Ever since Africans were transported in shackles to this country 396 years ago on August 20, 1619, they have been victims of the American/European race war. And the police lynchings last month of Freddie Gray in Maryland and Walter Scott in South Carolina are just a few of thousands of examples irrefutably proving that Blacks are still victims of that war. So what should the victims and their loved ones do about it? Malcolm X answered that perfectly in 1964 when he said it’s “either the ballot or the bullet.” The ballot is essential in politics, which is defined as “war without bloodshed.” The bullet is essential in war, which is defined as “politics with bloodshed.” The failure of Blacks to use the ballot during elections is just as traitorous — regardless of intent — as the failure of soldiers to use the bullet during military attacks.
When America was founded in 1776, it happened only after the Founding Fathers first peacefully attempted to get the ballot in the British Parliament for the purpose of bringing an end to “taxation without representation.” But when those peaceful attempts failed, the American patriots had to choose whether to peacefully continue being oppressed or to violently stop being oppressed. They chose the latter. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The relentless scorching hell of slavery, convict leasing, sharecropping, Jim Crow, systemic de facto discrimination, and serial killings by racist police departments (consisting of white “slave master” puppeteers and their “Black overseer” puppets) are much worse than the mere uncomfortable heat of “taxation without representation.” Does that mean Blacks should take up arms to stop being murdered on the streets by cops and to stop being enslaved (i.e., unjustly jailed) by judges in the courts? Of course not. Well, as Gil Scott-Heron once said, “At least not yet.” That’s because, tactically, it would be suicidal since the police and white folks (in conjunction with their Black co-signers) currently have the amount and types of weaponry that would obliterate Blacks in a wholesale armed conflict. And both morally as well as ethically (which is not to be confused with “legally” since yesterday’s slavery and today’s unpunished police murders of Blacks, along with today’s prison industrial complex, are perfect illustrations of American legality), it wouldn’t be justified because legislative and judicial remedies appear or seem to be available in the opinion of surprisingly many Blacks. Therefore, the only choice is voting — but not just voting. The fundamental component of voting is voicing, which means to consistently pressure politicians to do the right thing after they’re elected.
Numerous respected Black progressives and revolutionaries meritoriously argue that most politicians are corrupt, inept, or sell-outs. And those arguing that are correct. But they must vote despite that. Why? Because politics is the only game in town, even though it’s like a card game in which all the players are cheating. And that town is Philly, is Pennsylvania, is America. And the proceeds of that game are food, clothing, shelter, hospitals, jobs, schools, libraries, transportation, roads, and other resources politically dispensed — or not dispensed — to certain people.
Think about it this way: Regardless of your decision to not vote, there are still going to be judges, councilpersons, mayors, state representatives, state senators, governors, federal representatives, federal senators, and a president. Accordingly, shouldn’t you decide to vote so you can play some role in determining who gets elected to the positions that will dictate whether Black constituents finally get the political, economic, and social goods and services they have deserved for so long? And don’t tell me you’re not voting because you’re not a Democrat or a Republican. You don’t have to be. You can vote as an Independent, Libertarian, Pacifist, Socialist, Communist, Green Party member, Constitution Party member, or even a Marijuana Party member (no kidding). You can even select yourself or anyone else as a write-in candidate, dammit. However, if you don’t vote, you literally don’t count. But you do betray your ancestors and their descendants.
There are many reasons, including these three, why Blacks must vote. The first is that Black ancestors didn’t merely die in the battle for voting rights. Instead, they were actually murdered in that battle. Among those ancestors are, for example, 63-year-old farmer and WWI veteran Lamar Smith. While Mr. Smith was helping other Blacks fill out absentee ballots, he was shot to death on Aug. 13, 1955 by one of three white men on the Lincoln County courthouse lawn in Brookhaven, Miss. in broad daylight in front of dozens of white witnesses, including the sheriff. But not one person came forward, and an all-white grand jury refused to indict anyone, including the man who had Smith’s blood all over his clothing. Blacks must vote because of Mr. White and tens of thousands of other ancestors who were murdered, beaten, water-hosed, tear-gassed, bitten by police dogs, jailed, fired from jobs, and evicted from homes in the voting rights battle.
The second reason is that potential jurors are called for duty as a result of being on registered voter lists and on licensed motor vehicle driver lists. In order to increase the likelihood of being called for jury duty and therefore serving on a jury- so you can provide justice to the Freddie Grays, Walter Scotts, Phillip Whites, Michael Browns, Eric Garners, Trayvon Martins, Oscar Grants, Sean Bells, Amadou Diallos, Tanisha Andersons, Yvette Smiths, Mariam Careys, Shelly Freys, and Darnisha Harrises all across the country — Blacks must vote.
The third reason is that the primary and indispensable rule of warfare is to find out what your enemy doesn’t want you to do and then you do that very thing. If your enemy doesn’t want you to attack by air, then you send your air force. If your enemy doesn’t want you to attack by sea, then you send your navy. If your enemy doesn’t want you to attack by land, then you send your army. Racists in America did not and do not want Blacks to vote. That’s precisely why they must.
The ultimate law of the land, i.e., the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified in 1788, did not permit Blacks to vote. In fact, Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 defined Blacks as “3/5” non-citizen entities with no rights. And the highest court of the land, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the 1857 Dred Scott decision, ruled that Blacks “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” (As an aside, it must be noted that the Dred Scott decree has never been directly overturned by the Supreme Court. Never.) It took the Fifteenth Amendment of 1870 to give African Americans the theoretical right to vote. But that right meant nothing until enforcement legislation was passed in the Voting Rights Act (VRA) nearly 100 years later in 1965.
And even that didn’t mean a whole lot because, despite being reauthorized about every 25 years as the act requires (with the most recent reauthorization having taken place 2007), there always have been racist political attempts to void or gut it. As a matter of fact, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 declared part of the VRA unconstitutional in the Shelby County v. Holder case. And it took a lawsuit right here in Pennsylvania by the ACLU to block Republican Governor Tom Corbett just last year from imposing a proposed “Voter ID” law that was designed to place impediments primarily in the path of Black voters.
Such lawsuits are part of the battles. And the battles are part of the war. And worse than being a deserter in war is being a traitor in war. African Americans are still victims of this nation’s race war. So don’t be a Black non-voting traitor. Be a Black voting hero.
The words from “David Walker’s Appeal,” written in 1829, along with the words of Christopher James Perry Sr., founder of the Tribune in 1884, are the inspiration for this weekly “Freedom’s Journal” column. In order to honor that pivotal nationalist abolitionist and that pioneering newspaper giant, as well as to inspire today’s Tribune readers, each column ends with Walker and Perry’s combined quote — along with my inserted voice — as follows: I ask all Blacks “to procure a copy of this … (weekly column) for it is designed … particularly for them” so they can “make progress … against (racist) injustice.”