Now while many African people were heavily involved with the election process this year, there were many others who wanted nothing to do with it. Their reasons for being bystanders in this event were understandable and justifiable. For the many centuries that Africans have been in this country, they have been subjected to harsh circumstances due to the legislation of politicians. The United States constitution in its original form before the many subsequent amendments is testament to this reality. The legally enforced segregation, black codes and Jim Crow laws that prevailed post slavery is further evidence to this truth. The Three Strikes laws that became popular in many states in the 1990ies additionally support the aversion of many blacks to politics because they adversely affected the African community. However, it is the prevalence of racism throughout all chapters of American history and the lack of change after so many years of voting that is the biggest fuel for the avoidance of many blacks to politics. With so much historical information and memory available, it is easy to see why so many African people avoid the election process all together.
However, for an oppressed people trying to change their standing in the world, is this the correct course of action? If we take a look at other ethnic groups within the country, you will find they have no aversion to politics and have used the system to obtain what they want socially, economically and politically. The modern day Euro-American Jewish people are a good example of this. While not at a level comparable to African people, they have been subject to a holocaust and discrimination, yet they wield tremendous power in this country and have achieved a significant level of opulence despite being a very small minority in the United States. Why have they been able to achieve such things and not African people in the country?
While their Caucasian heritage plays a large role in this circumstance, they also recognize the importance of unity/kinship, knowing the law, understanding the political system and taking advantage of it for their own benefit. They also recognize that economics and politics are very closely related. As a result the financial power you wield can also be used as an implement to influence political decisions. The larger population of Africans in the U.S. fails to realize this reality. Your vote should come at a price, and a very high one that will lead to decisions from which your people can benefit. On election day I spent much time contemplating this issue, and via Facebook I observed arguments for and against getting involved with voting and America’s political system. I came to the conclusion that voting is one thing, but influencing political officials to do as the people desire is another thing. All tools available must be implemented to further the status of African people in the country and in the world.
If we now go back in time to quintessential Africa, you will find that political involvement by the people was a natural way of life. Political decision making and democracy was engrained in the culture of the many societies that existed, and that power flowed from the bottom upwards to the leaders. In “The Destruction of Black Civilization,” Chancellor Williams details how these societies were stratified into political groups according to age range for governance. Such organization meant everyone had to be involved in decisions that affected their immediate circumference and the nation on a whole. Dr. Williams gives an example of such decision making by relaying the experience of a European who visited an African nation and wanted to be granted access to tour the various regions of the land. He complained that he had to wait several weeks before the king would agree to meet with him while other Africans who arrived after he did, met with the leader immediately. What this European failed to realize is that, those other Africans were the king’s advisors who had to get the people’s approval to allow the explorer to tour the land. The king could not grant an outsider the right to tour the nation without the population’s consent. Such political involvement in all aspects of government is a tradition African people have forgotten and need to remember. In kingdoms such as ancient Kemet, kings were supposed to carry out the desires of the people. If they didn’t they would be removed. This holds true for modern society so political involvement is something that “must” be actively practiced because it is the common sense and African thing to do.
It is thus important to know history, one’s own and that of others, because those memories serve as learning tools that can be used for political action. I will close with the following excerpt from Ivan Van Sertima’s essay on “History as a Guide to Modern Political Action.” “We should drink deep from the well of our history but in a way that nourishes rather than simply titillates us, poisons us, or divide us. History is a critical complement to contemporary reality and it is particularly helpful to those who have lost their way in the world because the footprints of their past have vanished or been erased……….It should be a dynamic beam of light in daily motion across the sky of our minds. It should charge us not only with a surge of new pride but the electric energy of creative action.” Thank you for reading.