Ferguson, fear and loathing: how Blacks are being motivated to vote in the mid-terms


LOS ANGELES, October 27, 2014—The Daily Beast’s Joshua DuBois asks, “Can Ferguson Swing the Election?

DuBois focuses on how the police officer shooting of Ferguson, Missouri teenager Michael Brown unveiled an issue of larger scope: low Black turnout in local elections produced the type of civic policies that set the stage for the Brown shooting. The Ferguson demographic is 70 percent Black, yet the leadership, from the mayor to the city council to the police chief, is white. Only 6 percent of this 70 percent demo cast a ballot in the last municipal election, effectively neutering their voice when it came to community policing standards and residential concerns.

There is an assumption that if Blacks had taken a more active role in who heads the civic and defense structures of Ferguson, that Brown’s shooting might not have occurred. This is reaching, but it clearly shows that Blacks abdicated their voice long before the town exploded over the incident.

DuBois goes on to discuss the efforts of The Dream Defenders, a grassroots group that formed in Florida after the Trayvon Martin shooting. Its “Vest or Vote” campaign starts off with subtlety, but quickly devolves into “in-your-face” propaganda, with imagery of children forced to wear Kevlar vests to protect themselves against militarized police. The video includes voiceover and images from the Trayon Martin and Michael Brown shootings. The Dream Defenders’ message: These incidents will continue to occur if Blacks do not vote.

The Georgia Democrat party has also gotten into the act, sending flyers to Georgia’s black population. One flyer reads, “Vote”, and shows in the foreground a black youth on his knees with his hands raised, with glaring lights reminiscent of those on police vehicles in the background. The other flyer shows two black children with signs that say “Don’t Shoot” and the caption, “If You Want to Prevent Another Ferguson in Their Future…”

Not to be excluded, faith leaders are also taking up the charge. “African American clergy are getting in on the action as well,” DuBois says. “Prominent black denominations and faith leaders like Rev. Cynthia Hale, Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner and others are calling the final two Sundays before the election ‘Freedom Sunday’ and ‘Turnout Sunday’ and asking congregants to go to the polls, often with a Ferguson-motivated appeal.”

The biggest problem with these campaigns is that they hinge on fear and intimidation. Were these not the tactics Jim Crow governments in the pre-civil rights South used against Blacks? What is wrong with this picture?

In a discussion about my last article on Democrats desperation to get Blacks to the polls, I asked my sister, “When will Blacks stop letting themselves be used and vote for what really matters?” She said, “They don’t bother to do their research, so they go with the crowd!” She ended with “SMH” (shaking my head). That is often my response when Blacks continue to act against their own-self interests, then cry foul when they suffer the consequences of said action.

So in large part due to these campaigns, the crowd is being herded by fear. How is this going to help the issues of community policing or listening to Black constituents and acting on their concerns? Like the outcome of the mid-term elections, that remains to be seen.

DuBois ends his piece on this hopeful note: “For black folks this November, the ‘Ferguson Election’ may indeed motivate more to come to the polls; what’s yet to be determined is how this turnout will shape the broader political landscape.”

Political action should be more than a one-shot deal, or an option to be used when a well-liked Black candidate is on the ballot. The only way you can transform the broader political landscape is for Blacks to build life-long habits of civic responsibility, not this knee-jerk response to incidents that so far have been fueled more by outside interests than the town’s actual citizenry. Over 50 years ago, people bled and died for Blacks to have the right to vote. Now we use our vote capriciously or allow ourselves to be manipulated into an emotional response rather than a response based upon, as my sister said, research and reasoning.

What too often occurs is when the outcome is not what Blacks wanted or felt that they voted for, they give up and abdicate these rights. That is always the wrong choice and results in the failures of not only Ferguson, but South Central Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago’s South Side; the list goes on.

Speaking of Chicago’s South Side, a Black pastor is letting his voice be heard in the Illinois Governor’s election. Corey Brooks of New Beginnings Church was among a group of pastors featured in an ad endorsing Bruce Rauner, the Republican gubernatorial candidate.

Rev. Brooks was quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times: “I believe it’s really time to change things up in the state of Illinois, especially on the South Side,” Brooks says in the commercial. He says he supports Rauner because he believes the Democratic party has taken advantage of African-Americans and hasn’t provided enough help for impoverished communities.”

This is exactly in line with motivating Blacks to engage in their communities and their future by doing the research, and backing and voting for candidates they feel represent their interests. This should be a positive development, especially in Democrat-heavy Chicago. Alas, that is not the case.

Rev. Brooks came upon the Chicago Sun-Times radar because his church was vandalized on Saturday. The church’s back doors were shattered, and an estimated $8,000 was stolen from a glass charity box meant to build a community center across from the church. Rev. Brooks’ family has also received several threatening phone calls related to his endorsement of Rauner. Rev. Brooks has since moved his family to another location, and turned the taped phone calls over to the police for further investigation.

Rev. Brooks talks more about the incident in a video interview:

“It makes you more upset, and saddens you more than anything that in this day and time you can’t support certain individuals, you can’t feel a certain way without people disrespecting you to this degree.

“I feel like you should be able to leave, and do whatever you want to as an American. And I think, you know, the fact that you decide to leave the Democratic plantation and decide to do your own thing, some people don’t like that. When they express themselves in this type of way, it’s totally uncalled for.”

Fear and intimidation appear to be ruling the day this election cycle. Will Blacks wise up, rise up, and break the cycle?

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  • Charlie Dalton

    Each of us should remember that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

    • Jennifer O O’Connell

      Not sure how that relates to the article, Charlie.

  • Tim Kern

    Brilliant column, Jennifer. And you’re right: as long as Democrats can count on blacks to vote blindly Democrat, neither party will care about them.

    • Plantsmantx

      Do you recommend that we vote for the party that is resurrecting Jim Crow voting laws…with our eyes wide open?

      • Tim Kern

        Proving you’re eligible to vote is very different from trying to vote when you’re not eligible. You need ID for comparatively trivial things — driving, a bank account, filling a prescription or buying cold medicine, buying eyeglasses, getting Obamacare, collecting food stamps and your free phone, for example — so you should absolutely prove you’re not stealing someone else’s vote.

        And your implication that it’s a racial thing is itself racist — do you think Blacks (or Hispanics, etc.) are too stupid to get ID? I sure don’t. They function in all other sectors of society. And to claim a right, one must prove citizenship. Otherwise, you’re a thief, a moocher, a criminal.

        I have a hard time understanding why some people want ineligible people to vote.