One of the main hallmarks of the American experiment is called “democracy.” Democracy is defined as a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives. Basically, this translates as “government by the people.” American democracy has been a challenged institution, with those eligible to participate having changed over the years. Once upon a time it was limited to male landowners. African-American men were granted the right to vote by the 15th Amendment to the constitution in 1870. Women gained the vote in 1921.
There have been a lot of measures enacted to prevent and/or discourage Black people from voting. After a significant Civil Rights struggle, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson and was purposed to overcome legal barriers to voting that prevented African Americans from exercising their voting rights. This right is so profound and effective that enemies of the Black community have done as much as possible to keep them from the polls.
Today, that fight is ramping up with the Republicans enacting ridiculous measures to control the outcome of elections in targeted states. One of the most egregious is legislation that was recently passed in the state of Georgia. Included in this legislation is more rigid voter identification requirements for absentee balloting; expanding the Legislature’s power over elections, limiting drop boxes, restricting who can use provisional ballots, making it a crime to offer food or water to voters waiting in lines, and more. These attacks on voting rights directly impact African Americans to a disproportionate extent.
There is also a deep antipathy evident against African Americans in other areas of American life. For example, one of the most blatant attacks occurred on May 25, 2020. This is when an officer kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine (9) minutes in Minneapolis, MN. People from around the world watched as Floyd’s life ebbed away while bystanders pleaded with police to stop. This act ultimately resulted in a worldwide backlash that triggered a new social justice movement that is still alive today. It also flushed out a white supremacist movement that had been gaining traction and reached an apex during the administration of the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump. There is apparently a whole army of white supremacists who have been arming themselves and who are apparently anxious to use their coveted military hardware.
These are, therefore, very dangerous times for minorities, and especially for Black people, in America. The police, whose jobs are to allegedly serve and protect the population, are seen as open enemies of Black people. According to a CBS News article written by Li Cohen, police in the U.S. killed 164 Black people in the first eight months of 2020! Police are still killing Black men and women at disproportionate rates. Black people have had to do education sessions teaching their children how to behave in the presence of police, who will often stop them while they are driving for no apparent reason other than harassment. This is a terrible situation with the Black community left with dubious protection at best.
It is safe to say that the Black community is under siege from a segment of the white population that seems to be egging us on into a civil war, and apparently a significant number of American law enforcement personnel are white supremacist collaborators, which makes the attainment of real justice a great challenge. There is light at the end of the tunnel, though, and it lies in the number of African Americans who demand justice, coupled with their allies of other races who are wedded more to social justice than to racist policies. This alliance can make a difference.
Interestingly, the officer who murdered George Floyd, Derek Chauvin, is currently facing charges and started court proceedings on Monday, March 29. The outcome of his trial will go a long way in determining the direction that social justice, or lack thereof, will take in America. Black America has an opportunity to influence these outcomes because it has been demonstrated that our collective voice bears positive results. This is what we must not forget in our struggle for equity in the face of age-old American oppression. A Luta Continua.