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Empowering Black America

Empowering Black America Through the Vote


Derrick Johnson

President and CEO, NAACP

For many, November 8, 2016, was more than just election night. It was the night that millions of Americans confronted the fracture that had begun to divide the country at the start of the election season, which had finally torn the nation into factions of black and white, rich and poor, red and blue, engaged and apathetic.

A nation divided

Today there stand two Americas. One is unrepentant in their push to turn back the clock in ways that exacerbate the current divide. The other is still reeling from an unacceptable loss that now threatens the gains their ancestors gave their lives to attain.

For the NAACP, there is only one way to respond when forced into a corner — to come out swinging. Now is the time to pivot and look for a chance to throw our biggest punch, which in 2018 is nothing other than our vote.

Encouraging voter turnout

African American participation in the 2012 presidential election of Barack Obama exceeded white voter participation. However, in the election of Donald Trump as president, our voter turnout reached its lowest levels since 2000. In midterm elections, African American voter turnout is considerably lower than during presidential elections, and this year we cannot allow that to happen. With all 435 house seats up for reelection and 34 seats up for grabs in the Senate, just a few races can shift the balance of power in Congress.

In America, our vote is currency — and the only way to make democracy work. This is an election you can’t sit out. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is an election where if you can’t run, walk and if you can’t walk, crawl. But by any means, vote!

Overcoming the obstacles

We know the path is not easy and wrought with obstacles such as voter suppression laws and partisan gerrymandering that make it almost impossible for certain political parties to win in some districts. But as we showed in the most recent elections in Georgia and Alabama, we still can flip the script.

Each day we see new signs of hope and power led by black women, who have always been at the crux of the movement, and new coalitions committed to positive change.

But our activism is a great part of America’s history. We have spoken up, we have marched, we have sat in, and come this November, we will vote. Midterm elections are as important as presidential elections, because that is when we elect those who represent our interests at every level of government. As Frederick Douglass once noted, power concedes nothing. This year, it is through the vote that we triumph.

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