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Voting is your right

31st October 2016   ·   0 Comments

Conventional wisdom suggests that things rarely stay the same — they either get better or they get worse. While there are many facts that will determine whether conditions will improve in communities of color across the U.S. or continue to decay, people of color should always remember that nothing has ever come easy for people of African descent in the United States.

It took more than a century for this nation to even recognize that we are fully humans and classify us as such when quantifying the population. It took quite some time for the news that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation to make its way to some parts of Texas and the Deep South — I suspect that there are still some sections of the South where that news still hasn’t sunk in. And it took a century after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation for the United States Congress to get around to passing the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

Even now, there is a vigorous movement under way to take those rights away from anyone in America who isn’t white, male and part of the notoriously wealthy one percent.

That alone ought to be enough of an incentive for all of us who know anything about the history of this nation and from whence we have come to get out and vote on November 8.

A number of white people, many of them who hail from the “party of Lincoln,” have said that there have been few times in modern history where Blacks and whites have been so bitterly divided as they have been since the nation first elected President Barack Obama.

That’s not a stretch of the imagination.

Things are particularly hostile and testy with regard to race relations in America.

But what these Obama detractors aren’t telling you is that rank and file whites across the country are taking their cues from whites in Congress who stand up in the nation’s capitol and shout at the president “You lie!” and Tea Party folks who see nothing wrong with spitting on Black congressmen like Rep. John Lewis, a former aide to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Those kinds of acts led to the rise of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has gained popularity for saying all the things about Blacks, Latinos, Asians, women and the poor that white people used to be able to say openly. This racially charged climate also led to the despicable hatred personified by South Carolina’s Dylan Root when he murdered nine Black worshippers at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church because Blacks are “taking everything.”

The rise of Black political power, even though Obama’s victories have been more symbolic than substantive, have changed the game and raised the stakes in America.

In more ways than we can count, the election and re-election of President Obama and the discipline, dignity and grace he and his family have displayed over the past eight years have inspired people of color to aim high and be willing to take on any challenge.

But it has also uncovered a centuries-old racial wound that dates back to the 17th century and prompted those in power to shore up efforts to keep people of color, women and the poor in their place.

The animosity some whites display toward the Obamas or any Black person who has managed to get accepted into college is no different than the bitter distrust and hostility poor whites showed toward enslaved Africans, who they blamed for taking jobs away from them in antebellum times.

There is still a lot to vote for in the wake of the Obama Era and lots of issues on the ballot that are relevant to communities of color. There are congressional races, school board races, judicial seats up for grams and a host of Louisiana constitutional amendments that will directly or indirectly impact all of our lives.

Before you vote, do your homework. Brush up on the issues and the candidates, Look at the candidates’ financial backers and how those backers have treated people who look like you in the past. Don’t be fooled by a pretty face, catchy slogan or a slick TV ad. Listen closely, pay attention and make sober choices that are most likely to result in positive developments in your community.

Black votes, like all votes, matter.

Our endorsements:

Presidential Electors: For President & VP: Hillary Clinton & Tim Kaine

Do we elect a narcissist as our nation’s leader?

Do we send to the Oval Office a candidate whose own words exemplify his fundamental lack of understanding of the issues and responsibilities of the Presidency?

Do we give an electoral mandate to a man whose slurs against women and minorities have managed to rip the American body politic apart?

Let’s be honest. There is a distinct lack of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton, particularly amongst African-American voters. Yet, the very fact that she is not Donald Trump should encourage everyone to go the polls on November 8 and vote for her.

In fact, the lack of “fire for Hillary” is somewhat unfair. As First Lady, she shepherded the CHIP Act through Congress, providing over 8 million poor children—a plurality of them Black—with health insurance for the first time. As U.S. Senator, she put her stamp on over 400 successfully enacted pieces of legislation, which ranged from alleviating poverty to provide Louisiana with critical resources after Hurricane Katrina. As U.S. Secretary of State, she helped both open peace initiatives—and a watery grave for Osama Bin Laden.

In contrast, all Donald Trump can boast of in the public realm amounts to a fruitless search for a Kenyan Birth Certificate.

Vote for experience.

Vote for Hillary Clinton.

U. S. Senator: Foster Campbell

He has consistently stood up for “the little guy.”

Foster Campbell styles himself as the last Louisiana Populist, and his stands against rapacious oil companies, windfall profiting utilities, and other titans of industry on behalf of the consumer has garnered our great respect. He has a career in public service outstretching his rivals by decades. Again we ask you to vote for proven experience.

U. S. Representative 2nd Congressional District: Cedric Richmond

We respect the out-going Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge, Kip Holden. He has been a hardworking public servant over the last decade. However, Cedric Richmond has become one of the leaders in the House, and likely the next Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Given his exemplary record, and strong relationship across the aisle, we would not replace this seasoned advocate for South Louisiana for any other politician—no matter how skilled.

Judge, Court of Appeal 4th Circuit, 1st District, Division D: Regina Bartholomew-Woods

This was the hardest decision that our editors had to make this election season. Chief Judge Laurie White has our greatest respect. Her criminal diversion program has mainstreamed over 60 offenders back into jobs and society. She has restored calm at Tulane and Broad, and been an even-handed-advocate for the rights of the accused and the victim.

Nevertheless, our editors narrowly chose Judge Regina Bartholomew-Woods due to her Civil Court experience, at a time when a series of controversial class-action lawsuits will require that expertise. Judge Bartholomew-Woods has the proven background and experience to deal with those cases.

Judge Criminal District Court, Section D: Paul A. Bonin

This was an easy decision. No one matches Judge Paul Bonin’s experience. Moreover, the fact that an Appeals Court Jurist was so concerned about the levels of unjust imprisonment and dysfunctional criminal courts that he was willing to take (what some would consider) a career demotion to lend his extensive expertise to Tulane and Broad made his endorsement a proverbial “no brainer.”
Member of School Board District 6: Woody Koppel

The serve the equal responsibilities of advocating for local school board control as well as administrative and fiscal reform at OPSB is a weighty balancing act that few could achieve. Koppel has the confidence of both pro-charter and pro-local control advocates, and has constantly proven himself as an expert bridge between the two groups. And always, Woody Koppel has focused on the kids throughout his terms on the OPSB. Please support his re-election.

Member of School Board District 7: Alvin R. Crusto Jr.

Mr. Crusto has consistently fought for the basic premise that if Orleans taxes go to schools, than the people’s elected representatives should oversee those schools. As most of the Recovery School District schools return to local control, we need a man of such principal on the OPSB.

PW HRC Amendment – Secs. 9-401, 9-402, 9-403, 9-404, 9-405 – CC: Vote YES

This change to the New Orleans Home Rule Charter would establish in law what exists in practice. The Police Monitor and the Inspector General would have independent funding sources guaranteed, and those funds would be separated between the two offices by law.

The Police Monitor does a different job than the Inspector General. The IG does not have to focus on violence against offenders for example, and that requires a different set of skills. Please support.

Mayor City of Kenner: “Ben” Zahn

The current Jefferson Parish Councilman and former Kenner Councilman is a whirlwind of ideas. He has consistently shepherded economic development projects in his district, championed beautification and fought for quality of life issues since first entering office.
Zahn has also worked across racial and party lines on some of the most difficult issues that the state’s sixth-largest city has endured. Consequently, the Councilman enjoys strong support in the African-American community, and our nod for Mayor of Kenner.

Councilman at Large Division B, City of Kenner: No Endorsement

Our editors do not like to avoid making a choice in an election, when we have met with the candidates. But, neither of the contenders for the At-Large position demonstrated much sensitivity to the fact that Kenner will soon transform into a minority-majority city, and must deal with increasingly urban problems with empathy. We leave this to the voters, observing little difference between the candidates.

CA NO. 1 (ACT 677 – HB 459) – Registrar of Voters : Vote YES

This is a minor legal adjustment in the state constitution and ranks worthy of support.

CA NO. 2 (ACT 680 – SB 80) – Establish Tuition without Legislative Approval: Vote NO

Everyone desires better-financed universities, but this constitutional change would create a dangerous precedent in Louisiana. We would essentially declare as a state that a government agency can act independently of the publically elected oversight authority in determining costs. If raising tuition is the true desire of our university system, another option exists. They can begin the process of ‘going private.’ Schools from LSU to SUNO can each opt to follow the example of Tulane, once named the University of Louisiana, and transfer their status from a state to a private institution.

CA NO. 3 (ACT 31 – HB 31) – Eliminate Deductibility of Federal Income Taxes: Vote NO

The desire to lower the state corporate income tax to the lower rate of 6.5% has its defenders, but our editors were concerned that the loss of itemized deductions to do so would unduly harm small businesses, while benefiting large corporations. Considering that the change is not revenue neutral help sway our editorial board. Vote No.

CA NO. 4 (ACT 678 – HB 505) – Homestead Exemption-Surviving Spouse: Vote YES

To put a huge tax increase on the surviving spouse of one of nation’s veterans is a selfish act. We should honor her or him as we honor the sacrifices of the former serving veteran by giving an added homestead exemption.

CA NO. 5 (ACT 679 – HB 603) – Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund: Vote YES

This simply directs the monies that are supposed to reserved each year to balance the budget more towards that purpose. It also mandates that the legislature refill that emergency fund in a more realistic fashion. Please support.

CA NO. 6 (ACT 681 – SB 201) – Use Funds to Eliminate Projected Deficits: Vote YES

It’s simple logic to say that when one runs a surplus, after putting some money away for a proverbial “rainy day”, one should pay down the credit cards. States are no different, and this amendment eliminates some of the loopholes that allowed legislators to spend 100 percent of the money collected each year.

This article originally published in the October 31, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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