The Crusader Newspaper Group

Don’t disgrace those who paid the ultimate price for your right to vote

By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader

There is no nobility in nonchalance. Since when did it become cool to become detached from moral, social and civic responsibility?

How dare you even hint that you might have to sit this one out because you don’t like any of the candidates in November’s presidential election? And who do you think you are to conclude that because neither candidate is perfect, your lethargy is validated.

You would be like that person who goes to church on Sunday but refuses to stomp a foot, who would sit on their hands rather than clap, who would feel above a demonstrative response to the Word of God, but then go away from church criticizing the pastors, the choir and the ushers.

Just like you should’ve brought your faith and worship with you before stepping foot into the sanctuary, so should you place your duty as a citizen ahead of any petty intellectual conveniences manufactured to justify nonchalance.

News flash: Life isn’t perfect. But it’s the only life you’ll have on this earth and it wreaks of ingratitude to your Creator to go about from day to day like you really couldn’t care less.

Just like a teacher is still obligated to the most uncooperative student; doctors must treat every patient with the same degree of urgency; and law enforcement professionals are sworn to serve and protect, no matter their disdain for any population – so are you committed. You have to be registered to vote and encourage others.

You have to be informed and make choice. It’s unacceptable for you to constantly plant seeds of contempt for the system, then abdicate your single most critical role in a democracy.

Extreme conservatives pretend to wear the Constitution as a tattoo on their backs. The favorite, of course, is the 2nd Amendment. But with gerrymandering to disengage people of color, ridiculous voter ID laws, limited voting hours, obscured polling places and election day shenanigans, there’s no love for the 15th Amendment:

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the U.S. or by any state on account of race, color or previous condition.”

Those who foolishly decide to voluntarily drop out of the process unwittingly accommodate some of the worst elements of our society as well as desecrate the legacy of those whose blood, sweat and tears fertilized the grounds on which voting rights blossomed.

Never forget that the struggle for full citizenship isn’t just a Black thing.

For America’s women, securing the right to vote was a long, hard-fought struggle. Their peaceful protests were met with jail time, ridicule, and social exile. In jail, women were often tortured, beaten and forced to live in inhumane conditions. Finally, the 19th Amendment cleared the path to the polls for American women.

Victories have been the result of struggles. As you contemplate distancing yourself from the political process, and taking a pass on voting in November, at least be aware of some of those who paid the price:

Rev. George Lee of Belzoni, MS was one of the first Blacks registered to vote in his county and used his pulpit and printing press to urge others. White officials offered Lee protection on the condition that he end his efforts, but Lee refused and was murdered.

Lamar Smith of Brookhaven, MS was shot dead on the courthouse lawn by a white man in broad daylight while dozens of people watched after leading a drive to organize African American voters. The killer, by the way, was never indicted but no witnesses would talk.

Herbert Lee of Liberty, MS worked to register voters in Liberty, Mississippi before he was shot and killed by a white state legislator who claimed self-defense and was never arrested. The only witness, a black man named Louis Allen, was slain later.

Medgar Evans directed voter registration efforts and headed the NAACP before he was ambushed, shot and killed exiting his car on the driveway of his Jackson, Mississippi house while his wife and children just inside the house were startled by the tragic shotgun blasts.

The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL was a center for organizing civil rights and voting registration initiatives until a bomb exploded there September 15, 1963 killing four precious children – Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley.

Inspired by television reports of the brutal attacks on marchers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Viola Gregg Liuzzo, a white Detroit housewife and mother, was shot and killed using her car to help ferry participants in a voting rights demonstration from Montgomery to Selma.

Jonathon Myrick Daniels, a white Episcopal Seminary student from Boston came to help with Black voter registration in Lowndes County Alabama. He was arrested during a demonstration, jailed in Hayneville, AL, suddenly released and shot dead by a deputy sheriff.

The list of those who made the ultimate sacrifice is endless. All they would ask of you in return is to get involved, get informed, encourage others, vote responsibly and hold elected officials accountable. Is that too much to ask?

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].

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