Yet, there’s another important public space where blackness has been policed and we have been far too silent about it: the voting booth. And the implications are just as far-reaching and devastating, and, despite Chief Justice John Roberts’ claim, not some relic of a bygone past.
The 21st century is, in fact, littered with the bodies of black votes. In the 2000 presidential election, which George W Bush won in the sunshine state by 537 ballots, Florida kept African Americans from the polls or ensured that their votes would never be added to the state’s tally. The policing was multi-tentacled. On election day, there were faulty voting machines, purged voter rolls (purges that targeted minorities) and locked gates at polling places that should have been opened. There was also a Florida Highway Patrol checkpoint at the only road leading to the polls in key, heavily black precincts in Jacksonville. Then there were the piles of ballots, especially in counties with large minority populations, left uncounted. The US Civil Rights Commission“concluded that, of the 179,855 ballots invalidated by Florida officials, 53% were cast by black voters. In Florida,” the commission’s report continued, “a black citizen was 10 times as likely to have a vote rejected as a white voter.”