Thursday, February 23, 2012

History Matters in Politics

Almost a year ago I wrote an editorial entitled, “Black History can’t Be Taught in 28 Days” that specifically discussed the absence of African Americans in American History textbooks.  Families cannot afford to sit around and wait for the schools to teach their children about African American History.  Parents must teach them the truth at home and not rely on the one or two factoids the media tries to cram into the shortest month of the year. 

I learned about most of the people in the previously mentioned editorial during my undergraduate studies, which sparked my interest in learning everything I could learn about the contributions of African Americans to this country.  Studying a different version of history has been extremely helpful with my understanding of how politics shaped our past and how they are affecting the future of American society.
I encourage everybody I interact with to turn the television off and pick up a book that will teach them something about African American people.  I am not suggesting that we do not need some form of entertainment, but we do not need to be spending too much of our time watching music videos and investing quality time watching people make a fool of themselves by starring on a reality TV show.  In no way am I knocking those shows, but there are more productive ways of investing our time, specifically reading material that will stimulate your mind. 
It took a while to figure out that reading was not my problem.  It was reading material that did not interest me is what turned me off to books.  Once I started reading books written by African American authors, or books about the struggles and accomplishments of African Americans, reading became a hobby. The more I read, the more informed I feel about issues from the past and how they relate to issues in the present and the future.
Reading a wide variety of subjects has helped me develop into a critical thinker and on a consistent basis I check the facts before forming an opinion.  We have the responsibility to do a better job of verifying the information we read and hear.  That means critically thinking about everything we hear from teachers, preachers, and especially politicians, thus challenging the information being presented to us as facts.
History has a strange way of repeating itself and it seems as though many of our elected officials want to “take the country back” to a time when the words of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights was exclusively for one group of Americans.  Think back to the days after the Civil War when Black Codes existed.  African Americans had limited mobility and were kept from asserting their political and legal rights. 
Disenfranchisement laws were put in place so that the establishment would not be in violation of the 15th Amendment.  Gerrymandering, poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses were put in place to keep African American men from voting.  Newly proposed voter identification laws are being presented today that look awfully similar to legislation of the past that attempted to silence the voice of minorities in this country.
Newly freed men were forced into contracted jobs because private companies would not hire African Americans, which led to the system of sharecropping.  Public sector unions and the government played a vital role in the employment of thousands of African Americans when private companies would not hire people of color.  To see unions and collective bargaining rights under attack by a political party in today’s society is another step in the wrong direction; a direction that looks all too familiar to African Americans.
The longer we stay in the dark and are not educated about the political system and our elected officials, the legislators will keep beating us over the head with some of these outrageous policies that keep getting shoved down our throats. I.E. mandatory drug tests for recipients of welfare and food stamps but not for everyone on the states payroll to include themselves.  Not paying attention to politics gets the terminator elected as the governor of California and gets a man implicated in the largest Medicare fraud cases in U.S. history elected as the governor of Florida.
Citizens, we must be heavily involved with politics on the local level first because that is where our vote can actually count and can be felt immediately, unlike the presidential race that is decided by an outdated Electoral College system that needs to be abolished.  The election of local and state officials is even more important to us because those elections are decided by us, the people.
Being an educated voter empowers us to hold our elected officials accountable.  I encourage you not to get married to a political party because you will start voting for the (D) or (R) that comes after a person’s name instead of voting for that person.  What has the Democratic Party done for African American people lately? The answer is not that the Republican Party only care about rich White people, and I certainly do not buy into the argument about picking the lesser of two evils. 
I know that may not sit well with some people who have voted for one party their entire lives, but voting down a strict party line dumbs down the voter; it makes it easier to assume that a candidate is certified because they are a Democrat or a Republican.  Voting strict party lines is just as dangerous as not voting.
In the early 1900s Robert Vann, editor of the Pittsburg Courier once famously said, “Turn Lincoln’s Picture on the Wall.”  At the time, he was questioning African Americans blind loyalty to “ole Honest Abe Lincoln” and the Republican Party.  This was the beginning of African Americans shifting their support from the Republican Party, to supporting Franklin D. Roosevelt, The New Deal, and the Democratic Party.  During this time, the Republicans took the African American vote for granted, the same way the Democratic Party is taking the African American vote for granted today.
I am not promoting any candidate or suggesting that one party is superior to the other because the two political parties in control of our government are responsible for the mess America is in.  I personally feel more empowered and comfortable with myself as a No Party Affiliation voter.  I only want to be classified as an informed voter and I will conclude by saying; the left needs the right and the right needs the left.  Try not using your left hand for a month and see how effective your right hand will be.

Originally published by Steve Maynor Jr. on February 23, 2012 via