t even be assured my opinion is even cared about?” I was 12 at the time so I didn’t fully understand the gravity of the situation but going over what she said now, I feel an overwhelming sense of sadness for her case and my own future if this keeps up. Whenever I think of what if we had not restrictions to our expression of opinion, doubt always hits me, “What if these communities in question don’t really care about who they are voting for?” Typically, black homes do vote for the black candidate in elections and that may not be the right 100% of the time. My home used to be like that, until that fateful election in 2006 when Kwame Kilpatrick was voted as mayor of Detroit for a second term. My mother held him in high regard since he was the first mayor of Detroit to be as young as he was as well as having a damn good resume to boast: a Bachelors from Florida A&M, a Juris doctorate from MSU, and he was a house of representative member for Michigan from 1997-2002 (when he was elected mayor for the first time). Sadly, that didn’t keep the man from getting involved in perjury and obstruction of justice in 2008. After that fiasco, Detroit found itself in chapter 9 bankruptcy and my mother decided to better research the people she voted into office. This brings up another factor, this being the “Uncle Tom” of the black community. The term “Uncle Tom” is typically used to describe the black person (typically male, hence “Uncle Tom”) that is easily persuaded by another person (typically of the white ethnic background) with stronger influence than that person.

How would the people know who is the “Uncle Tom” without doing due research? In the 2008 elections, many African American people thought after voting for former president Obama, that he was one of these types of people; he never responded to criticisms the way they expected and he never was one to talk down upon someone else. In an ironic fashion though, he turned out to be one of the best presidents this country has seen, leading to the relief of many black voters around the US of A.

voting rights

These factors are what leads to the suffrage of the black people of America being on such thin ice. Typically, there are community activisms to help better voice the opinions of black people, but if no one truly cares or won’t make the best decisions with what happens after the protests and public outcries, what’s the point of doing it? If no one thinks to take advantage of policies put in place to help voting be easier for black people, the struggle we are facing currently will only come around and bite us in the ass again. The only way to fight off this discrimination toward our voting, we must show an interest in our civil duty as citizens of America. It won’t solve all the problems black people are facing but it will certainly get the idea across that we have a strong will to fix them.

black-owned

Aside from the overall factor of public activism in civil duty, the black community also faces a deficit when it comes to businesses and stores within these communities. It been observed that since January 2015, black owned businesses have been forced or been given an ultimatum to leave the city. “It’s a clear red flag when you can sit in a hot new downtown restaurant and nine of 10 tables are filled with white diners, a proportion almost exactly opposite of the city’s racial makeup,” Finley of NBC News writes.

One cause of this could possibly be the crime rates of Detroit. Many business owners are afraid or live in constant fear of having their businesses broken into and stolen from. This could lead to the disappearance of many of the black owned business in black neighborhoods. If I had to live in fear of thinking one of my very own complexion would attempt to rob me of my products and or services when we could easily set something up, I would leave too. In 2017 a Meijer’s was built within a 15-minute walk from my house off of Grandriver. So far I haven’t heard any cases of it being robbed or stolen from in a large scale fashion… but this after the last black owned business in my neighborhood left.

Most people argue about bringing them back but a small insightful handful think on creating new ones instead. Its quicker to make a new relationship than to try to regain trust from a source that doesn’t trust you to begin with. In reference to voting, we need to treat it the same way. Rather than not attempting to vote or be sidetracked by roadblocks placed (intentionally or non-intentionally), we should focus on bringing a stronger light to the situation and express the fact that we are NOT afraid to voice our opinions, not as African Americans, but as people who have been given the right to do so by having citizenship in this country.