livingissues: untangling some tough issues of the 20th century

home our project our people links
our themes » Stories

Black voters feel free in 2008

Posted by Richard D North in Interrogating the Media / Politics / Rights / Truth & Trust on 5 November 2008

Why we posted this: The media has mostly accepted as reasonable the idea common amongst blacks that until Obama it wasn’t worth voting. This is worth challenging. 

The original story:

Suzy Jagger
The Times
5 November 2008

Summary of the story:
All day we have had reports that black people in the US have been chanting, “Free at last!”. It is worth pointing out that slavery was abolished in the US in the 1860s and that blacks have had the vote since 1870, though it took nearly a hundred years for it to become an easy right to exercise everywhere in the country. (See the timeline in the Times story.) We cite in particular this Times story in which a 93 year-old black woman declares that until Obama came along she saw no reason to vote. This seems to have been the case with many blacks, whose voting record is even worse than that of whites in recent times.     

livingissues comment: 
The notion that blacks have a unique reason to vote for Obama ought to be depressing. After all, Martin Luther King precisely argued that it was necessary for us to judge people by their minds not the colour of their skin.

The situation is doubly depressing if we consider that generations of black non-voters seem to have concluded that there was no politician who was worth supporting. And yet Barack Obama is not self-evidently going to be a better President than any other, and certainly he holds out no greater promise than (say) Al Gore or Bill Clinton or any of the other Democrats who had been on offer before Obama. 

To vote is to engage in democracy. Not to vote is either to say that one is indifferent to the outcome of the election (there perhaps being equal chances of good or bad from any of the possible outcomes), or that the election simply isn’t about anything which concerns one. It is surely incredible that these propositions were true for all the elections that 93 year-old had witnessed and stood aside from.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a comment