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Ferguson Missouri Highlights the Importance of Our Vote
We've heard repeatedly during this crisis in Ferguson about how the elected officials in Ferguson are "mostly white" while the community is "mostly black."
We've heard how this has contributed to divisive relationships between the people in the community and the local government. Though we've seen little evidence that there is a pervasive racism in the town, we have seen evidence that there have been problems in the police force in the past.
The current elected official under fire is the County Prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, who is being asked to step aside because of a "pervasive distrust" of him among the community.
The problem with this is he has a valid and truthful response -- He has been the elected prosector for nearly a quarter century, with the voting public giving him overwhelming support in every election.
We've heard how "difficult" it is to vote and how no one in the community has time. I've looked up the voting laws in Missouri and, no, there are no early voting allowances and the mail in voting is strict. However the polls are opened for 13 hours every election, and as long as you're in the line by 7PM, you can vote. I used to live in a state like that.
No, it's not "easy", however as a single parent for years, I would get up early, pack my kids up for daycare or school early, and take them on a "field trip" to learn about their civic duty. I would be among the first in line when the polls opened to ensure I had time to get my vote in, get my kids to their respective locations and then drive 45 minutes to my job.
Pain in the ass? Absolutely. But my vote counted, and my kids learned that their vote is worth the inconvenience. Imagine the inconvenience our founding fathers and those who faught in the American Revolution endured so we could complain about getting out of bed an hour earlier or have to stand in line for a few hours after work. Can you even begin to compare your inconvenience?
If you're getting people you and your community don't trust elected into office... and 67% of the people agree with your position -- the problem isn't the person in office, it's the fact that he keeps getting elected, either through voter ignorance or voter laziness. Stop blaming the fool you keep putting in office, either with a poorly thought out vote or through complicity by failing to vote. Blame yourselves.
We've heard that the police force is again, "mostly white". I am curious to the cause of this. Is there an institutionalized racism that is turning black candidates away from this agency? Or is there a lack of candidates?
Often police come from their own communities. Either right within the town they police or nearby areas. There is a tendency by police, because of this, to want to do things right -- this is their community they're serving and hopefully improving. Yes, there are the jerks in uniform, we've all met them, but most are community minded. Many times the agency itself may not reflect that because of policies and policing practices, but it doesn't make it less true on the personal level.
Because of that it's important to find out why there are so few black officers. There are very different solutions for very different issues -- do they need to increase diversity of applicants? Do they need to eliminate a racist element that is eliminating black candidates unfairly? Do they need to do something completely different?
Sadly, these are all issues that are relatively easily addressed. Issues that the community should have addressed before the city turned into a war zone filled with frustration, lack of compassion for either side, and bitterness.
It's great that we have had record voter turn out for the last couple of presidential elections. It's great that we've seen an increase in voter diversity during those elections. The problem is that the president is not the person who is making the decisions in our towns and counties. Towns and counties have elections decided in primaries and in off years and in a variety of potential special elections. Voter attendance across the nation at those elections is at an all time low.
If you don't speak in a manner that can be counted, screaming that no one is listening to you becomes meaningless.
I can not stress enough to communities of all colors -- white, black, brown, yellow, whatever combination may exist -- vote, in EVERY election. Be heard. If 75% of the community believes someone should be out of office, but only 25% of the community shows up to vote and 85% of those people are the ones that think that person should stay in office, you lose.
Power to the people rests in the cradle of democracy which is empowered by the vote. Stop passively giving up your voice and your power. It is not the only solution that must be applied in our complicated times, but it is certainly a strong place to start to bring change to your local government.
There is a reason they are trying to make it difficult for you to vote. Stop making it easy for them to take your power away.