THE BLOG
11/04/2016 11:16 am ET Updated Nov 02, 2017

An Urgent Call To Black And Brown Voters

As a baby boomer who grew up in the Arkansas Delta during America's apartheid era, I never thought I'd live long enough to see a Black man elected President of the United States. I know I'm not alone. In my mind's eye, I could see my Mama and Papa and other deceased members of the Village who raised me, shouting with joy upon learning that Barack Obama was elected President not once, but twice. My father, a rural community organizer, would be filled with joy, smiling from ear to ear upon hearing the wondrous news about a Black man in the White House--even if he couldn't pronounce his name!

America has come a long way since Mama and Papa had to pay a "poll tax," specifically designed as a way to restrict voting rights for Blacks. That's why I refuse to denigrate their memory by not voting. Even if my preferred presidential candidate loses, I felt so compelled to cast my vote for her that I did so on the first day of early voting in my city. I simply refuse to insult the spirits of my ancestors by not voting. More importantly, too many people have paved the way and paid the price for me to vote for me to shirk my duty to vote.

Among those courageous men and women are names we know, such as James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, murdered in Mississippi in 1964 during the Freedom Summer, a volunteer campaign to register Black voters across the South. There is Viola Liuzzo, a Unitarian housewife and Michigan mother of five, shot dead by the KKK in 1965 as she drove back from the Montgomery, Alabama airport after dropping off fellow activists. There is Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who as the youngest chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was beaten until his skull was fractured after marching on Edmund Pettus Bridge, and who still bears those scars.

Add to this roll call of courage the countless from all corners of our nation whose names have been lost to history, those who bravely withstood death threats, vicious harassment, and outright brutality simply because they wanted to exercise their right to vote, and wanted others to do so as well. They are all our ancestors in the battle for justice. We cannot forget their fearless spirits. We must honor them as we remember the sacrifices they made on our behalf.

The 2016 Presidential election is just a few days away, and WikiLeaks recently made another email dump that could completely undo the hard-fought campaign mounted by Hillary Rodham Clinton. More importantly, if WikiLeaks and the Russian government prevail, they will have successfully inserted themselves into the process and the potential outcome of America's Presidential election. In search of "Breaking News" and the almighty advertising dollar, it appears that the media, our free press, has become unwitting partners in an attack on democracy, by the mere act of reporting round-the-clock on the emails released by WikiLeaks.

Why give these self-serving and self-righteous cyber-criminals the recognition they seek by reporting minute by minute on what they said and did? Is there ever a time when such reporting helps our enemies and disadvantages American citizens? Such reporting seems to reinforce Donald Trump's assertion that the system is rigged, when there's no credible evidence that it is. If Putin and others can plant the seed of doubt in the authenticity of the American election, it makes it harder for whoever is elected to govern. In which case, the ultimate losers are the American people, and we will be forced to live with the grave repercussions long after Election Day.

This year, nearly one-in-three eligible voters on Election Day will be Black, Hispanic, Asian or another racial or ethnic minority, up from 29% in 2012. If there was ever any doubt about the influence of Black and Brown voters in determining the outcome of a presidential election, one need only look at the two-time election of Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, and of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, respectively. In these four most recent election cycles, Black and Brown people voted overwhelmingly for Democratic party candidates. According to Gallup, in the 2012 Presidential Election 82% of non-white voters including Hispanics, and 95% of Black voters, voted for President Obama.

By pooling their voting prowess, theoretically, these two groups can determine who gets elected President in any election cycle. Up to this point, however, it seems that we have cast our votes for the Democratic party candidate without holding that person accountable for addressing our interests and needs. All Black and Brown, middle- and low-income voters appear to get during and after the election is a lot of feel good, applause-arousing rhetoric in the form of soundbites. Now is the time for our blind loyalty to end: our vote has value, and we must cash in on it the same way others do, such as bankers, physicians, insurance companies, automobile manufacturers, utility companies, chambers of commerce, and employee unions, among other groups.

No matter who is elected president, history will be made. If Hillary Rodman Clinton is elected, it will be the first time a woman is elected. If Donald Trump is elected, it'll be the first time a fear-monger has been elected. Let's be clear about one thing: neither candidate is flawless. You are the only one you may feel fits this category, and you are not (yet) on the ballot!

As a knowledgeable and democracy-loving citizen, I endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton and encourage you to do the same. Don't wake up on November 9th, depressed and delirious over your decision to sit out this election, or to cast a protest vote for a candidate who has nearly zero chances of winning the presidency. The better angels of our nature cannot prevail when good people do not vote.

No one is perfect. I am asking you to vote for the best prepared and least flawed of the two candidates. I am convinced that that candidate is Hillary Rodham Clinton. I'm not endorsing her just because she's less flawed than Donald Trump, but also because I believe she values diversity and inclusiveness; social and economic justice; gender, racial and ethnic equity and equality; and a commitment to serving the needs of children and aging members of the American electorate. I trust and respect her ability to represent our country at home and abroad.

If we care about the safety, security and economic well-being of ourselves, our families and Americans at large, there is only one choice in this year's Presidential election. That choice is Hillary Rodham Clinton. If you agree, then you must vote. "There is no noise as powerful as the sound of the marching feet of a determined people," wrote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now is the time for us to march together and make a powerful sound, one that surpasses the bellowing of divisiveness and greed. When we vote, we honor the living and the dead. We honor the ancestors who sacrificed so much for us, and for generations to come.