Malcolm X's "The Ballot or the Bullet" emphasizes the need for African Americans to engage in the voting process.

For decades our ancestors bled, fought and died in order to ensure our rights as equal citizens. The Ku Klux Klan, than a legal militant terrorist organization, developed as a result of white southerners’ violent opposition to blacks being able to play a part in legislature and voting elections. Hundreds of black people were mobbed, beaten, raped and murdered in order to be kept from voting. As a prelude to our freedoms, they risked their lives and the lives of their loved ones to make it possible for us to voice our opinion by vote.

Where has that initiative gone? We as a people have lost sight of our duty as American citizens to utilize our voices in the presidential elections. As soon as something goes down that we don’t like or agree with, we are the first ones to complain about whoever is in office and what they’re failing to do. I can bet half of us didn’t even know there were 3 African-American candidates running for presidency in 2012 (Barack Obama, Herman Cain, and Stewart Alexander.)

We do not pay as much attention as we should. When Barack Obama was running for the 2008 presidential election, a large number of young, black people I know voted for him more so for the fact that he was a black Democrat than for his political views and policies. Last month, Herman Cain, an African-American Republican presidential candidate, and Morehouse graduate, made the following comment on CNN’s “The Situation Room:

“African-Americans have been brainwashed into not being open-minded, not even considering a conservative point of view.”

I know for a fact that if I asked my friends why they voted for President Obama, almost every single one of them could not give me a valid reason. After President’s Bush presidency, most African-Americans voted for Obama thinking he was a “black savior” who would miraculously come into office and with the snap of a finger, fix everything. What they failed to realize is the decision-making is not solely on him, but it relies heavily on his legislature. But how many of us really took the time out to educate ourselves on those names below President Obama’s on the ballot?

I strongly believe it is urgent that we as a people take the time and effort into investigating and researching our possible political leaders: where they come from, what they stand for and who they have accompanying them in the decision-making process. Our ancestors fought too long and too hard for our voices to grow idle. Regardless of how strong of a belief you have in politics or even if you are in complete opposition to voting, knowing is always better than not knowing. The biggest road block we have in front of us is ignorance and we need to do all that we can change to that. We have the power to contribute and change and at least for our ancestor’s sake, we cannot let it slip away.

Kristen Joy
HBCU Buzz Staff Writer