On this blog, I try to talk about the books that make me happy, or lacking that, books that give me a strong emotional response that I feel that I just have to talk about. I avoid sad subjects or books that I hate in order to promote a positive outlook on the world. If you want to read book bashing, there are lots of places to do that. I pride myself on my ability to only share my positive reading experiences.
Right now, it is 5:22am on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. In the United States, this is a big day. Election Day. I’ve been awake now for about a hour and I can’t sleep. In just a few short hours, my compatriots will start arriving at the polls and casting their ballots that will determine what kind of country the U.S. wants to be. Many of us – including myself – have cast ballots early (in fact, I mailed mine in – exactly one month ago today – and it was counted this past weekend) but the truth is that we won’t know any results for another 16 hours, at least.
If you haven’t cast your ballot yet, I implore you to do so. For no other reason than if you are not a (rich) white man, then someone in your history fought a long and hard battle to win you the right to vote and you owe it to their legacy to use it. In recent weeks, I have been reading some books on this subject and I think it worth it to read about how many Americans (citizens all) were denied the right to vote, obtained the right to vote, and, frankly, are still fighting that fight, and causing good trouble, to be able to cast a ballot at all.
I’m going to talk about only one right now. One Person, No Vote by Carol Anderson. In short, this book is a well researched, well documented argument (there are more than one hundred pages of citations at the end) about how the Black vote is still being silenced in the United States through a variety of long-term disenfranchisement strategies.
Now I consider myself knowledgeable on things. Up until the last year or so, I was an avid news junkie. I have advanced degrees in history and political science. I haven’t been unaware of what has happened in our past. Every school child learns about the Civil War, the lasting effects of Reconstruction in the South, and the Civil Right Movement of the 1960s (although I would probably argue that depending on which state from whom you received your education, the slant on these topics may be drastically different) and I was aware that there have been voting issues in the past (the first election in which I voted was the 2000 contested election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.) However, I was completely in the dark about the systemic efforts by those in power to actively suppress the votes of political rivals and people of color.
Carol Anderson lays out her (in my opinion) very persuasive argument: for decades, the Republican party has been actively disenfranchising voters through a variety of legal means. She demonstrates this by giving the reader a brief history of voter disenfranchisement, then picks up with the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, and explains the current laws that make it incredibly difficult for people of color to vote.
I don’t want to get into too many specifics. I read it purposefully, leading up to this election and I think that this would be a great book to read today. Here are a few things I didn’t know that I feel like I should have known:
-After the passage of the 15th amendment to the Constitution, ensuring that every man (and then the 19th amendment for women) had the right to vote, that people of color were given literacy tests as a part of the voter registration process to ensure that could “understand” their right to vote, while white voters were basically registered with no roadblocks whatsoever.
-Many, many polling places in neighborhoods with large Democrat voters – specifically voters of color – have been closed ensuring that people have to travel long distances to vote and have to wait in exceptionally long lines to do so. (Side note: I’d seen the images on the news of insanely long lines to vote and never thought nothing of it.)
-There has been active #fakenews campaign for decades about voter fraud and election fraud without much evidence at all. This has ensured that many Americans think this is a systemic issue and therefore support harsher standards for voting in place – specifically Voter ID laws. Except it isn’t true. It’s fake news.
-That these disenfranchisement tactics are legal. There is nothing that these states are doing that is illegal. After the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, the states can get away with these tactics with barely any federal oversight. Because states with a history of voter suppression no longer have to answer to the federal government on these “legal” actions they are taking to ensure the “fairness” of their elections.
To say that this book opened my eyes would be an understatement. I read this book alongside the series of graphic novels – March (Books 1-3) by John Lewis and the picture it paints of voter suppression is indeed hard to ignore.
On this Election Day, these issues are on the ballot. Alongside a raging pandemic where there is no leadership and an environment where people of color and religious minorities are targeted through hate speech and violence (in which a vast majority of perpetrators aren’t even arrested or charged with any crime). This election, to me, will show all Americans and the world what kind of country we want to be. One that embraces kindness, compassion, empathy and works to heal, to bring us all together or one that continues to show injustice, hypocrisy, hatred, bigotry, and a complete disrespect for the fundamentals of the democracy on which this country was founded. I know which way I want us to go.
I voted. Have you?
One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy by Carol Anderson
One Person, No Vote (YA Edition): How Not All Voters Are Treated Equally by Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden
March: Book 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
March: Book 2 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
March: Book 3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell