In case you missed Part 1, How Racism Changed My View of the Political Landscape Part I: Abuses of Power check it out here.
Written By: Anton Sawyer
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Whenever anyone becomes "politically aware," it's a moment that they never forget. From the topic, to the research, to the epiphany, we've all gone through it at one point, and it's a point that changes everything. For me, that topic was racism. More specifically, voter ID and voting rights.
It was during the 2004 Presidential Election that my entire viewpoint towards the political world morphed. I had heard about voter ID laws and voting rights restrictions for many years prior, and had pretty much made up my mind; what was the big deal?
I'd had a driver's license since I was 16. I had always some form of legal ID. To me, I couldn't understand what the big deal was about when it came to needing a government-issued ID to vote. You go down to the bank, pull out a $20 from the ATM, and then go pass the test while you pick it up. Simple enough, right?
I decided to put my feelings aside and do my own version of a scientific study. I was going to look at all the data, research, numbers, and more importantly, the surrounding elements that contribute to the overall heap.
I spent four or five months pouring over numbers, and I was stunned at what I found. Millions of black voters had been unable to vote in a plethora of local and national elections. From those in poverty to those who live in remote locations, it was hard to deny that for some reason, the black population and other minorities were kept away from the most basic of American principles over and over. It was when I started trying to get to the meat of the matter, the laws, racist tendencies of any given area, all of it to find out the biggest question: "why?"
Why aren't these people able to get their ID? Why are these people unable to take part in this American right? The more I looked at the numbers, the more I became obsessed with finding the root cause of it all. Then, one night while I was about to fall asleep, a conversation between my step-brother and I began clouding my head through the emerald snow of sleep and it hit me ... why does it matter?
At the time of the conversation, we were both living in Wyoming—a place neither of us was a fan of. We were metal-head kids in the cowboy state and counted down the days until we could leave there. Shortly after September 11th, 2001 we got into a conversation about the Middle East and the attacks. His response was that we should nuke the whole region off the map.
"Wow, that's really stupid," I said. When he asked why I explained to him to think about it. Like many of us in Wyoming, we weren't there because we wanted to be there. Neither of us was born there, but life circumstances lead us to that quaint little district. If we resided in that locale, not by choice, then you know that there are people overseas that because of their life circumstances they've wound up in such a location. That doesn't mean they like it or agree with it. Do they deserve to be wiped out as well?
This fits exactly with my research on voter's rights and the conundrum I was presented with: just because I don't know the exact lives of those millions of people who have been disenfranchised, what right do I have to say what they can or cannot do?
What right do I have to look at thousands in rural Kentucky and say "Come on! Just because you are a two-hour drive away from the local DMV shouldn't matter. Voting is important, and if it's that important to you, you will make it happen."
The light bulb went off in my mind. My emotions lie. My emotions suck me into a false sense of security mixed with arrogance. Just because I think I am "sure" of something, I'm most likely not correct. I learned right then and there that the only way I wasn't going to be duped into believing what others want me to, is to research the numbers, the truth, the facts, and wherever they take me, that's what I believe.
I've found that through the years, I've been wrong on a many number of things I once thought I was dead-right on. These racist laws are a prime example.
If you agree with the voting restriction let me ask you this. Why?
Do you believe that removing millions from being legally allowed to vote is better than stopping maybe 20-30 illegal votes (see, this is where relying on factual numbers comes in)? Do you think that you have enough Earthly wisdom to be able to look at the lives of complete strangers and know with complete certainty that you are sure of what they are capable of? Do you look at an entire group of people and immediately dismiss their lives by saying things like I used to think; "Why can't you just go pick an ID up?" or "If voting was that important to them, then they'd find a way to make it happen."
Since then I have always tried to look at what the reality of the situation is and disassociate my feelings completely. Americans are not built this way and I know it's hard. We are constantly being told by the leaders of the left and right their version of reality to whip us up into an emotional frenzy. Ignoring hyperbole is so difficult when it sings sweet music in our ears, but that's when you know you're most likely being deceived. Whenever I hear someone say "ALL politicians are liars, but this person, they tell it like it is!" More often than not, they aren't "telling it like it is," they are telling it like you want to hear it.
I'm hoping this Black History Month, this story will maybe help people realize that racism is all around under the guise of protection. All I ever ask is that if anyone race is being targeted by dubious legalities, read the numbers, see the facts. And if you can still come up with some reason as to why a law that impacts so many minority groups is perfectly fine—while leaving you alone is A-OK—then you may want to re-evaluate yourself. You are wrong.
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