With another historic election behind us, many are surprised that we did not see the election of the highly-qualified Hillary Clinton as the first female president of the United States; and dismayed at the election of entrepreneur Donald Trump, a candidate who has no political or legislative experience. His campaign was filled with the very dangerous Alt-Right White supremacists philosophy as its core. However, it is my hope that as a nation Americans will be willing to put aside their political differences . Let’s remember more than anything that we are all Americans, no matter what our ethnicity, gender or background is. “United we stand – divided we fall” and fail miserably as a nation.
What will it take for us to become united as a nation? First and foremost, we should examine and address the disparities that exist in what one of the presidential candidates referred to as a “rigged system.” While keeping a fact-check filter on the rhetoric that is ever-present in most political and presidential races, I do agree with the assertion recently made by one of the candidates that “the system is rigged.”
Unfortunately, it appears that the candidate’s remark was missing some important facts associated with Americas “rigged system” towards African Americans. For example, the first Federal Civil Rights Act (CRA) was enacted in 1875. It had little effect and created the Jim Crow System. During the Jim Crow System, Blacks in Southern States were discriminated against, suppressed and prohibited the right to vote. The Ku Klux Klan was simultaneously created. They were a “White supremacist” secret society that used terrorist’s methods to intimidate Blacks in the South.
This inherently racist structure has systematically set-up barriers designed to “keep them in their place” and blatantly prevented African Americans the right to vote. African Americans endured lynching, beatings, verbal abuse and disenfranchisement in states determined to keep the voting process free of their vote.
The passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, aimed to overcome legal barriers at state and local levels that prevented African Americans from voting. According to statistics, this Act is considered to be one of the most contradictory pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history. For example, it did not prevent the “obstructionist” from developing new deny “them” their civil rights tactics. Lynching, beatings and disenfranchisement was replaced by gerrymandering. According to The American Heritage Dictionary, gerrymandering means “To divide a geographical area into voting districts to give unfair advantage to one party in elections.”
In this “rigged system;’ there is also the use of voter suppression, a tactic constructed to influence the end result of an election by diverting or keeping people from exercising their right to vote. Tactics have included; overzealous voter identification requirements, barriers to voter registration, identification requirements, barriers to voter registration, provisional ballots, long lines, inequality in resource distribution at the polls and disenfranchisement of citizens with past felony convictions. America’s judicial and legal system, unfortunately, is another institution where statistical evidence reflects an alarming percentage of African Americans unjustly incarcerated with severe sentences.
Evidence obtained in many high profile cases reveal that non-Blacks guilty of the same crimes receive lighter sentences or a pat on the wrist. For African Americans, it’s just not the “rigging” of the political system that is found to be so disturbing; but, you can find examples of similarly systematic “rigging” in most institutions established in America. Access to institutions that were allegedly designed to improve the quality of life for all its citizens have routinely been denied to African Americans that were based on the practice of institutional racism in public and private sectors.
Opportunities have been selectively limited in education, access to capital for African American-owned businesses, advancement in corporate America and growth in the free enterprise marketplace as entrepreneurs (just to name a few). Our tax code is another example of a “rigged” and flawed system that penalizes middle-class and low income families. Ironically, many African American families today fall under one or the other of the above mentioned income categories.
Many African Americans were born into a rigged system facing everyday challenges. However, because African Americans are resilient, over comers and strong in faith, we continue to make great strides and impacts no matter what the circumstances are. We all grow weary of the struggle. Yet, we must remain focused and willing to put in the commitment and effort to accomplish economic empowerment, healing in our families and communities . We must aspire to heal the growing racial divide that has grow even wider during the 2016 Presidential election and its results.
We can no longer afford the luxury of asking and waiting for acceptance of others. We are defined as to who we are and what we can accomplish by our Divine Creator. Those up for the challenge will continue to persevere and make individual and group contributions. Historically, many individuals proved to be willing to put everything on the line for racial proved to be willing to put everything on the line for racial equality—including their life.
The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently stated in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Working together with all people, we will be more than conquerors who have learned to lay our differences aside for the greater good of all mankind.
Earl “Skip” Cooper II, Publisher and Editor in Chief of the Black Business News Group (BBNG), President and Chief Executive Officer of the Black Business Association (BBA), headquartered in Southern California. The BBAis the oldest African American Business organization in the State of California. Mr. Cooper has been at the forefront of advocating for fair and equitable business opportunities and economic development. He vigorously serves as a community and political activist for African Americans and people of color.