By Allen R. Gray
Dallas Area African American
On that Bloody Sunday of March 7, 1965, local and state law enforcement officers joined forces in violent opposition of a civil rights march in Selma, Alabama. What transpired that day drew a line of demarcation between good and evil and is viewed as a watershed moment in the civil rights movement.
Whenever I think of the late Honorable John Lewis, I picture how courageous he was at the head of that march; then I picture him lying there at the foot of the Edmund Pettis bridge with his skull cracked wide open, while hundreds of other peaceful protestors fled for their lives. Lewis continued his fight against racial injustice and inequality for the next 60 years as he toiled to gain Blacks the right to vote. Lewis’ slogan was, “Never ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
That slogan has been lost to too many Blacks in these trying times we are facing in contemporary America. The right to vote is now available to most African Americans, but too many are not exercising that right, while others are misled into voting for causes that are detrimental to African American communities.
I recently made the acquaintance of an older Black gentleman, who reminded me why one should never talk about religion or politics. Based on his appearance alone, one would assume he had an enlightened view of the world, but then he opened his mouth and begin to speak about subjects best left unsaid.
The gentleman spoke of his excursions to faraway lands, how efficient he was at golf … and then how the Devil is the god of the earth. Then the gentleman made a swift and unforeseen transition to politics, unleashing a salvo of criticisms about former president Barack Obama.
“Obama cost me a six-figure job,” he said with venom. A rancorous debate ensued between he and a very opinionated Black woman, who happened to be in that room and who couldn’t tolerate it any longer. Yet, the gentleman remained unrelenting in his views, as if the problems of African Americans didn’t exist until a Black man was elected into the Whitehouse.
By the end of the debate between he and the woman, the gentleman left no doubt that he was a committed yet misinformed Republican. The major flaw in the gentleman’s stance was his failure to recall what a myriad of days like Bloody Sunday were all about, and to honor the long and violent history his predecessors have suffered through, just so he could have the right to have a good job or even vote. That his right to vote has a legacy that is long and deep.
In May of 1869, Minister Joseph Adkins was an elected Georgia state senator for the Republican party. Adkins led a dedicated fight for the civil rights and voting rights of Blacks…up until the day the Ku Klux Klan killed him.
In June of 1963, Medgar Evers, was a World War II veteran and an official with the NAACP. Evers led a dedicated fight for the civil rights and voting rights of Blacks…up until the day the White Citizens’ Council (a.k.a. KKK) killed him too.
Somehow this bit of history is lost to African Americans who chose not to vote, and to those African Americans who chose to support political platforms that will ultimately do harm to African Americans in general—and thereby do harm to our nation.
On the very first day of the Republican National Convention, Timothy Eugene “Tim” Scott a Black junior U.S. Senator for South Carolina was rolled out before the American public to demonstrate how accommodating and generous Republicans are to African Americans. Scott took the podium and recounted his family’s atypical African American tale before proudly announcing, “Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime. And that’s why I believe…”
I will concede that guys like Tim Scott or even Kanye West have the right to vote for whomever they chose. That is their American right. But that right came at a bloody price. The people whose predecessors paid that price over a matter of centuries should not forget.
John Lewis didn’t fight for our right to vote for a person or even a particular political party. Lewis fought so that we might be able to vote down and out malevolent ideologies, evil principalities and oppressive dominions.
In his posthumous message to a grieving nation John Lewis wrote, “Voting and participating in the democratic process are key (to redeeming the soul of America). The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society.”
Voting the right way has never been about voting Republican or Democrat. Voting the right way means casting a vote for the party that will work to make the world better for both rich and poor—and work to redeem the soul of America. So, when exercising your right to vote, make sure you vote right.