In November 2008, Barack Obama had just run the most successful grassroots campaign for the presidency in American history. An Ivy League graduate, president of the Harvard Law Review, Constitutional Law professor, parishioner of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Chicago community organizer, celebrated author and orator with the cadence of MLK, married father of two with a perimeter shot that was wet was to become our nation’s 44th president. He’s also Black…so is his wife.
Ensuring the victory, millions of people made individual contributions to the campaign, knocked on doors, phone-banked, wore "Barack the Vote" T-shirts, tweeted, texted, voted and chanted “OBAMA! OBAMA!” When he’d won the election, people broke out into spontaneous electric slides on Washington, D.C.'s U St., made some Obama babies (any child born in August-September 2009), then fell asleep with satisfied smiles on their faces knowing they’d changed the world.
Everyone slept right on through 2010, when Marco Rubio and Rand Paul ran up in the Senate. And they kept slumbering in 2012, when Ted Cruz, and Scott Walker moseyed their way right into the political landscape. All of these “individuals” (I kept typing imbeciles) were, or currently are, running for president. That’s right, y’all. Relative no names with zero experience meeting the needs of the public and even less experience in politics earned themselves the opportunity to legislate. “How, Sway? How?”
Bad news – it was all your fault. Black people just don’t vote in mid-term elections. “I did,” you may be thinking. But, nationally speaking, a little over 10% of Black folks participate in mid-term elections – consider yourself part of the talented tenth.
Here’s the facts: percentage-wise in Florida, Kentucky, Texas and Wisconsin aren’t Black states. The voting populace is further skewed by age, eligibility, felony status, poverty; and then there’s gerrymandering and redistricting (read: rigging the electoral process so even if you do vote it doesn’t matter). “So, how’s this my fault?” You’ll never see me encouraging Black folks to move to Kentucky, but you could certainly stop drinking bourbon.
“Boycott? Really? This ain’t the '60s.” It is when a Black teenager in Florida is stalked and murdered in his backyard by a self-deputized white guy, whom is never arrested, then eventually turns himself in (thought about it over the weekend) and a year down the road goes to trial with an elite crowdfunded defense team and walks free.
How? Some say State’s Attorney Angela Corey trumped up the charges, making a conviction highly unlikely. The State’s Attorney is an elected official. The Seminole County sherriff who failed to charge and arrest famed murderer George Zimmerman — elected official. The Stand Your Ground Law which permits grown men to shoot unarmed Black children — ballot initiative.
“But, I don’t even live in Florida.” When’s the last time you’ve watched a Miami Heat game, planned a trip to Disney World, drank some orange juice, attended the American Black Film Festival, hit Urban Beach Week or found a cheap flight to South Beach? All that money goes somewhere.
Where? Right into the hands of the business owners, whom curry favor with elected officials by contributing to their campaigns, fully expecting for favors to be returned when the right bill needs to be passed. They’ll even take the heavy lifting out of the job of legislating by writing the laws for them.
“Miss me with that.” Fine. Everyone's got a country cousin though. They’re probably on Facebook – they're damn sure on Twitter. Tweet them about Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers and the other rich white dummies (read in a Fred Sanford voice for full effect) financing the candidacies of straight white male evangelical flunkies hell-bent on not doing their jobs in order to make our Black president look incompetent. Government employees, right?
Keep this in mind the next time you walk into the ballot booth during your state’s primary elections and pick the name that is the most familiar, sounds the most ethnic, may be a woman (feminism, right?) or isn’t responsible for all the annoying mailers, TV commercials and increasing number of emails — is nothing sacred?! “Thanks, Obama!”
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!” Get your Black a** up and vote!
“What’s Barack done for Black people?” is a sentiment readily asked among the frustrated, ill-informed and disengaged electorate. Not you, of course. You’re currently reading (talented tenth). The electorate one might run into at TGI Friday’s, shouting for their third fish bowl-sized glass of Hennessy, side-eyeing you for ordering an Amstel Light and the hummus platter — don’t judge me.
The Obama administration, fully aware of the knowledge gap impacting the Black American public, released this site: www.whitehouse.gov/africanamericans (file this one under “receipts”). You might be thinking, “I voted for Obama – I’m good,” but Obama can’t prevent your advisory neighborhood commissioner (ANC) from banning the sale of fried chicken at area restaurants.
“Surely you jest,” you might suggest. Not this time I’m afraid.
“What part of the game is that?” Well for fear of the chicken bones becoming choking hazards for their “dogs,” and attracting “vermin,” your friendly neighborhood, passive-aggressive stranger attempted to ban fried chicken — by law. Think of your ANC as the extra petty version of your HOA, the folks who’ll mail you a citation for a chip in your staircase but are nowhere to be found when the snowplow swipes your car.
That’s how the game is played at the local level. The same coded racial language that defines poverty-stricken Black teenagers living in neighborhoods rife with under-performing, under-funded schools as “super-predators” is used quite deliberately in local politics. “I don’t even like fried chicken…” Yeah, aight. “Dogs” and “vermin” however, love fried chicken, and fish bowl sized glasses of Hennessy are the perfect accompaniment.
The other night I was talking politics with a sister at a bar. Being from the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia area), political talk is like asking “How’s the weather?” I asked her whom she was voting for in the primary. “When is the primary?” she inquired. “The 26th,” I responded flatly. “Of this month?” she asked. Then I died.
Local and state elections are the bread and butter of getting s**t done. That sheriff won’t arrest white folks shooting Black kids? Vote ‘em out. The state’s attorney can’t get a conviction for an unarmed kid getting murdered? Vote ‘em out. The senator thinks Stand Your Ground or stop-and-frisk is cool? Vote ‘em out.
First things first, find your state’s Board of Elections online and check your voter registration status. If you’re registered, you’re good. If not — c’mon, son!
Second, find out the physical address of your polling station. Unfortunately, much to Obama’s chagrin, we can't vote online. If it’s nowhere near you, this may have been the plot (see: Arizona primary). Or don’t trip, you might just need to update your address.
Third, make sure you review the ballot guide before you go to vote. It’s like the cheat sheet before you go into the booth. Ballot initiatives are written in the coded language we discussed earlier, so something that reads
“Clean City Streets Initiative 15303738DADOODOODOODOODOOOOOO4547” could mean your favorite fried chicken restaurant may soon be closing shop.
Finally, vote. The next Obama we’ll get the opportunity to vote for will likely be Malia or Sasha (née Natasha) – Michelle is over the White House. However, there are locally elected officials like Muriel Bowser and Marilyn Mosby whom are dripping #BlackGirlMagic.
Currently, there are two Black women running for Senate seats — one in Maryland on Tuesday, April 26 (Rep. Donna Edwards, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., STEM) and one in California on Tuesday, June 7 (Kamala Harris, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Howard University Alum — H-U!). As the talented tenth, I know you’re going to the polls. Don’t go alone. Take about five brothers and sisters with you — but first make certain they’re registered to vote! When Black people vote, elections are decisive. When we don’t, elections are decided for us.
Do your research. Be well informed. Exercise your rights.
Note: references to “chicken” in this article may be replaced with “Affordable Housing,” “Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” “Planned Parenthood centers” or “Polling Stations” at your liberty.
Also, if you’re wondering why you can’t find any Hennessy at the lovely Beer & Wine Imports Bazaar Emporium – vote, negro!
Russ Green is a writer, comedian, husband, and father of four, from Washington, D.C. The Howard University graduate currently resides in Montgomery County, Maryland, living a mostly vegan lifestyle. He enjoys wearing blazers and button-ups and is fresh out of f*cks.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
(Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)