Is the weather bad today? Do you have shopping to do? Are you weary and want to just relax around the house today?
You know this is voting day, right? It’s very important that you go and vote. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today. There has to be a polling place near you.
To my African-American friends, who are contemplating not going to the polls, it must be nice now to sit back pick and choose which elections are worth your time. The heroes of the past sacrificed everything to secure the right to vote. Too often, their courage is answered by excuses. "I'm tired." "I don't feel like my vote counts." "I've got a lot of running around to do today." “I’ve got Christmas shopping today.” "This election doesn’t mean that much anyway.”
It was a cool September morning when four school girls were blown apart at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham by folks trying to stop integration.
There’s always a worthless excuse.
Do you need to see the blown-apart bodies, the black children and grown folks hung from trees while good Southern church people, mothers and daughters and law enforcement officers sat watching the carnage, like folks today might do as they gaze at the big screens in sports bars?
At least one recently elected Mississippi politician said she was so giddy for someone’s support in her race she that she would be willing sit on the front row of such a public event. Oh, wait, she said “hanging.”
If you don't vote, you are saying that those thousands of beaten and murdered people and their lives mean nothing to you.
African-Americans and other people of color have it easier now. If a struggle has never touched someone directly, they can ignore their history as if it never happened.
As I hear my younger brothers and sisters saying: “I’m tired of hearing about that stuff from back in the day. That was then. That don’t have anything to do with me. That was the old days. Man, I’ve got things to do today.”
Wonder if they would make that case to my friend Dennis Dahmer. His father, Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer, Sr., was a leader with the civil rights movement and president of the Forrest County chapter of the NAACP in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Vernon Dahmer was murdered by the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan for his work on recruiting African Americans to vote.
Interestingly, Dahmer had four sons serving the military when he was killed. I wonder how many of the cowards who killed him could say that.
If you need to know more about how important the vote is today, take a gander at a North Carolina House race, where it is alleged that people were sent out to deceive and cheat poor and uneducated African-Americans out of their vote.
A group with ties to the Republican candidate was allegedly using something called ballot-harvesting, an action to collect absentee ballots of African-Americans and Native Americans and never turn them in. The action would help the Republican candidate, who won his race by a very slim margin. By one count, at least 40 percent of requested mail-in ballots were never turned in for African-Americans, and it was about 60 percent for Native Americans.
The election is being contested.
Today’s election is not being covered by the local and national news like the November elections There was all the speculation about whether Republicans would be able to keep their majority in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. National Democratic party leaders were pushing a huge get-out-the-vote campaign. The outcome was that Democrats took control of the U.S. House, and many African-Americans won offices across the country.
But for some reason, that excitement has died. The light has been snuffed out. Shame on the Democratic party for that. It should never happen in any community, especially in the African-American community. If a dog catcher is being decided at the ballot box, African-Americans owe so much to so many to say “yea” or “nay.”
Ironically, one of best quotes I have seen about the need to vote comes from the late drama critic and magazine editor George Jean Nathan. He said, “Bad officials are the ones elected by good citizens who don’t vote.” Think about that for a second. And let’s change that quote a bit to say: “Bad laws become law by good citizens who don’t vote.”
Vote today, and every time, as if you are being urged by the pained voices of Vernon Dahmer and the heroes of so many years ago who died to give you the right to vote.
Email Edward Pratt, a former newspaperman who writes a weekly Advocate column, at firstname.lastname@example.org.