This is a call for all eligible Black folks to register and vote in every election from now until eternity, so we can stop the rallies, marches, and demonstrations related to voting. Despite being the most party-loyal voters in history, and receiving the least for that loyalty (No quo for our quid), we continue to deal with voting-related issues. If everyone would vote, we could move on to the “weightier” matter of building our own communities again. So please, all Black folks who are eligible, get registered and vote! Let us make quid pro quo a reality for Black voters.
In 2012, Black folks turned out in a larger percentage than Whites and other groups for the first time in history. In 2008, Blacks voted 95 percent for Barack Obama. Now, in 2014, we are still rallying folks around “voting” issues, voting rights, and voting procedures. As I said, we vote the most but receive the least. What will change this ridiculous scenario? I s
ay, 100 percent registration and voter turnout; then we can finally stop spending such an inordinate amount of on those subjects.
Booker T. Washington once said, “There are some Negroes who don’t want the patient to get well.” It is still true today with politics among Black folks. We have leading Blacks whose every move is centered on the political. For their personal economic prosperity, they do very well; but when it comes to a collective solution, you cannot find them with a search warrant.
They keep Black folks “fired up and ready to go” to the polls, but not to the marketplace, where the real action and power reside. Booker T. also said, “There are reports that in some sections the Black man has difficulty in voting and having counted the little white ballot he has the privilege of depositing twice a year. But there is a little green ballot he can vote through the teller’s window 313 days each year and no one will throw it out or refuse to count it.”
There will always be someone who tries to keep the patient sick, dependent, and drunk on the fantasy that politics will save us. The only thing that does is wear out good shoe leather from marching so much. If you think the ballot is stronger than the dollar, then put the word out for everyone to register and vote.
Black people have embraced the illusion of political power in exchange for a more important possession: economic power. For six decades, we have languished in political purgatory, thinking we would be all right if we could just get some Black people elected to public office. So why don’t we just establish a national goal of 100 percent registration and voting? Then we can move beyond this political charade and stop falling for the best head-fake in history.
Our major conferences have become nothing but mini political conventions. We invite politicians to speak and, of course, keep the flock focused on their agendas. Joe Biden spoke at the NAACP convention and gave them all the political red meat they could handle as he concentrated on voting rights. “These moves to limit the ‘right to vote’ are nothing more than pure politics, masquerading as attempts to combat corruption where there is none,” Biden said. “Pure politics,” really?
Cornell Brooks, the new president of the NAACP, said his plan is to focus on criminal justice issues, fight the rollback of the Voting Rights Act and diversify the NAACP’s membership. In his answer to Roland Martin’s question, “What is your top priority?” Brooks said, “Well, the top priority would be to listen and engage a membership which reaches hundreds of thousands of members, but certainly an audience and the coalition of inclusion that stretches across the country.” Say what!?
On her radio show, Bev Smith discussed this issue with George E. Curry. They asked why there is less emphasis on economic empowerment than on political empowerment among our major organizations. They called for an Economics Report Card and for the best and brightest among us to devise and execute an economic plan for Black people. Bev Smith lamented, “Where are the voices like those of the past?” Both agreed that we have the “professional expertise to help ourselves” in the economic arena. I concur, but we must first get this voting albatross from around our necks.
In my best James Brown impression, “Please! Please! Please!” All Black people register and vote so we, the “patients,” can finally spend our time getting well.
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati.