Why do politics matter for black folk? Can one group who's been oppressed for so long continue to make strides without fully grasping or immersing themselves in politics? We have a black president in Barack Obama is all well. Not at all. Politics matter for everyone. It's the laws that make up how our society is run. It's the people put in the positions to make these laws. It's the makeup of the foundation of this country. It's everything. While we all need politics, certain groups need to understand politics more because life is not equal. Since the beginning of time specific groups have had direct and systematic advantages over other groups. In particular, white Protestant males have had the upper hand with land and business ownership, while women, minorities and gays have had an uphill battle. White Protestant males claim to have founded the country and start the government system. Things haven't changed since. With the passing of civil rights legislation, equality laws put in place and the passage of such bills as gay marriage, considerable strides in the last 70 years have been made. Yet most recently, these same gains have had an all out assault put on them. Voting rights have been scaled back, black males are being used as target practice by police and the wealth gap is at a fever pitch. What gives? While it seems often times the latest Jordan shoe release is top of many peoples' minds, there are other people working to restructure entire policies for states and municipalities. It matters.
A personal story of why politics matter for me. This past weekend I was pulled over after leaving Cornell University en route back to Syracuse. I was driving under the speed limit when I was pulled over by a cop with a full car of other collegiate, young black males. When he approached the car the first thing he said was, "Tell me where the weed is, and as long as it's under an ounce, I will be sure to get you guys right out of here." Only problem is, none of us had weed on us. He then asked for my license and registration to which I gave him with my college ID slipped under. He then yelled at me to get out of the car. I responded, "Sir with all due respect I know my rights and I did nothing wrong. If there is an issue you can let me know, but if you want to search my car you're going to need a warrant." The officer was taken aback. He called backup and continued to ask to search my car. I continued to say no and after ten minutes he let me go. He had no reason to pull me over and no reason to search the car. Yes the car was filled with five young black men, but we are all college educated. We are all law-abiding and yet we are at risk just as much as the next person. In the midst of all of this I was still disgusted. I was ashamed and annoyed. We had been stereotyped and incidentally pulled over for no reason. He said he smelled weed, but there was no weed to be found. All I could think was don't make any sudden moves so I did not end up another tragic story. But also, why did I have to justify who I was as a young man by sliding my college I.D. to the officer. All I knew was that I didn't want to find out otherwise. Another story similar to mine included a guy from South Carolina that was shot at multiple times by an officer after he was pulled over and told to get his license.
If I had not some sort of background in politics and current events this situation could have been different. I may not have understood what my actions could result in or what I could and could not do in that situation. It's people like Attorney General Eric Holder who fight for the rights of young black males as he seeks to reduce non-violent drug offenses for convicted persons in prisons. It's people like New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio with the work of Rev. Al Sharpton who work tirelessly to get crooked cops off the street and stop a dangerous practice of 'stop and frisk' in our communities that statistically does more harm than good. It's important to understand and know politics so you know your rights. Instead of fighting from the top down you can fight from the bottom up. We can elect persons to represent our communities and we can represent people to represent us. We need politics because politics is the people and the sooner we do, the sooner things start balancing out across the board.
lives by one word: achievement. in anything and everything, achieve.