Â “Lest We Never Forget: The Power of theÂ ballot”
Â by Juanita Bratcher
Copyright (c) 2006
Introductions by Illinois Senate President Emil Jones and Former Illinois Appellate Court Justice R. Eugene Pincham. Contributors: Former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris, and Rev. Harold Bailey.
This book is about the electoral process and the importance of voting.
The uphill battle for African-Americans to get the right to vote in the United States of America was not an easy task. At times, civil rights and human rights activists involved in voter registration efforts found themselves victims of circumstance – sometimes facing violent and punitive consequences in their efforts to bring it about. Sacrifices were made, and many bled and died in their quest to open up the ballot box to African Americans. Yet, they courageously kept their eyes on the prize.
African Americans encountered various barriers in their efforts to get the right to vote – hostile law enforcement officials that were indifferent to them having the audacity to pursue their goal of being added to the registration rolls, insulting literacy tests designed to be difficult, to deny them the right to vote, the Grandfather’s clause and poll taxes. Voting was mostly under state control. The U.S. Justice Department established that in many counties the tests were administered unfairly.
When African Americans were denied the right to vote in the United States, they had no political power or political influence. “Negroes” didn’t have the right to vote for anything. They made no decisions as to how government was run, notwithstanding decisions as to whether they would be a free man/woman in this country, and at the time, were recognized as three-fifths of a person. Yet, in this day and time, many African Americans fail to go to the polls to vote on Election Day. It is a sad commentary on those brave and courageous foot soldiers that paved the way to make it happen.
Many Americans – not just Blacks alone – have abandoned the ballot box. But Blacks must realize and they should never forget the history of systemic discrimination and racism in America, which to a certain degree, still exist today in the “land of plenty.” African Americans must remain cognizant of the fact that the right to vote in this country was not handed to them on a shiny silver platter, not even an unshiny one. It was a hard fought, hard won battle to get that right. And some of the faithful warriors, dedicated fighters in their effort to bring it about, were subjected to beatings, threats and intimidation, and sometimes made the ultimate sacrifice in their efforts to secure the rights of Blacks to vote in America. Sadly, today many current day beneficiaries take it for granted, ignoring the fact that there is “power in the ballot,” and that collectively, they can make a “powerful difference” within the electoral process.
Quotes From The Book
“Our hopes and our futures depend on our ballot. We must resoundly reject the deliberate, detrimental, culturalized indoctrination that, “My one vote does not count or matter.” – Former Illinois Appellate Court Justice R. Eugene Pincham
“…We have a duty to teach our children how precious the right to vote is in this country…what an incredible injustice is done when we choose not to participate in the electoral process.” Illinois Senate President Emil Jones
“Because of our past history, we cannot afford to have that two-thirds complacency in the voting process as exists in the other communities. There is no race of people in this country that has been through what we’ve (Blacks) been through. Therefore, we have to be extra vigilant and exceptional to bring the playing field even.” – Former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris
“Why are questions always raised about whether Blacks will go to the polls to vote in any given election year? Why does this inquiry always pertain to Blacks? It is utterly ridiculous and absurd for anyone to think that Blacks will give up on the voting process simply because there have been so many problems with the last two Presidential Elections of 2000 and 2004. If one is not going to vote, it transcends across racial lines, not just one group. Blacks can be just as determined, and just as persistent as anyone else to go to the polls to cast their ballots. So enough said already!” – Juanita Bratcher, Author
“…There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrats Party and the Republican Party – that while their philopsophies may be somewhat different, both parties are run by men whose sole purpose is to maintain the status quo and keep the power within the ranks of their inner-circles. So, it’s not about party it’s about power – who holds the power.”
“No matter the severity of the task to bring about change, no matter the abuse and violence they faced, no matter the racial slurs and hatred they encountered, Blacks refused to take their eyes off the prize: They wanted the right to vote as any other citizen.”
“Today we face a new oppressor – not a fire hose, no dogs, no armed police officers or people pelting us with rocks or worse. This oppressor is one that is much more subtle, but just as effective. This oppressor’s name is apathy.”
“…If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one…” – Carter G. Woodson, in “Mis-education of the Negro”.
Copyright (c) by Juanita Bratcher
All Rights Reserved
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