Political notions

Keisha Bell is an attorney, author, and public servant. www.emergingfree.com



Who is challenging the notion that “Black people don’t vote?”  It is an unfair assessment, one that dismisses the present-day effects of historically discriminatory practices discouraging blacks from first registering to vote.

According to Jerrell H. Shofner’s “The Constitution of 1868,” written for Florida Historical Quarterly in 1963, there were 15,434 registered voters who were black and 11,148 registered voters who were white in 1867.  The fact that there were more black voters did not go unnoticed.  A new Florida Constitution and laws were adopted and its effects weakened the influence of the black vote.

Although the nationwide impact of such laws and attitudes remain, the United States Elections Project analysis of Census Bureau data reports eligible black women voted at a rate higher than any other group in 2008 and 2012.  This begs the questions, who is being referenced when it is stated that “black people don’t vote” and why is the notion presented in the form of a statement and not that of a question.

Over the years, national evidence has shown that eligible black men have voted at lower rates than eligible black women, white women and white men.  In 2012, however, data from the Census Bureau indicates that black and white men voted at a rate of 60 percent.

Although the voting of black men is shown to have increased from 2008 to 2012, national data shows the voting of whites during that time steadily decreased.  Could it be that an important reason as to why eligible black men are less likely to vote, and about the motivation behind voting, in general, was illustrated by the decrease in eligible white voters voting from 2008 to 2012?

When the symbol of “world power” appeared in the body of a black person, specifically a black man, those sharing his racially constructed category was more inclined to cast a vote.  To the contrary, those who identify as “white” were less motivated to participate in the election process even though they had previously done so.

Still, during this time many held on to the belief that blacks do not vote. Who benefits from this negative messaging? Progress was in fact made, yet its celebration continues to be whispered.

If honest and inclusive discussion centers around why white men and women stopped voting, then maybe advancements could be made to motivate all people to vote.  If the evidence that black women do in fact vote is acknowledged, then maybe respectful dialogue as to what hinders black men from casting their vote could take place.  If more people cared that individuals vote versus that voters vote a particular way, then maybe more people would indeed vote.

Commonly, the notion has been that “whites vote and blacks do not,” but there is another way that the data from the Census Bureau can be interpreted and that way is: Women are more likely than men to vote.

Maybe the entire election process is one that simply does not appeal to most men?  Maybe women vote more because she has been socially conditioned to accept authority and security in the body of a man, more specifically in the body of a white man?

In any case, it is unreasonable to require the black community to vote in its entirety to prove that black people do vote. No other demographic performs at that level.

Keisha Bell, Visionary BriefInstead of perpetuating a fallacy that is detrimental to the black community as a whole by shaming individuals to vote, spread the knowledge that black voters are influencing elections right now.  Politicians and political party leaders, on local and national levels, know that the black voting block is powerful. The power remains with and without 44 in office.  What a notion.

Keisha Bell is an attorney, author, and public servant. www.emergingfree.com

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