By Renee J. Turner
Four years ago, candidate Barack Obama ran for president offering hope to a nation that needed it. So we registered, held massive voter registration drives, and went to the polls. We stood in spiraling lines proudly waiting in those voting lines. Forever remembering where you were and maybe wondering what the treasures of an era like John Lewis, Andrew Young and Rev. Lowery were thinking when he became president of the United States.
Today, trying to continue a part of the civil rights era is too often becoming an afterthought, as if the past is the past—a post-race society claim to be. In these complicated times, we not only have to continue to fight racism. We are facing the fact that we may no longer be saving for retirement, but for the next economic crisis. We may not only be fighting for the right of every American to have health care. We may not have the doctors and nurses we need because of the lack of financial aid and the cost of an education. We may no longer be fighting that one percent (that Jesse Jackson and other civil rights leaders talked about years before the phrase was coined) because some of that one percent may decide to give up their citizenship to keep their money. While holding our breaths that our banks won’t sink this nation, our economy is also effected by the economy of other countries.
The uncertainty involved in the upcoming election is the feeling that it may just be too quiet; when four years ago, it seemed everyone held voter registration drives in this country. Now the upcoming election is right around the corner. Is it because of the confidence of knowing that there is going to be another four years without question? Or are we behind the scenes doing what we’ve always done in getting out the vote, but without the media coverage? Making voting a lifelong issue and responsibility in order to curtail injustice, and not only about the election of the first African-American president. Creating voter suppression, voter ID laws were passed to combat fictitious widespread voter fraud. What we are up against is the slipping in and rewording of harsh laws, legislations and amendments in this country. We should be fearful that without Representative John Lewis quickly speaking out against Representative Paul Broun’s amendment, later withdrawn, to cut funding for the enforcement of part of the Voting Rights Act. Where would we be?
Walking down the street on a peaceful day, a teenage boy talking on his cell phone to his girlfriend enjoying his ice tea and Skittles. While the profiler hiding a gun, seemingly provoking a fight with the profiled victim. To some, it’s okay that the victim was shot and killed in the process because the profiler had to defend himself, and the victim should not have. The outright racist rage and anger that was illustrated in the last election didn’t work, but some local and state laws may. Most of us can still say “I was ______ while black.”
President Obama was never going to have an easy job, and had never said that all the problems would be solved in four years. The president has handled his harsh critics with grace. President Obama’s reelection is as vital as the historic election. Some voters having lost their jobs, homes, and cars, they are and will be standing in other vital lines. Is this election going to be more challenging to get people registered or to the polls?
In today’s civil rights era for the right to vote, we are no longer hidden away in churches or people’s homes in order to discuss the possibilities. We just get a group together and hold a registration drive. We are not boycotting or holding up signs or sitting at lunch counters demanding equal treatment. Some of us have tried to energize through occupy to help families keep their homes. Civil rights leaders marched in New Orleans side-by-side after Katrina. They weren’t beaten across the Edmund Pettus Bridge like in our civil rights past that wasn’t that long ago. The president has been called a lot of names throughout his presidency. While President Obama is raising campaign funds, the voting backlash could be we may take for granted that he will be reelected. After eight years in office, there’s a name we should have the audacity to call him—lame—a lame duck president.
Renee J. Turner is a writer and has written articles on voting and voter registration here in Atlanta, GA.