The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, March 13, 2006

Covenant #6: Claiming our Democracy

Covenant #6: Claiming Our Democracy

This covenant has to do with voter’s rights, voter registration, and disenfranchisement due to unfair and unequal application of the law.

A vicious cycle is suggested by a combination of this and the previous Covenants:

The laws are applied unequally, leading to disproportionate numbers of black men and women being incarcerated.
Poverty and hopelessness lead to crime, leading to disproportionate numbers of black men and women being incarcerated.
Felony convictions can lead to loss of the right to vote.
This leads to underrepresentation on the state and federal level.  Laws to ameliorate #1 and #2 are therefore less likely to be passed.

Historically, black Americans began almost totally separated from the lawmaking and governing processes.  If the Senate has only one black Senator out of 100, who could suggest with a straight face that blacks are being as well served by their government as whites?  If, say, 90% of the Senate was black, would it be unreasonable for Whites to suggest that their needs were undervalued?  To this date, there are credible accusations of votes undercounted in black districts, and intimidation of minority voters by white officials.  Again, if low-level racism is hard-wired into the human brain, one would expect to find nothing else, and only scrupulous consciousness on both sides will solve this situation.
The individual can do a lot here.  Register to vote, and make certain to actually vote in elections.
Teack children about the importance of voting by teaching them of the men and women who died to earn blacks that right.

Support all legislation to promote and ensure civil rights for all.

MOST OF ALL:  Hold all leaders and elected officials responsible and demand that they change current policy.

The Federal Voting Rights act will expire in a few years.  It was used to force local and state governments, controlled by whites, to cease discriminatory practices toward non-white voters.  Anyone who thinks that “prejudice is dead” will think such a law is unneeded now.  As you know by now, I believe prejudice cannot die, but awareness can keep it in place.

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