Our Chance At True Equality Is Slipping Away

Equality Is Always Fleeting For Black Voters. An essay on Black Americans pursuit of fairness and equality.

Our Chance At True Equality Is Slipping Away
Photo by Sides Imagery from Pexels

The Problem

Let’s face it. America never intended on Africans and then African Americans going from chattel to human beings to full-citizens with rights. Every system we are operating in was creating with this in mind. America has made a very slow walk towards equality. Every Constitutional Amendment America created until the founders created the thirteenth one was for White people to control Africans, African Americans and Indians.

On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the first of two executive orders declaring the freedom of all slaves in any state of the Confederate USA. He had to create a separate order on January 1, 1863 to name specific states because the South refused to obey the law. It’s a constant theme throughout America history. The South has been, and still is, the cruelest geographical part of the nation.

The Thirteenth Amendment, ratified on December 6, 1865 stating “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

The United States ratified the Citizenship Rights Amendment in 1868 to politically control who had rights as citizens after they freed slaves. The government had to address rights because Whites refused to acknowledge the rights and privileges of freed slaves and African Americans as citizens born here in the states.

Blacks people specifically did not have the right to vote until the Fifteenth Amendment made it illegal for Whites to bar citizens from voting because of their race. Black men were given the right to vote in 1870, meaning White people only had the right to vote until then.

The Democratic Party created White primaries denying African American voters the right to vote in the South. Politics has always been for Whites and not Blacks. Our politics has always been about controlling Black people, which is why attempting to exercise our rights has been so frustrating, especially to voters voting post-Civil Rights Era. Whites have practiced, and still practice, all sorts of discriminatory practices exclude us from the process and take away our right to vote.

After that, America came up with Jim Crow laws which were enforced between 1870s and 1965. Jim Crow laws were new codes for descendants of slaves, specifically in Southern and border states. These laws were specifically created to control Black people for engaging in politics, because that gave us power. American politics has always been about governing and controlling Black bodies. The fact America needed to continue to create legislation to protect and give rights to Black citizens says to me America couldn’t trust White Americans in states to do the right thing.

States used Jim Crow to prevent Black people from voting until the Civil Rights Era in the late 50s early 60s gave us the right to vote. That was only fifty-five short years ago.

Many Blacks feel the right to vote and equality aren’t important to Whites because it means sharing power. They don’t understand our history. They don’t get our frustration. They clearly can’t sense our dissatisfaction. It’s unfair and unreasonable to ask someone to continue waiting for their time, their freedom, or America’s promises. It’s not right. Throwing up your hands and shrugging your shoulders and throwing up your hands.

I have questions for White people. If it were you allies and friends, what would you do?

Could you imagine after 400 years being told to wait more your time to exercise your right to choose your own governance in a system which has been unfair and inequitable to you? Could you imagine someone being dismissive of your frustration for 155 years and counting? Could you imagine being Black or American Indian, looking at the two party-system and not really seeing any difference between the two? Wouldn’t you be angry if you were purged from voter rolls every election cycle?

What if you had your voter registration revoked because White men with old Civil War rebellious spirits felt as though the only way they could win is to cheat your kind out of their votes? How would you feel if your polling place was filled with the meanest, nastiest old White people your local voter registration office could find? Would you like it if your polling place was moved so you couldn’t get to it? How would you feel year, after year, after year, the only people allowed to lead you, police you, or create policy and legislation were people of color, with a token White person for diversity?

How would you feel if you were told continually if you don’t choose the way Blacks see fit, your alternative would be something bad, as if something unpleasant isn’t already your plight?

It’s extremely frustrating when White people don’t think from these perspectives. When White people disregard our words, it shows your insensitivity; and it shows your thought-processes lack consideration and empathy. Your lack of historical context when discussing “us” is disrespectful. We Blacks realize the political world revolves around you, but you don’t have to smear it in our faces.

As long as Whites think with a “Whites only” mindset seeing America through White lenses, we will never achieve equality or equity, our systems and institutions will never change, and our politics will continue to be a mechanism to control Black bodies instead a vehicle to make things fair for all people.

How long is too long to wait allies and those considering allyship? When will the wait for Black voters seeking justice, equality, and equity be over?

We are restless, and we don’t see White voters making efforts to address our petitions. It’s hard to develop trust when Black voters have been shown year after year White voters don’t care about our welfare. When White voters think of politics in terms of winning and losing, we all lose. Equality means we all will have gains, and sometimes, we all will have loses, but we continue on.

We are a team and we can only win when we get on one accord and become teammates.

Winning and losing are both very temporary things. Having done one or the other, you move ahead. Gloating over a victory or sulking over a loss is a good way to stand still.
Chuck Knox

Relishing over wins, groveling over losses, and standing still remembering the past gets us nowhere.

The Solution

The ball is in your White allies and those interested in equality. The ball is always in your court. Forget about intersectionality for a moment because in America, intersecting always come after our racial identities. Allies and friends must put away dated, racial hierarchies, and pick up family egalitarianism mindsets. Whites cannot learn about inequality and then not transfer their knowledge to family members and close friends in their proximity.

America’s White citizenry must understand how they vote tells Black and Native Americans whether they believe all people are equal and worthy of equal rights and opportunities. You can’t say with your mouth we’re equal, they go behind the current and vote like a racist White person. Allies and believers in equality, you are responsible for learning how your vote hurts Black voters, voters of color, and poor people.

Since Whites are in control of equality, we expect them to be a part of the solution. We shouldn’t have to keep fighting with you to do the right thing. Pretending inequity and racial discrimination isn’t happening must stop and being paralyzed and afraid to do the right thing must end. So must the greed, selfishness, and entitlement. As long Whites turn a blind-eye to how our political systems have worked against Black voters, there will be no changes in our national pursuit of equity.

America can’t legislate equality and equity because America can’t legislate White hearts or minds. If we could achieve equality and equity via legislation, we would have done it in 1865. The only thing that will change White hearts and minds are White people understanding we all do better when we all do better. Sharing this lesson with other White people, especially White children keeps the progress spreading. When we know better, we should do better.

As it stands, all equality efforts are up to Whites. We’ve never been in control of our freedom or our rights, and there is no need to pretend just 55 years after the civil rights act was signed we are now. If you want to earn our trust, show us you recognize how inequality harms us, make our politics, institution and systems work for everyone. Seeing political representation differently is imperative.

White ways, White faces, and White power isn’t always the best alternative. A proximity to Whiteness should not be the thing that drives White voters to candidates of color (i.e. Obama had a White mother and White grandparents from Kansas).

Using qualifications only to select the best person to help us achieve equality using resumes, experiences, and past track records are best practices. A lily White track record (and Whites should be professionals at identifying those) is not a sign of equality for all. Achieving equality means picking the right people, at the right time, to get the job done.

Instead of blindly or emotionally deciding about equality candidates, ask Black people how they feel about them first and why. They’ll tell you if they believe a candidate is serious about equality. White people can learn a lot from getting outside counsel.

After all, they are going to be the beneficiary of your generosity or a loser because of the selfishness of White privilege. White people aren’t always the best ones to gauge whether candidates have track records of working towards equality and equity for Blacks, Native Americans, people of color because of their upbringing and biases. There are always blind spots when you’ve lived a life of privilege.

White people must learn to see beyond Whiteness in order for America to become the nation we say we are on paper. Some of their power must be relinquished, and they must give some seats up at the table because they don’t all belong to Whites. This is how we move America forward.

I found a quote by Chuck Knox that was inspiring to me as I thought about what America could be as if we aggressively pursued equality like we warred. He said, “Winning and losing are both very temporary things. Having done one or the other, you move ahead. Gloating over a victory or sulking over a loss is a good way to stand still.”

Freedom is temporary if we don’t keep fighting for it. Equality is fleeting if we stand around gloating over what we’ve achieved. The fight must continue. We’ll never achieve the America we are on paper if we continue gloating over segregated team wins or sulking segregated over losses. We must move.

America cannot and Black Americans will not stand still any longer to pacify White people. Winning and losing are both very temporary things. Gloating over a victory or sulking over a loss is a good way to stand still.

Let’s not stand still. Equality is slipping away.

2019 Marley K. All rights reserved.