NAACP Leaders Urge Voters: Defeat Hate
In the weeks just before the midterm elections, Americans have been on high alert. Homemade bombs were mailed to prominent Democrats and critics of President Donald Trump. A White gunman killed two African Americans at a Kroger in Kentucky and 11 people were murdered at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. In the meantime, Trump is stoking fear about immigrants.
“Hate is just a tool,” NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said during the NAACP’s annual convention this summer. “Hate has always been used to separate people — to create an ‘otherness’ to maintain domination and control.”
The current political climate is only one reason to get out and vote noted NAACP Chairman Leon Russell.
“If we are not voting and using our voice, others will speak for us,” Russell said. “That is how our current president got into office. And that’s how we will fight against him. That is how we shall overcome.”
L. Joy Williams, president of the Brooklyn NAACP Branch, said African Americans fought for the right to vote because they knew their lives depended on it.
“We’ve all heard and probably used the phrase ‘Our ancestors died for our right to vote.’ But what is missing in this simple statement is not that they were fighting for the right to go in a booth and cast a ballot for president and then check out until another four years,” said Williams. “They wanted to elect school board members. They wanted to elect judges and sheriffs who weren’t sons of the KKK. They wanted to elect district attorneys who would prosecute and hold people accountable for police brutality.”
But as long as African Americans have had the right to vote, there has been efforts to suppress that vote. In the days of Jim Crow there were poll taxes, grandfather clauses and literacy tests. Today, states have introduced voter-ID laws that target African Americans. In Georgia, for example, the state is using “exact match” software to freeze 53,000 voter registration applications, 70 percent of which are African American. The federal court in Atlanta granted the NAACP’s request for a preliminary injunction allowing those with “pending” status to be able to vote regular ballots after showing proof of citizenship at the polls.
In Texas, Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, who is running against Sen. Ted Cruz for a Senate seat, said the low voter turnout among people of color is intentional.
“Not by accident — 100 percent by design — four times last year, the courts found that Texas has drawn some people out of their congressional districts because of their race, the color of their skin or their country of national origin – some votes not intended to be cast, some voices not intended to be heard,” O’Rourke said during the NAACP convention this summer.
But Williams said minorities can’t afford not to vote this midterm.
“We can’t wait for the next Obama. We need to get out in these streets, walk these buildings in our neighborhoods, talk to the young people on our block and do more than post our events on Facebook and wait for people to show up,” said Williams. “Our charge is to defeat hate and vote.”
— Eileen Pace