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Synthesis/Regeneration 24   (Winter 2001)

Racial Blind Spot Continues to Afflict Greens

by Frances M. Beal, National Secretary, Black Radical Congress

While lawyers and political gurus tussle over pregnant dimples and chads and whether to count this or that absentee ballot, the real chronicle of this election continues to be ignored: the cynical and methodical disenfranchisement of Black voters in Florida and throughout Dixie. What is so distressing is that even progressive voices have missed the crux of the problem. While they debate changing the structures of the electoral system, particularly assaults on the winner-take-all rules that are in place in most of the 50 states, there is a singular lack of passionate outrage that the most fundamental expression of a democratic society, the right to vote, has been denied to tens of thousands of people because of race.

...there is a singular lack of passionate outrage that the most fundamental expression of a democratic society, the right to vote, has been denied to tens of thousands of people because of race.

This seemingly pervasive abuse of the 1965 Voting Rights ACT (VRA) prompted the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to demand of US Attorney General Janet Reno that she launch an official inquiry into the blatant irregularities and discrimination in the African American and Haitian precincts in the Sunshine state. The letter highlights similar complaints in Virginia, North Carolina and Missouri. Now there is an emerging groundswell of complaints coming from Black precincts ranging from Hunters Point in San Francisco to Sunflower County in Mississippi.

Complaints of intimidation by white mobs outside voting precincts in Mississippi, complaints of broken voting machines, complaints of a lack of ballots in Black precincts from North to South, complaints of lack of assistance, complaints, complaints, complaints.

While this drama has been unfolding, those who have been concentrating on proposing various reform measures designed to expand voter participation have been delighted by the events in Florida, which have opened up a plethora of questions about our heretofore sacrosanct electoral procedures. The Green Party is a good example.

In a Thanksgiving Day message, presidential candidate Ralph Nader issued a statement with an agenda to revitalize "our democratic processes." The agenda included a demand to (1) end legalized bribery by publicly financing campaigns, (2) take back the airwaves to provide free time for ballot qualified candidates, (3) include everyone in elections by adopting same day voter registration, (4) give voters information by opening the Presidential debates beyond the two major parties, (5) adopt proportional representation, (6) initiate an advisory referendum on salient national issues, (7) make every vote count by allowing instant runoff voting, and (8) allowing a "none-of-the-above" option. Taken as a whole, Nader asserts, facilitating "greater citizen participation" will "strengthen our democracy."

There is nothing wrong with any of these proposals.

Indeed, if adopted, they would ensure that the winner-take-all schemes prevalent in each state could enhance the voices of Black America, particularly in the South. No, what is disturbing about this list is not what it contains, but what it leaves out. Even amid one of the most egregious attempts to disenfranchise Black voters in Florida and elsewhere, even though these crimes have come to the fore during this election as never before since the passage of the Voting Rights Act 35 years ago, despite the obvious base for progressive politics as a whole, there is no demand in this electoral agenda for the very fundamental right of access to the voting booth regardless of race or creed or national origin.

To date, Black complaints about voter fraud in this election have not had a public hearing from the Department of Justice, (responsible for enforcing the VRA) or in the mainstream press (responsible for reporting the news). On the other hand, those that wrap themselves in the righteous banner of democracy, those who are prepared to go to the wall to confront the corporate moguls that dominate our social, political, cultural and economic life, have no excuse whatsoever for not condemning white supremacy at the voting stall and in the counting booth.

Some African Americans held their noses and voted for Nader because that was the only way to express disgust with the globalization twins of Bush or Gore.

These same Black voters refused to participate in the slander of blaming Nader for Gore's deficiencies in the election. Surely, that critical Black support rested in the dismay at Nader's refusal to see the racial lens through which Corporate America dominates life in the USA today.

However, the Florida experience is there for all to see. Tale after tale, outrage after outrage has been committed against the democratic right to vote in African American and Latino precincts. Yet, this salient fact appears to have had no effect on Nader and the Greens who purport to lead the struggle for democracy. Their voting reform agenda propagated on Thanksgiving Day says nothing about the pernicious disenfranchisement of African American voters in election after election, and which had such disastrous results for Florida and for the nation this year. There is not a single word.

Shame on Ralph. Shame on the Greens.

Contact the Black Radical Congress at: blackradicalcongress@email.com

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