Please, don’t sleep on voting

fbi

If you can’t stomach the thought of voting for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, think about  James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. Or cast your vote with Viola Liuzzo in mind.

It would be easy to become jaded by the  insanity of this election cycle and decide to sit this one out. You  may be a young person who doesn’t see anything in these candidates’ messages which speaks directly to you.  Or you may view the major party candidates as so  disingenuous  you’re considering casting a protest vote for a third-party candidate.

I submit to you that neither is a viable option. Every election is an opportunity to make your voice heard. Voters in Cobb County did so recently when they sent Commission Chairman Tim Lee packing, in part because of his lack of transparency regarding the Atlanta Braves stadium deal.

And every election is a chance to exercise a hard-earned right. James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were attempting to register African-American voters in Mississippi when they were beaten and shot to death by the Ku Klux Klan.  Schwerner and Goodman were young men in their 20s who came from up North to help register black voters during Freedom Summer in 1964.  Chaney, a native Mississippian, had grown weary of conditions in his state, where he and other African-Americans  were relegated to second class citizenship.

A year later, near Selma, Alabama Viola Gregg Liuzzo was murdered by Klan members who saw her driving a black man from Montgomery to Selma. Liuzzo and her companion, Leroy Moton, were Southern Christian Leadership Conference volunteers helping to register black voters, who were routinely threatened and intimidated at the polls. Moton survived the attack by pretending to be dead. Luizzo, a wife and mother from Detroit, was shot in the face just shy of her 40th birthday.

Whenever I think about not voting, I remember something Rev. C.T. Vivian, a longtime civil rights activist now in his 90s, told me about why he and other protestors believed so deeply in what they were doing:  “We did it to fulfill our humanity.”

When you think about it, that’s not so different from today’s freedom fighters, who have taken to the streets to protest the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland and Eric Garner to name a few. Voting in local elections ensures that the people who believe the same as we do lobby to improve police training and hire more officers who are sensitive to the needs and concerns of the communities they serve.

We are facing the most important presidential election in our nation’s history. Not voting on Nov. 8th shouldn’t be an option.

viola

Viola Liuzzo

 

 

 

 

Rachel Dolezal was right to resign from the NAACP, but not because she is white

Rachel Dolezal

Rachel Dolezal

Lies and misrepresentations are always harmful. But whom among us hasn’t told a white lie or two?

When I first heard about the curious case of Rachel Dolezal,  a white woman pretending to be black, I wondered how that made her different from entertainers and actors who embrace and celebrate black culture.

People like  Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke and Gary Owen, an actor and comedian who happens to be married to a black woman, giving him a unique window into black culture. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a culture that brought the world Etta James, Muddy Waters and B.B. King? Or Muhammad Ali, Usher Raymond and Beyonce?

I have always been proud to be an African-American. Next month, our family will gather in Atlanta for our 57th annual reunion. It’s a place to share love,  recognize academic achievement and celebrate our heritage.

But when I found out  Ms. Dolezal identified herself as African-American on job applications, my opinion changed. We don’t know Ms. Dolezal’s full story because she is dodging reporters. On Monday,  she resigned as president of the Spokane, Washington N.A.A.C.P.  That’s a good call on her part. Her lies have damaged her credibility and made it impossible for her to continue to lead.

American history contains several instances of white people who gave their lives in the fight for civil and human rights.  In 1964, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner, two young, Jewish men from the Northeast, were murdered in Neshoba County, Mississippi along with native son James Chaney as they attempted to register blacks to vote during Freedom Summer.

In 1965, Viola Gregg Liuzzo, a wife, mother and N.A.A.C.P. from Detroit, was shot to death in Alabama by members of the Ku Klux Klan as she worked to register black voters.

And let’s not forget the fearless Freedom Riders, hundreds of black and white Americans who in 1961 were beaten and arrested in South Carolina and Alabama; and  jailed in Jackson, Miss. on the ridiculous charge of  “breach of the peace.”  Their goal was to test the enforcement of federal laws prohibiting segregation in interstate bus travel.

Ms. Dolezal’s case reminds of us a time when light-skinned black men and women passed for white to avoid such violence or to gain employment or a better education. Typically, they were the descendents of slave masters who raped black women they considered nothing more than property.

These painful facts may help explain why so much anger is being directed at Ms. Dolezal.  Our history is undeniable; and no matter how many times some folks try to rewrite it or justify it, the facts speak for themselves. They are part the reason we still have such much trouble talking about race in America. It’s personal, especially for southerners.

You have to wonder why Ms. Dolezal, who was so active in an organization whose goal is fairness for all people no matter who they are, chose to be someone she is not.

Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were reported missing and later found dead in an earthen dam. They were shot and buried by members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were reported missing and later found dead in an earthen dam. They were shot and buried by members of the Ku Klux Klan.

ViolaGregg Luizzo, a wife and mother from Detroit, was murdered by Klan members while helping register voters in Montgomery and Selma. She was shot to death while driving with a black man in her car.

Viola Gregg Luizzo, a wife and mother from Detroit, was murdered by Klan members while helping register voters in Montgomery and Selma. She was shot to death while driving with a black man in her car.