Post-Racial Voting? Think Again.

By Guest Columnist Nov 20, 2009

Written by Nina Jacinto, this post originally appeared on The NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s (LDF) Political Participation Group, has released "’Post-Racial’ America? Not Yet," a report that details why voting rights continue to be an important issue, despite having President Barack Obama in the White House.

The report does three things in particular. First, it questions the "post-racial" argument being made among groups that challenge the Voting Rights Act, particularly Section 5, which protects voters against voting discrimination. These groups are challenging Section 5 because apparently, now that we have a black president, racism for everyone in the United States has ended. I don’t think most of us need to look far to see occurrences that question the sanity of those that claim they’re residing in a post-racial world. Second, the report shows the progress and continued limitations of race in politics since President Obama’s election. It points out that white folks were the only group not to cast a majority of votes for Obama. This may not be particularly salient, but in the larger context of communities that continue to hold onto a foundation built into white supremacy, these are troubling results. In particularly racially polarized states, such as Alabama and Louisiana, the percentage of white voters who voted for Obama are very low — under 15 percent. The report concludes what many of us already know — that Obama’s victory was a result of an increased number of voters of color and an increased number of white voters who voted in areas not covered by Section 5.

Overall, the report does something indirectly through its efforts: it reminds young people that we should all be wary of thinking that there is no work to be done in voting activism. Protection against voter discrimination remains fragile and is so frequently challenged. It’s important for young people to be aware of the communities in which people of color are getting intimidated, personally and institutionally, from voting the way they want. There continues to be a huge racial gap in certain communities and for many of us living in liberal cities, we forget that. Young people of color shouldn’t have to turn 18 only to find out their right to vote is being compromised.