Voter Suppression and My Situation





13 December 2011

Dearest Rachel Maddow. . .

As I write I listen to you speak of poll taxes and voter suppression.  I wish to share my story in respect to my personal reality and the fear that I live with.  Decades before the Barack Obama long-form birth certificate, I realized my own fear.   Unlike the persons in your account, I am not a senior citizen.  I am a permanent resident of the United States and have been for all of my life.  While I have never crossed a border into another country, I have great apprehension for what might occur.  

May I provide a bit of background? For the last six years, I have lived in the State of Florida. I trust that the Florida situation, and thus mine, is familiar for more than a few.  Millions of Americans have found, or will discover, circumstances have changed.  The opportunity to cast a ballot, early, easily, or to merely to be part of the electoral process is no longer theirs.  

Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America

Viewing the current attacks on voter access as a whole, several key points emerge:

• Fourteen states enacted a total of twenty-five measures that will unfairly and unnecessarily restrict the right to vote and exact a disproportionate price on African-American and other voters of color. Dozens more restrictions have been proposed nationwide, in a coordinated assault on voting rights.

• Several of the very states that experienced both historic participation of people of color in the 2008 Presidential Election and substantial minority population growth according to the 2010 Census are the ones mounting an assault to prevent similar political participation in 2012. These states include those that experienced the largest growth in total African-American population during the last decade (Florida, Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina), and three states that saw the highest growth rates in Latino population (South Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee).

• The restrictive measures adopted by these states include:

• Tightening the requirements for voter registration or making the voter registration process unnecessarily difficult by imposing severe restrictions on persons who conduct voter registration drives or requiring individuals to produce documentary proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.

§ Increasing disfranchisement of people with felony convictions.

§ Substantially reducing the opportunity to vote early or by absentee ballot.

§ Erecting barriers to participation on Election Day itself The heart of the modern block the vote campaign is a wave of restrictive government-issued photo identification requirements.

In a coordinated effort, legislators in thirty-four states introduced bills imposing such requirements. Many of these bills were modeled on legislation drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-a conservative advocacy group whose founder explained: “our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

According to one estimate by the Brennan Center for Justice, these block the vote efforts could impede as many as five million eligible voters from registering and/or casting ballots in 2012. While the sheer volume of the affected eligible voters is alarming in itself, the threat is compounded when you consider that the effects will not be felt evenly throughout society. In the context of state photo identification requirements, for example, an astonishing 25% of African Americans (over 6.2 million African-American voters) and 16% of Latinos (over 2.96 million Latino voters) do not possess valid photo ID. By comparison, only 8% of whites are without a current government-issued photo ID.

However, the trepidation I feel existed before my move here. It began when I first realized that my birth certificate and proof of my lineage were in question. More than once, I have been asked to produce what I can do, only in part.  While I am not visibly a minority, other than being a woman, which may be both a majority and among the marginalized, I may not be among those characterized as a fully documented citizen.

My Mom is my birth mother. My dad adopted me when I was thirteen.  My natural father as well as each of my parents is no longer present in the physical world.  Even when they were here on Earth, I was concerned.  Being adopted while living a thousand miles away from my birthplace; indeed, even being adopted while in Middle School, on many occasions I have been asked to present my papers!

Since the age of seventeen, I lived on my own.  I also began my career as an extremely committed and regular voter.  In Wisconsin, if you were seventeen during the primaries but would be eighteen by the time of the general election you could as I would, cast a ballot in the Spring.

When I was in my late teens or very early twenties, my mom gave me my hospital birth certificate, the State papers, as well as the revised, post adoption documents.  I know not how, or when, I only know that I proceeded to lose every record.

Thankfully, I had studied the three before these disappeared. I know the name of the hospital I was born in, the city, the county, and the State.  I am well aware of the time of birth.  My Mom always told the story I love. I know the tale of how and where I was conceived. Still, for all these years, I have been unable to secure copies of my original birth files.

The hospital changed hands.  The State of Pennsylvania, a score ago, sent me the altered copy of my short version birth certificate.  On it, my adopted Dad and Mom are listed as my parents.  Funny or not, today, I know not where that document is either.  [I have moved too often and from State to State.] Were I asked to produce a long form file, or required to furnish more forms that speak to the specifics, I could not.

Perhaps, having been asked for my papers on many occasions in my five decades on this planet, in this country, shades my reality.  In truth, that is why Mommy bestowed the certificates.  Schools, professional pursuits, medical circumstances, and much more in an American life, at times, necessitates that I produce documentation.

Aware of the current political environment, and where I now live, my apprehension increases.  While I believe I am still able to retrieve a copy of the altered post-adoption short-form certificate, were there a need for me to actually present verification of my birth, complete with the names of my natural parents, the hospital and time at which I was born, I cannot do so.

No Rachel, I am not Black, Brown or any color other than the Caucasian pink.  I am not elderly.  I am not an immigrant.  I was born in a hospital, one that still stands.  I also was born in a very large city!  Produce my official papers?  Currently, I cannot!

I strongly suspect I am not alone.  Might a Tea Party person share my truth?  I often wonder.  Could a Conservative too be without the documents he or she is certain someone has? Independents too, in America, do not live on an island.  Any of these might experience as this Democrat does.  I am without documents

I thank you Rachel for reading my story. I hope my veracity will serve to expand the story. The disenfranchised could be you, and very easily me!

So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind-it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen… ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior

“Only you can choose whether the Earthly weight, the gravity of circumstances holds you down.  You have the power to decide if  you are one with the whole of the elements. Wind, air, fire, and water are yours for the taking . . .

Fly freely.  Breathe deeply.  Ignite or inspire with intensity.   Drink the joy of living with gusto. Learn. Grow. Glow Greater!”


 . . . Betsy L. Angert

Reference for Voters Rights . . .

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White Defenders



racist16_400

copyright © 2010 Forgiven.  The Disputed Truth

Originally Published on Sunday, January 10, 2010

In a private conversation reported in a new book, Reid described Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign as a “light-skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

I have to be honest that I am always a bit skeptical when white folks feel compelled to step up and defend black folks from other white folks. I am even more cynical when it is white Republicans doing the defending. This would be the same Republican party who has since the 60’s run on the southern strategy, whose conventions look more like all-white country clubs, and who have from his election sought to de-legitimize this President. Now we are to believe that they are so concerned with the delicate psyche of African-Americans that Senator Reid’s remarks rises to the level of Trent Lott?

For those who don’t remember Trent Lott was the Republican majority leader who stated that the country would have been better off if unrepentant segregationist Strom Thurmond had won the presidency in 1948.

For the sake of argument, let’s look at Senator Reid’s reported statement concerning then Senator Obama. He stated that he was a light-skinned black man which as far as I can tell would be a true statement. My guess is that Senator Reid was alluding to the fact that historically lighter skinned blacks have fared better in American society than darker skinned blacks so that would be a positive in his bid to become president. On the surface this would appear to be a callous statement however if we look at not only the history of blacks within the majority society but also within the black community the statement tends to stand on its own merits. Now does this excuse the fact that darker-skinned blacks tend to be discriminated more than light-skinned blacks? Of course not, but the truth is still the truth.

Let’s face it folks whites tend to be more comfortable with light-skinned blacks. If you were to poll blacks and say does the fact that President Obama is light-skinned does that diminish his status as an African-American I think the answer would be a resounding no based on the fact that he received almost 100% of the black vote.

The second part of Senator Reid’s remarks could be more problematic in the sense that he stated that Obama had no Negro dialect which could be offensive to some blacks. The question then becomes do blacks, as a group, speak differently from whites and can those differences be readily apparent to the listener? I think Senator Reid was stating that Barack Obama could choose to speak black or white depending on his audience. The problem here is that we are talking about politicians who often craft their message depending on their audience and for a politician to be able to speak to multiple groups is an asset. I think I remember during the campaign how Hillary and Bill changed dialects when they were speaking in black churches or to primarily black audiences. Does that make them racists? I think not, it makes them politicians.

As every successful black man knows who is not in the entertainment business or a professional athlete knows, we live in two different worlds we have to adept in the white world as well as the black world. I have to be able to speak to white businessmen as well as black community folks and they are not the same.

The biggest problem I have with this faux Republican outrage is that in order to determine Reid’s remarks one has to look at his intent. Was his intent to racially disparage Barack Obama? No, in fact in his mind he was giving a list of the positives for then candidate Obama. We must remember this was the beginning of a historical campaign and who amongst us did not consider these if not other positives and negatives of the candidates. The problem for Senator Reid is that his remarks were recorded. To me this just demonstrates the problem with the current Republican strategy and that is it shows their total lack of principles. When you attack everything you find yourself defending some former positions that you once opposed, by doing this you appear hypocritical at best and insane at worse. Republicans defending Medicare?

So what we have is Senator Reid stating that Barack Obama was a light-skinned black man who could speak to both black and white audiences. Yeah, that’s grounds for his immediate dismissal. Speaking as a black man I’m still missing the outrage no matter who had made the statement.

For Michael Steele to go on television and equate what Senator Reid reportedly said to what Trent Lott said is beyond me. Are we to believe that saying the country would be better off today if in 1948 an avowed racist had won the Presidential election is comparable to saying that Barack Obama was more electable because he was light-skinned and he spoke to both blacks and whites? I don’t think so. Have we become so racially sensitive that stating the obvious is now considered racist? The reason Mr. Steele will never be able to accomplish what he was elected to do which I think was to reach out to African-American voters is because in order to defend his task masters he losses any credibility with the very voters he is charged with attracting. Mr. Steele’s remarks may appeal to whites but if that is his core audience then the Republicans would have better served if they had elected another white man who would not have brought the baggage Mr. Steele has obviously brought. Do Republicans believe that blacks are that gullible? I hope not for their sakes.

“Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.”

~ Elbert Hubbard  

2008; Unprecedented



McCain Does Not Get It That Americans Say Country Off Course

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

The consensus is this election year is like no other.  It is more dynamic than those in the past.  The times they are a changing.  Indeed, there is much to substantiate this proclamation.

It can be argued; Hillary Clinton was the first woman Presidential candidate with a chance.  The New York Senator proved that females are free to be strong.  Ladies are able to look to the skies.  Glass ceilings have been shattered since Hillary Rodham Clinton took the political stage.  A former First Lady may be the right person for the job.  Some say she is better than her husband ever was.  A few claim the Clinton of extraordinary excellence is not Bill; it is Hillary.  The daughter of Hugh and Dorothy Rodham proved what was posited in prior years.  A Presidential aspirant need not be a man.  The climb to the Executive Branch can be achieved in a skirt or a pants suit.

A case could be made for the novelty that is Barack Obama.  Some say the Illinois Senator is the only African-American Presidential hopeful to truly have a chance.  Barack Obama is not as any other man of color who rose through the ranks.  Senator Obama is a scholar and sensitive to a system that must be delicately stroked.

Verification for this stance is often offered.  Comparisons are made to other candidates of color.  Prominent persons have presented the perception Jesse Jackson was not to be taken seriously.  A few counter what they think an unconscionable contention.  Civil Rights Leader Jesse Jackson was a contender and could have been President of the United States.  The number of delegates Presidential candidate Jackson received in 1984 is impressive.  Whether he could have or would have won may forever remain a question.  The narrative validates or negates the contention the election of 2008 is truly exceptional.  Conclusions, just as opinions will vary.  

A few will surmise perhaps, the skin color of a candidate does not make this election year unique.  Others will assert gender has not been an issue for years.  The fairer sex broke barriers long ago, as did African-Americans.

Citizens in the States might further muse Congresswoman Chisholm was a great challenger.  She could have reached the Oval Office decades earlier.  Shirley Chisholm would have received more votes if the electorate believed it was possible to elect a Black woman President.  Possibly, if the Representative thought herself more than  the aspirant who wished “to give a voice to the people the major candidates were ignoring,” she might have waged a fully organized effort.  Instead, the Chisholm campaign was exclusively, a grassroots endeavor.  

After the process was over, Shirley Chisholm questioned whether she might have done better if her operation were not under-organized, under-financed and unprepared.  Perchance, Congresswoman Chisholm could have been so much more if she and the nation trusted she was a serious candidate and threat to the presumed nominee.  Hindsight is that.  We may realize much after the fact.  We may also understand that frequently, history repeats itself.

While the 2008 Election may, or may not be a distinctively different campaign in the obvious sense, milestones are evident.  A New York Times – CBS poll presented only two short months ago revealed Americans do not think themselves better off.  81% in Poll Say Nation Is Headed on Wrong Track.  Today, the news is unprecedented.

Dissatisfaction with the direction of the country hit an all-time high this month, with 84 percent saying the nation is now seriously on the wrong track.

Registered voters polled in a Washington Post – ABC News poll  say the time for change is now.  Perchance there is more agreement in this nation than ever before.  Americans want to take a path that differs from the one we now travel.  Citizens are tired of living in a country that does not serve the constituents.  In 2008, contentment and complacency are difficult to find.  

The challenge to get people to the polls may be less critical this year.  A transformation too long in coming is welcome.  That point is one I think those who care about this country will not dispute.

Sources for discussion . . .

“On to November”




To view the original art, please travel to On to November”

copyright © 2008.  Andrew Wahl.  Off The Wahl Perspective.

Looking Forward, Plus Some Off the Wahl Perspective News

This week’s toon, “On to November” [Archive No. 0822], is a sequel to a cartoon from mid-May. With even a Democratic congressman publicly refusing to endorse Obama, this whole party unity thing is going to take awhile.

Before signing off, two bits of Off the Wahl Production news:

1. As some of you may have noticed, the OtWP Blog has been out of commission for a couple of weeks now. Serious database problems continue to plague it, and professionals have been called in. Hopefully, this will lead to the return of the blog sometime soon.

2. In happier news, my “Surge” cartoons from last year were recently honored by the Society of Professional Journalists’ Excellence in Journalism Awards for Region 10 (an area including Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington), finishing third behind work from Northwest cartooning legends David Horsey of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Jack Ohman of The Oregonian. The judge found my series “startling and stark, sends strong message quickly and with focus.” (I’ll attach the three cartoons from the series below for your viewing.)

That’s all for now. Back next week, hopefully with good news about the OtWP Blog.

Till then,

Andrew

toon@offthewahl.com


‘The Surge Marches On …’ (color version)

Archive No. 0728b

Created August 27, 2007



‘Leaving Troops in Harm’s Way’?(color version)

Archive No. 0717b

Created April 29, 2007





‘This Surge’ (color version)

Archive No. 0709b

Created March 4, 2007

A negative feeling




To view the original art, please travel to A negative feeling

copyright © 2008.  Andrew Wahl.  Off The Wahl Perspective.

I’m starting to get worried about the Democratic race – and about the increasingly nasty tone of both candidates. At the end of the day, this election isn’t really about them.  This week’s toon, “A Word From the Middle Class,” tries to put that in focus.

A ‘bitter’ reality check




To view the original art, please travel to A ‘bitter’ reality check

copyright © 2008.  Andrew Wahl.  Off The Wahl Perspective.

How do you make an “elitist” charge stick against someone with Barack Obama’s background?  The whole line of attack – which is the subject of this week’s toon, “Who’s Out of Touch” – just seems disingenuous to me.

How Do We Integrate The Poor Into Our Neighborhoods?

copyright © 2008 Forgiven.  The Disputed Truth

As someone who lives in a neighborhood going through gentrification I am often at odds with my belief that poor people need to be integrated into mixed income neighborhoods and the fact that many poor people trash the neighborhoods they live in.  We must develop a method of removing poor people from the isolation of ghetto existence, while at the same time protecting the values of the properties we relocate them to.  Unfortunately because of personal decisions, lifestyles, and circumstances many of our poorer citizens have lost either the desire or the ability to respect their environments.  Many will say that this is due to our treatment of poor people and I would not disagree with this, but this does not help in creating situations that will allow them to escape the dangers of ghetto life.

Developers in some cities are trying to incorporate the same public housing tenants that once lived in the neighborhoods back into them after development through vouchers, subsidies, and grants.  Sometimes when poverty is multi-generational many self defeating habits may be developed, habits which make it difficult to understand the responsibilities of ownership.  I recommend that as part of the voucher and subsidy process we require recipients to attend seminars that detail the responsibilities of the members in an ownership society.  No one is inherently born knowing how to be responsible, we learn these things from our parents and our environments.  The reason many poor people are not more responsible is not because they are inherently lazy or trifling, but because no one has taught them any better.

The redevelopment of the Arthur Capper and Carrollsburg projects, where Ms. Jackson lived, is the first in the country to promise replacement of all low-income units within the same neighborhood, said Michael Kelly, director of the city Housing Authority.

“Mr. Kelly is undertaking a great experiment to see if he can turn around distressed neighborhoods and keep the original residents there to benefit,” said Sue Popkin, a housing expert at the Urban Institute.  “It’s a gamble.  We don’t know how to take a terrible neighborhood and make it nice while keeping the same people there.” NY Times

In Washington DC, they are trying to integrate the former residents back into a neighborhood that has been redeveloped, they are also trying to do similar things in Atlanta.  While this is a risky undertaking it is one that I think must be attempted and allowed to succeed.  So many other cities provide the former residents with vouchers to leave their old neighborhoods.  The problem with this approach is that only certain landlords will accept the vouchers, these are usually slumlords who want to fill up crappy residences.  This only relocates the former residents into scattered pockets of poverty throughout the city, once again surrounding them with other poor residents and bad schools.  It is a difficult situation trying to incorporate former residents into the newer developments.

I know in my city they have tried to renovate older apartments into more mixed income residences in lower income neighborhoods.  The problem is that placing a mansion next to the projects does not improve the projects or the neighborhood.  It is hard to get higher income people to move into a neighborhood with drug dealers on the corners and violence in the streets.  We have to develop a method of improving the neighborhoods and renovating them while still being able to integrate the former residents.  In DC, they have created committees comprising of residents, city officials, and developers in an effort to create ground rules for integrating the former residents back into the neighborhoods.  I think it is important to allow the residents an opportunity to take part in the decision making, if given the opportunity I believe they do not want the blight, drug dealing, and violence in their neighborhoods either.

A committee of residents, officials and neighbors decided that any returnees with a serious criminal conviction within three years of the move-in date, and anyone with seriously bad credit, would be excluded.  They will keep their current vouchers or public units, officials promise.  NY Times

Integrating these former residents will not be easy, but it is something as a society we must continue to do.  If we do not then we are sentencing many of our fellow citizens to a life of hopelessness and strife.  It is a thin line we walk trying to balance the opportunities of incorporating these former residents with the genuine concerns of the new residents for safety, property values, and peace.  I know for me this is a challenge that though I struggle with it, it is one that I must undertake.  We are all better off in my opinion when we are living, working, and learning in a diverse environment.  Not only do we help those who are struggling, but we also help ourselves to be better.

Many of us believe that wrongs aren’t wrong if it’s done by nice people like ourselves.  – Author Unknown

I Can Admit When I’m Wrong

copyright © 2008. Forgiven The Disputed Truth

Unlike many of my fellow bloggers, the MSM, and the talking-heads and pundits, I can admit when I am wrong. I have written and believed that whites when in the solitude of the voting booths would not be able to overcome centuries of racial history in America and actually be able to vote for a black man for President. Despite what the pollsters and campaign spokespersons were saying, the biggest question mark going into the primaries of Super Tuesday and beyond was would whites be willing to support Obama in the numbers that they were polling at? The truth be told no one knew the answer to that question and it created a lot of anxiety in the campaigns and in the rest of America. The answer at least among the Democrats in the primaries is a resounding yes.

In astounding numbers Obama is receiving the votes and support of both white males and white females in states with little or no black populations. I also questioned Obama’s support among blacks and now they are voting for him in large majorities helping him to carry many southern states and giving him the lead in polls for the border states. I don’t know what happened among blacks since the start of the primary season up until now, but there has been a wholesale shift of support from the Clinton brand to Obama.

Prior to the primaries, the conventional wisdom was that Hillary and Barack would split the black vote at the worse along a 40-60 split, respectively. Somewhere in this process Obama has secured the black vote and eased the fears and questions many blacks had about him. I don’t know if they were actually questions about Obama or if it was more questions about America’s ability to vote for and support a black candidate. I think that as the electability question of Obama became less of an issue a lot of blacks who were afraid to support Obama began to jump on the bandwagon.

This is one of the few times in my life when I can honestly say that I am happy to have been wrong, because it means that the state of America is changing. Don’t get me wrong, even if we elect Obama the first black man to be President this will not in and of itself cure the many ills that plague America, but it will be one of those statement moments in history. What are statement moments in history? These are moments in history when the foundations of change are laid, even though the changes may be years or even decades away. These are moments when historians can look back and say this was the beginning of monumental change. The sad thing about change though is that it never works out like we think. Examples of this would be the Emancipation Proclamation, the Voting Rights Act, and Brown vs. Education, though these were foundations that could have ushered in monumental changes they were mitigated by obstacles of intransigence and apathy.

Regardless of how this election turns out, we are at a watershed moment in America and I am happy to have been here to witness it. I hope Obama goes on to win the nomination for obvious reasons, but also I want to see how the country will react when their next vote will actually put a black man in the White House. What will be the strategy of the Republicans to combat his candidacy? Race, inexperience, drug pushing?

I just want to take this moment to congratulate those white Americans who were able to overcome the centuries of propaganda and racist history of America and vote for Obama. While many will minimize this moment and say this is the way it is suppose to be, I have never been confused with how things are suppose to be versus how things are. This election is one of the most difficult in American history, because there are two distinct historical narratives that can be written in one election. We can elect either the first woman or the first black man to be President and both have their appeal to various segments of the population.

I have read that what it will come down to is which is more ingrained in the American psyche gender bias or race bias. I think this is too simplistic an approach and ignores the  many other variables that are at play in this election. While it is certainly an issue worthy of discussion and will play itself out in the minds of many voters, if it comes down to a simple male or female question then chances are you won’t get pass the white male question in the first place.

So, on the one hand we have made some progress I just hope we do not accept the false narrative that our mission is accomplished and begin to hang up our banners and ignore the rest of the work that needs to be done. We still have too many of our fellow citizens incarcerated and disenfranchised, we still have to many of our fellow citizens accumulating wealth at the expense of the other hard working Americans, and we still have too many lobbyists and corporations dictating national policy.

There are many more miles to go before we sleep America, so let’s pat our fellow citizens on the back and get back to work and may be some day we can live in the kind of America where electing a woman or black man for President won’t be news. And I won’t have to make these stupid apologies.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

~ Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Race Relations in America; Colormute, Not Colorblind

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

It’s never been my interest to run a race-based campaign.

My message has always been that I want everyone included in a broad coalition to bring about change.

I want to spend more time talking about solving the problems that people are feeling right now.


~ Barack Obama [United States Senator and Presidential Aspirant.  January 27, 2008]

In any Presidential election year, we hear of the race.  Yet, discussions of “race” are void, or are since a truce was tendered.  Americas would like to think of themselves as colorblind.  We are not.  Citizens of this country embrace “colormuteness, a term coined by Mica Pollock, Associate Professor of Education at Harvard University.  What Professor Pollock observes in classrooms and in the hallways of schools throughout the nation occurs each day on the campaign trail.  Children who wish to achieve excellence in the classroom are restricted by conventions they learned at an early age in our nation’s communities.

When a young Caucasian child encounters a Black being, if they have never seen a person with a dark complexion, he or she may point, tug at the a parent’s trouser, point, and say, “Mom, Why is his skin so brown?”  A lass might inquisitively exclaim, “Daddy, What is wrong with her complexion?  Characteristically, Mother or Father will say, “Shush!  It is not polite to point.”  Then the parent will pass on the message that they learned at their parent’s knee.  That communication will vary dependent on the family.  Nonetheless, what is true, no matter who the guardian might be, the tone will be hushed.  The tot will learn, we do not discuss the differences in skin tone or facial features.

What we were taught in our youth resonates in adult life.  We see it on the campaign trail.  Certain topics are acceptable and the one is forbidden.  This etiquette is evident in our most recent election.  Criticism is fine, as long as we do not broach the single most sensitive subject, “race,” as it relates to the color of one’s skin.

Candidates compete as they sprint towards the White House.  They rack up the votes, and rail against their rivals.  As Presidential hopefuls run for the Oval Office, they find themselves embroiled in discordant campaigns.  Whatever they might say, the electorate will react.  A delicate balance must be maintained.

Attack advertisements will fill the airwaves.  Hurdles will be jumped in an attempt to make an opponent look or sound bad.  The war veteran is no hero, and the soldier who stayed behind did not truly serve.  In cyberspace, the calculations are conventional.  The conversation can be extremely cruel.  Religion will rule if he or she becomes President.  His or her faith is not “right.”  His wife, her husband is [fill in the blank.]  Can a damsel deliver as Commander-In-Chief, or will a drama result in her distress.  However, the question that is addressed tentatively is, “Is America ready for a Black President?”  

Americans are intimately familiar with the scandals.  Constituents have witnessed what a little gossip can do.  Within each campaign, people observe divisiveness.  The demise of a fellow Democrat is fine.  A rival Republican can ridicule another with reason.  All is fair in love and war.  While an aspirant may be fond of Party loyalty, in a Presidential campaign, faithfulness and friendship are not generously applied to adversaries.  It is important to focus on differences if a candidate wishes to be the nominee for his or her Party, as long as the variation in skin color  is not mentioned.

Our countrymen think it vital to understand Mitt Romney is a Mormon.  The public believes it is important to contemplate, Mike Huckabee is a Preacher.  It is grand that Hillary Clinton is a woman, but do we need to say aloud, Barack Obama is Black.  

Sure, the words are said and the response is consistent.  “It should not make a difference.”  Yet, it does.  No one wishes to be labeled a bigot.  As adults, individuals recall what their parents said, “African-Americans are people too,” or one would hope they were thought to be in the United States.  Still, each citizen of this country understands, Black people fight for parity.  Even when conditions and circumstances improve for African-Americans, a few thrive, most struggle to survive.

Our Constitution claims “all men are created equal.”  However, in the States it seems that has never been the case.  While Americans are proud of the fact that finally they can choose to vote for someone who is not white, they do not wish to speak of “race,” only of the race.  Ah, how well-trained Americans are.

Supposedly, citizens have progressed beyond our repressive roots.  However, in truth, racism is rampant.  Just as Americans have done in past Presidential election years, and do each day of our existence, we place one “race” above another.

Being Black in the United States is a topic discussed among those who are, and balked at by persons who rather believe themselves without bias.  Carefully colormuted Caucasians do not wish to admit that that the sight of a dark skinned person can cause them to tightly clutch the pocketbook that hung loosely at their side.  Anglos do not wish to confess that they feel an the urge to clench a fist, or place keys between their fingers, just in case they need to use the pieces of metal as a weapon when in the presence of a person whose complexion is a purplish-brown.  

Few white individuals will tell of how they tremble when near an African-American stranger.  Fortunately, many need not think of what they might do if a Black individual was near.  In the United States, numerous neighborhoods are segregated, sometimes subtly, often overtly.

“Is it true that “Anna” stands for “Ain’t No N*gg*rs Allowed?”  I asked at the convenience store in Anna, Illinois, where I had stopped to buy coffee.

“Yes,” the clerk replied.  “That’s sad, isn’t it,” she added, distancing herself from the policy.  And she went on to assure me, “That all happened a long time ago.”

“I understand [racial exclusion] is still going on?”  I asked.

“Yes,” she replied.  “That’s sad.”

~ conversation with clerk, Anna, Illinois, October, 2001

Anna is a town of about 7,000 people, including adjoining Jonesboro.  The twin towns lie about 35 miles north of Cairo, in Southern Illinois.  In 1909, in the aftermath of a horrific nearby “spectacle lynching,” Anna and Jonesboro expelled their African Americans.  Both cities have been all-white ever since.  Nearly a century later, “Anna” is still considered by its residents and by citizens of nearby towns to mean “Ain’t No N*gge*s Allowed,” the acronym the convenience store clerk confirmed in 2001.

It is common knowledge that African Americans are not allowed to live in Anna, except for residents of the state mental hospital and transients at its two motels.  African Americans who find themselves in Anna and Jonesboro after dark – the majority-black basketball team from Cairo, for example – have been treated badly by residents of the towns and by fans and students of Anna-Jonesboro High School.

Towns like Anna and Jonesboro are often called “sundown towns,” owing to the signs that many of them formerly sported at their corporate limits – signs that usually said, “N*gge*r, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On You In __.”  Anna-Jonesboro had such signs on Highway 127 as recently as the 1970s.  In some areas, these communities were known as “sunset towns” and, in the Ozarks, “gray towns.”  In the East, although many communities excluded African Americans, the term “sundown town” itself was rarely used.  Residents of all-white suburbs also usually avoided the term, though not the policy. . .

The overlooking of sundown towns, stands in sharp contrast to the attention bestowed upon that other violent and extralegal race relations practice, lynching.  The literature on lynching is vast, encompassing at least 500 and perhaps thousands of volumes; at this point, we have at least one book for every ten confirmed lynchings.  Still the books keep coming; Amazon.com listed 126 for sale in 2004.

Yet, lynchings have ceased in America.  Sundown towns, on the other hand, continue to this day.

Nonetheless, the threat of such an act looms large in the United States.  In the enlightened era of the Twenty-First century, Americans have discussed or dismissed the appearance of nooses throughout our homeland.  More than a year passed before the mainstream media reported on the appearance of three nooses hung on a tree in Jena, Louisiana.  Naturally, the incident was said to be a Southern phenomenon.  However, weeks after a march on the city, in support of Civil Rights, another hangman’s rope was displayed on the office door of a Black faculty member at the Teachers College at Columbia University.  At a prestigious, Northern educational institution of higher learning, Americans were subject to lessons from the past.  In this nation, Blacks, regardless of their economic status, or social stature are not safe; nor are they respected as peers.

Granted, the goodly among us will state as Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University, declared, “This is an assault on African-Americans and therefore it is an assault on every one of us;” however, unless we speak of the unmentionable, those not victim to an attack, cannot imagine the wounds.  Niceties do not heal the invisible and deep scars.  Wounds are easily opened for they were never attended to.  Colorblind as Caucasians allege to be, they are not cured of the ills of prejudice.

Only weeks ago, Americans again observed how easily we move from the topic of racial discrimination to decrees of settlement.  No harm done, no words of division will be uttered.  The offender and the offended do not discuss inequity, injustice, insults, and intolerance; the reality of race relations is left behind.  School grounds, the campaign scene, and the world of sports are as the streets of America, battlegrounds for bigotry.  Yet, in each of these venues, participants replace the actual topic with another.  Apologies suffice.  Our parents would be proud.  Americans can admit when they are wrong and move on, or pretend to.

When Golf Channel commentator Kelly Tilghman joked on-air during the second round of the Mercedes-Benz Championship that ambitious young players should “lynch (Tiger Woods) in a back alley,” she set off yet another incidence of the stagecraft that passes for racial discourse in this country, with a tragic moment followed by the requisite scenes of accusation, remorse and demands for the protagonist’s head, all backed by a chorus of conflicting voices echoing to the rafters.

There were plenty of soliloquies but distressingly little dialogue and no catharsis.  For her part Tilghman was held accountable through a public scolding by the punditocracy and a two-week suspension by her employer; but for me, there’s another, far more interesting character in this drama – Tiger Woods. . . .

Whether Woods likes it or not, the episode serves to remind him, and everyone else, that regardless of how he attempts to transcend race with his accomplishments on the golf course, he can never fully escape his status as a person of color.

Much the way the fried-chicken-and-collard-greens joke Fuzzy Zoeller made at the 1997 Masters pushed Woods into the role of African-American Golfer, Tilghman’s gaffe reinforces his heritage and its burdens, lumping Tiger in with the estimated 5,000 men who were lynched in America between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights movement of the ’60s. . . .

For his part Tiger was quick to forgive and forget, saying through his agent, Mark Steinberg, that the incident was a “nonissue” and later releasing a statement that said, “Regardless of the choice of words used, we know unequivocally that there was no ill intent in her comments.”

Rarely does the individual who delivers a racist epithet mean to offend.  The child who points does not intend to hurt someone’s feelings.  The parent who speaks in hushed tones purposely attempts not to insult.  For those raised in a world where in the privacy of a home, unkind comments in reference to people of color abound, such assertions seem sound.  Empathy escapes those who are not victim to the wrath of whites.  

Anglos do not understand how a seemingly innocent statement can slice an African-American  to the core.  

To suggest that a successful Black man might need to be put in his place, or lynched, is to acknowledge a truth that is always apparent to an African-American gentleman or lady.  A dark-brown-complexioned person who is perceived as one who does not know his or her station can expect to be reminded regularly, he or she is not equal to whites.  

Decidedly, a dark-skin man or woman may do well in school or in the work place.  A gentleman or a lovely lady may excel beyond all belief.  A few elite Afro-Americans might be invited to live among Caucasians in an all white neighborhood, even in a Sundown Town.  A token or two is always welcome.  One with fame, fortune, and finesse may actually be appreciated.  After all, a community must make a good impression.  No locality would wish to be labeled intolerant, just as a parent, or child, does not desire to discriminate aloud.  Consider cities in the Northern region of the United States.  These humble townships have long maintained a noble image, false as it maybe.

Outside the traditional South-states historically dominated by slavery, where sundown towns are rare-probably a majority of all incorporated places kept out African Americans. . . .

Ironically, the traditional South has almost no sundown towns.  Mississippi, for instance, has no more than 6, mostly mere hamlets, while Illinois has no fewer than 456.

Appearances are a lovely illusion.  Indeed, the presence of a Black person in a white world can be wrought with peril.  Driving While Black is a common crime. Even so, in an automobile, there is some protection for the brownish-purple complexioned person passing through a predominantly Anglo section of town.  If a Black man, or women, were to walk alone in an alley, in an affluent area, or in a slum, unaccompanied by an entourage, his or her life could be in danger.  Tiger Woods, [Michel Jordan, Denzel Washington, Venus and Serena Williams,] in casual clothes, without the cameras, or a gold plated golf club to identify him, could easily become a casualty of racial chauvinism.  Anglos, when alone or amongst an allied group of racists, are not colorblind.  Nor are they colormuted.  Whites will see, and say, as they truly believe.  Indeed, if a successful man or woman, whose facial features, and color, are not characteristic of a Caucasian, they may well find themselves in a position to be attacked.  In all likelihood, a Black person will be assaulted.  

At times, the barbs will be verbal.  On occasion, physical jabs will be offered.  Perchance, a Black person may suffer a slight.  Most who react to ‘race’ are subtle in their approach.  However, it is rare when a white American does not express the bias that has been building for centuries sooner or later.  What simmers and stews within eventually will come to a boil.  The pain that hate gives rise to will spill out.  As a culture, when we pretend to be colorblind, and act on colormutedness, we give no air to what is real.  Racism has caused us to rot from within.

Intellectually, Anglos know that to diminish the worth of those whose complexion is a brownish-black, to scorn or snub an African-American merely because their appearance is considered less “acceptable,” or to suggest that someone of color might be lynched is outrageous.  Yet, as long as Americans refuse to acknowledged the roots of racism, and recognize their own bigotry, intolerance will flourish.  If conversations are hushed, as they have been in this year alone, what we have witnessed will continue to burgeon.

Within days of the Tilghman incident, Golf Week Magazine glorified the schism.  The sportscaster and her employer were the cover story or were meant to be.  So much for these intentions, be they ill-willed or wise.

Golfweek Noose Elicits Strong Reaction

By Doug Ferguson

The Associated Press

Friday, January 18, 2008; 12:18 AM

The editor of Golfweek magazine said he was overwhelmed by negative reaction to the photo of a noose on the cover of this week’s issue, illustrating a story about the suspension of a Golf Channel anchor for using the word “lynch” in an on-air discussion about how to beat Tiger Woods.

“We knew that image would grab attention, but I didn’t anticipate the enormity of it,” Dave Seanor, vice president and editor of the weekly magazine, said from the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla. . . .

“Look at the executive suites at the PGA Tour, or the USGA, or the PGA of America. There are very, very few people of color there,” he said.  “This is a situation in golf where there needs to be more dialogue. And when you get more dialogue, people don’t want to hear it, and they brush it under the rug. This is a source of a lot of pushback.” . . .

Asked if he regretted the cover, Seanor paused before answering.

“I wish we could have come up with something that made the same statement but didn’t create as much negative reaction,” he said.  “But as this has unfolded, I’m glad there’s dialogue.  Let’s talk about this, and the lack of diversity in golf.”

Golfweek Editor Seanor may have thought the conversation vital; however, the mainstream, the average Joe and Joanna, the persons in power, and those who have none, would rather not discuss the disparity that envelops us.  Remember, etiquette is essential.  Colormuteness and colorblindness are cool.  Those who do not heed these calls are not.  Editor, Dave Seanor was replaced one day after a racially insensitive graphic, a noose, ‘graced’ the cover of Golfweek.

Any lack of compassion, when public, can cause quite a controversy.  When the same deficit is subtle, there are few problems, that is, if the offender’s skin is pinkish in color.  This contrast is sharply evident in this election season, just as it was in Elementary School.  Our Presidential candidates and political Parties, like Mom and Dad, endorse colorblindness and colormuteness.  The electorate embraces a truce that prohibits colorful conversations.  

When race relations are discussed, the Democrats wish to appear more compassionate than the Conservatives.  While it may be a tad true that the Democrats did better for Black America than the Republicans have, still, every Administration since America became a nation, did not authentically embrace equality.  The statistics, even when improvement is apparent, reveal an awful truth.

The Conservative Agenda: Serving African Americans?

By Tim Westrich and Amanda Logan

Center For American Progress

January 17, 2008

How have African Americans fared since conservatives have been in charge of the economy? Not very well.  Their increases across key economic indicators have been slower under Bush as compared to the 1990s.  Here’s a look at the numbers:

African Americans’ median income declined by an average of 1.6 percent per year under the current administration.

In 2006, African Americans’ median income was $32,132, which is actually $2,603 lower than their median income of $34,735 (in 2006 dollars) in 2000. This is an annualized average growth rate of -1.6 percent. In contrast, this number increased at an annual average growth rate of 3.2 percent from 1992 to 2000. And African Americans’ median income is still substantially lower than Whites: In 2006, their median income was $32,132, as compared to $52,432 for Whites.

Under Bush, the percent of African Americans without health insurance has increased from 18.5 percent to 20.5 percent.

In 2006, 7.9 million African Americans were not covered by health insurance. The rate of African Americans not covered by health insurance increased by an annual average percent point change of 0.30 between 2000 and 2006. This is a much different picture compared to the 1990s. From 1992 to 2000, the number of uninsured African Americans decreased from 20.1 percent to 18.5 percent, an average annual percent point change of -0.20.

The employment to population ratio for African Americans has declined faster than that of the Whites under the current administration.

In 2007, the employment to population ratio – the percentage of the civilian population that is employed-for African Americans stood at 58.4 percent compared to 63.6 percent for white Americans. Between 2000 and 2006, the employment to population ratio for African Americans declined by an average of – 0.4 percent each year after increasing by 0.8 percent on average between 1992 and 2000.  The employed share of the African-American population grew faster than the employed share of the White population throughout the 1990s, but has shrunk faster than Whites since then.

The increase in African-American homeownership has been slower under Bush than the 1990s.

The homeownership rate for Whites increased three times faster than the homeownership rate for African Americans between 2000 and 2006. During this time, the homeownership rate for African Americans increased by an average annual growth rate of just 0.1, from 47.2 percent to 47.9 percent, whereas Whites’ homeownership rate increased by an average annual growth rate of 0.3 percent. This trend is in part because African Americans have actually seen their rate decline since 2004. Compare this to the 1990s, when African Americans’ homeownership rate increased by an average annual growth rate of 0.8 percent from 1994 to 2000. Whites’ rate was 0.6 percent during this time (homeownership data by race are not available before 1994).

More African Americans are in poverty under Bush.

More African Americans were in poverty in 2006 than in 2000, just after we saw a vast improvement the 1990s. In 2006, 24.2 percent of African-American individuals were in poverty. Compare this to 2000, when 22.5 percent were below the poverty line, a percentage point change of 0.28. Poverty among African Americans decreased substantially from 1992 to 2000, going from 33.4 percent to 22.5 percent, or an annual average percent point change of -1.36.

The number of impoverished persons of color frequently increases.  At times, it decreases.  On occasion, it remains the same.  Yet, no matter who is in the Oval Office, Americans worry less about the fact that the dark skinned among us are more likely to live in poorer neighborhoods.  African-Americans are less likely to have adequate Health Care.  Doctors discriminate.

Schools are segregated along racial lines.  Citizens of this country understand that a person who lives on the wrong side of the railroad tracks is probably Black.  Sundown Towns may have begun to allow Afro-Americans in; however, these persons better realize, they have their place.  Dark-skin people are encouraged to believe they are powerless to create genuine change, and Anglo Americans like it that way.

There was hardly a rumble when the former First Lady, and Presidential aspirant explained, “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Clinton continued. “It took a president to get it done.”  This statement seemed reasonable to those who have deterred the dreams within the Black community.  Rival candidate, and Senator Obama softly declared the comment “unfortunate and ill-advised”; nonetheless, he too was willing to remain colorblind and colormute.  A Black person knows better than to incite a riot.  African-Americans, in the childhood are taught as well as whites.

In this country, citizens of all colors accept the truth and dare not drastically change it.  It is for this reason the electorate is barely disturbed by statements from a former President, his aides, or allies.  Even prominent Black Americans, grateful for small favors, and Presidential appointments, will stand by the side of a spouse and a former Commander-In-Chief when he states bigotry is believable and logical.

Voting for president along racial and gender lines “is understandable because people are proud when someone who they identify with emerges for the first time,” the former president told a Charleston audience while campaigning for his wife. . . .

Bill Clinton said civil rights leaders Andrew Young and John Lewis have defended his wife.  “They both said that Hillary was right, and the people who attacked her were wrong, and that she did not play the race card, but they did,” he said. . . .

Clinton also told about 100 people in Charleston that he was proud of the Democratic Party for having a woman and a black candidate.

For the former President, colorblindness and colormuteness helped to heal a division that he now justifies.  In America, racism, and chauvinism, are not only acceptable, these characteristics are considered a source of pride, and not a sign of prejudice.  Americans would rather be smug [and self-important] than address the sad fact people are not treated equally.  

However, the message is mixed.  On one hand, the Clintons are prideful of the support they receive from the African-American population.  On the other, the two Clinton’s conclude Blacks will automatically congregate around their brethren.  When people do not admit to the color they see and will not hear of it, there is ample confusion.

The puzzlement continues.  As votes are tallied, the temptation is to discount a rival’s win, or blame it on the color barrier, the one that supposedly does, or is it, does not exist.  When a Presidential aspirant or her husband speaks of the race [to the White House], the implicit untouchable topic of “race,” is tenderly tackled.

In Charleston [South Carolina, during the 2008 primaries] last week, Bill Clinton said, “They are getting votes, to be sure, because of their race or gender, and that’s why people tell me that Hillary doesn’t have a chance of winning here.”

Again, Americans must decide, does a person’s race make a difference?  Can people of color perform miracles as an Anglo might? In this country, we still argue whether we have seen this occur in the past.

Hillary Clinton reminds white Americans of the accepted wisdom, even a great and honorable Black leader, such as Reverend, Doctor Martin Luther King Junior could not “get the job done.”  This prominent person of color needed the white man [or woman] in the White House to achieve what had never been accomplished before.  Senator Clinton’s words help cultivate the belief, a Caucasian, has the power to change the nation or make dreams come true.  Americans cannot know with certainty if this is true for even as some select Black persons climb, the old adage is reinforced.

“Race doesn’t matter!” the crowd at Obama’s victory celebration in Columbia chanted last night, and when he spoke, the senator elaborated on the theme.  He said his victory disproved those who argue that people “think, act and even vote within the categories that supposedly define us” — that blacks will not vote for a white candidate and vice versa.

“I did not travel around this state and see a white South Carolina or a black South Carolina.  I saw South Carolina,” he said.  The election, he said, “is not about rich versus poor or young versus old, and it’s not about black versus white. This election is about the past versus the future.”

Americans wonder what will the future bring.  Can the United States, as a country, change so significantly.  After all, although voters are older and hopefully wiser, each was trained as a toddler.  Perhaps, we must go back to school, to begin at the beginning.  It may be that what we witness among adults could be quelled in the early years.  Conventionally, in Elementary School, and on into Secondary Schools children were separated or tracked.  In a desire to create a more balanced educational environment, the racial divide can be more apparent.

Beth C. Rubin, an assistant education professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., describes how a school system’s efforts to end tracking-the practice of grouping students in separate classes by academic ability-inadvertently stigmatized minority students in one high school classroom. In that class, a teacher’s careful efforts to balance student work groups by race, gender, and ability enraged an African-American student.

“You trying to get all the black kids away from each other, before we cause a nuclear holocaust!” the student exclaimed. Meanwhile, the white students in the class, most of whom were high-achieving, relegated the minority students in their groups to roles that gave them little opportunity to hone their academic skills, according to Ms. Rubin’s account.

“I guess I’m asking teachers to think about race a little differently, and not so much about having to have kids equally distributed among groups,” Ms. Rubin said in an interview.  “And also,” she added, “to think of group work as skill-building over the course of the year.

Americans are reminded each day, integration without conversation does little to create balance.  People must not merely live together in neighborhoods, or work with one another in schools, or in offices.  We must learn to be open, honest, and willing to work through our differences.  What we do not understand will destroy us.  

A word, a look, will be interpreted through our personal background and experience.  If you are Black, a criticism might mean, “Get Back!”  If white, the same statement might be construed as, “It will be all right.”  If we remain colormute and colorblind, if we never bother to learn who each of us is, we can be certain, change will not come.  This is evident in numerous studies.  Our expectations rule.

Balance is also key to the kind of instructional climate teachers should provide in racially diverse classrooms, [communities or campaigns] according to Ronald F. Ferguson, the director of Harvard’s Achievement Gap Initiative . . .

Geoffrey L. Cohen, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Colorado-Boulder, recommends that, in offering students critical feedback, teachers convey the idea that the criticism reflects a high standard, and that they believe in the student’s ability to reach that standard . . .

Mr. Cohen has found that such messages can be more motivating for minority students, who are often wary of the feedback they get from teachers, than when educators overpraise them or give the same feedback to all students.

“Being a member of a stereotyped group puts one in a sort of bubble in which one can’t be certain whether the critical feedback comes from bias against their group or a teacher’s motivation to help one improve,” Mr. Cohen said in an interview.  “In general, though, whites can enter a school situation thinking, ‘Teachers here believe in me.'”

For many Black Americans, an educator is frequently another white person who works from a premise of fear or futility.  Too often, a teacher seems pompous or pretentious.  It is not uncommon for an African-American to feel patronized when in the presence of an Anglo authority figure.  A comment meant to express care, can be heard as contrived.  

Every individual, regardless of color, has a history.  Experience teaches us more than a professional mentor might.  It is hard to trust that a person might be colorblind, if that is even possible, if they are colormute.

As long as Americans choose to avoid the discussion of diversity, to deny differences, and to reject hat our distinctive appearances enhance our experience, then life will be as it is and was.  Change cannot come.  Admittedly, Anglos are [color] blind.  Apparently, Caucasians, and even Blacks prefer to be [color] mute.  This must end if we are to evolve.

When Americans, teachers, preachers, or Presidential hopefuls, do not empathetically approach the topic of intolerance then, as a society, we will continue to clash and crumble.  We may wish to hide from what haunts us.  However, there is a price to pay for racial discrimination and the income inequity we accept.

Economically and emotionally, bigotry is  expensive.   Americans can see the cost of dilapidated schools.  Residents in this Northern region of the globe experience what occurs when students do not have the opportunity to soar.  Employment possibilities are limited.  Without a satisfactory job, homeownership is not feasible.  Even apartment life is not cheap.  In a culture that creates illiteracy, the streets may provide the only shelter.  

A society that houses hordes of those with dark skin in slums does not truly serve us equally.  Citizens of the United Sates might understand, when a person is poor, as too many Black people are, they cannot afford adequate Health Care.  Hence, everyone, the affluent, and those who struggle but survive, contribute to the costs an ill and impoverished America creates.  

In this country, in our local communities, during this political campaign, if Americans remain colorblind and colormute, nothing will change.  The possibility that conditions will worsen is one we must acknowledge.

Barack Obama may be correct.  Differences exist.  However, they need not divide us.  Conversations about colorblindness and colormuteness can make his dream, our shared hope, come true.  Let us imagine that one day, this vision will be ours together.  As one people, united, perchance in time Americans will say . . .

The choice . . . is not between regions, religions, or genders. It’s not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white.

It’s about the past versus the future.

It’s about whether we settle for the same divisions, distractions, and drama . . . or whether we reach for  . . . common sense, and innovation – a shared sacrifice and shared prosperity . . .

When I hear that we’ll never overcome the racial divide . . . I think . . . Don’t tell me we can’t change.

Yes, we can change.

Yes, we can heal this nation.

Yes we can seize our future.

Anglo-Americans must no longer hold their children tightly when in the company of Black man or woman.  Pinkish people cannot continue to caution their progeny, to tell them they must pretend to be colorblind, and authentically become colormute.  If we are to ever heal, Caucasians in this country must mentor their offspring to believe, colors are beautiful.  Americans need to see the tone of a person’s skin, to speak of an individual’s race, and the realities without criticism.  If this country is going to change, if the United States expects to excel, then, we, the people must truly be, and act as equals.

Resources For Racism . . .

The Computer Ate My Vote

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

“The dog ate my homework,” said young Jonathan.  In those tender years, he hoped an authority figure would trust the statement to be true.  As an adult, Jonathan grumbled in frustration, “The computer ate my vote.” The concerned citizen wanted to hear no excuses.  Just as he knew the sweet little pup on his lap never digested the paper he did not write, Jon understood; the central processing system did not devour the votes.  Constituent choices were not read or recorded accurately.  

In January 2008, Jonathon, a New Hampshire resident, cast his ballot for Barack Obama, as did his wife, and their adult children.  When asked by exit pollsters, Jon’s parents proudly proclaimed, “We each voted for Obama.”  Neighbors on either side were loyal to Edwards.  Colleagues were mixed.  Dennis Kucinich was a favorite for Julie, Helene, and Amy.  The three were outspoken in their support. While sentiments were mixed, very few supported the former First Lady, Senator Clinton.  As Jonathon assessed all he heard and read he believed as  the pundits predicted, Obama would Win by 18-20%.  However, that is not what happened.

Post Primary Election Day the results in New Hampshire are being questioned.  By an overwhelming majority Barack Obama was expected to triumph.  Clinton would not see her presumed coronation.  People such as Jonathon and the pundits asked, “What happened?” Conspiracy theories abound.  Americans are reminded, in the last three elections, a ballot cast through circuitry may not be a reliable tally.

Critics, cynics, those who rebuff the idea that any authoritarian agenda might have caused, or effected, the capricious vote count offer evidence that the current system is clean.  Experts evaluate, it is not the method, but the map that produced the unexpected.

Preliminary analysis from Edison/Mitofsky, however, indicates that the difference between the two types of precincts goes back at least two elections. As Joe Lenski, executive vice president of Edison Media Research, wrote in an e-mail, “unless there has been hidden election fraud in New Hampshire for the last three presidential primaries the ‘evidence’ being used by these fraudsters probably does not hold up to any rigorous statistical analysis.”

Moreover, attributing all the differences between these townships to their choice of vote-counting procedures misses other potentially important differences among voters (e.g., proportions independent, highly-educated).

Update: The table below has been updated to reflect new numbers from the Secretary of State.











Vote By Type of Equipment Used
      Optical scanners Paper ballots
2008 Clinton 40.09 33.74
2008 Obama 35.84 39.77
2008 Margin Clinton +4.25 Obama +6.03
2004 Kerry 39.52 32.40
2004 Dean 24.74 34.43
2004 Margin Kerry +14.78 Dean +2.03
2000 Gore 50.35 45.80
2000 Bradley 45.03 49.13
2000 Margin Gore +5.31 Bradley +3.33

Reports that substantiate the validity of what is do nothing to diminish or dismiss the underlying veracity of what might also be true.  There are plenty of questions and the rate of replies grows exponentially.  An analysis begs speculation.  Might the optical scanners appear in affluent areas.  In these communities, people may be less dependent on landlines, and more tied to a cellular telephones.  Possibly conventional means for vote computation occurs in neighborhoods where people are home and accessible to canvassers.   It might be that those polled did endorse Obama in greater numbers.  However, even if this theory is accurate, it does not explain the vastness of the gap.

Jonathon muses, “No one polled me.”  His mother and father were not reached.  Edwards supporters in his neighborhood were not contacted.  Julie, an activist, yearned to offer her opinion to a campaign researcher  She waited for a call.  None came.  Granitite State local Helene wanted nothing more than to declare her support for Dennis Kucinich.  This lovely lady in the “Live Free or Die” state had much to declare.  She and her friend Amy welcomed a call from a pollster.  Indeed, when each was presented with a list of candidates and then asked whom they might vote for, Helene and Amy inquired, “Why was Dennis Kucinich not included in the rooster?”  Many ruminate, the survey amongst voters might reflect more than a margin of error.  Andrew Kohut, President, of the Pew Research Center argues the polls were perfect.  The reviewers are “Getting It Wrong.”

The failure of the New Hampshire pre-election surveys to mirror the outcome of the Democratic race is one of the most significant miscues in modern polling history.  All the published polls, including those that surveyed through Monday, had Senator Barack Obama comfortably ahead with an average margin of more than 8 percent.  These same polls showed no signs that Senator Hillary Clinton might close that gap, let alone win.

While it will take time for those who conducted the New Hampshire tracking polls to undertake rigorous analyses of their surveys, a number of things are immediately apparent.

First, the problem was not a general failure of polling methodology . . .

Second, the inaccuracies don’t seem related to the subtleties of polling methods . . .

Third, the mistakes were not the result of a last-minute trend going Mrs. Clinton’s way . . .

Fourth, some have argued that the unusually high turnout may have caused a problem for the pollsters . . .

To my mind, all these factors deserve further study. But another possible explanation cannot be ignored – the longstanding pattern of pre-election polls overstating support for black candidates among white voters, particularly white voters who are poor.

For Andrew Kohut, a man who makes a career of research, those who conduct polls, and calculate statistical information gathered, are not to blame for discrepancies.  The data is flawless.  The people who respond to a survey are the problem.  Kohut claims humans lie to hide their bigotry.  The rift is realized in race relations.  

That conclusion might be also be disputed.  Indeed, we can hear the quarrel now  Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and their respective spouses spew venom, as they discuss the role of Civil Rights Leader, Martin Luther King Junior   America revisits the achievements of a peaceful African-American leader, and we discover perceptions differ.

Nonetheless, we cannot negate what has been an obvious concern long before this recent election, electronic elections are not fully certifiable.  The process New Hampshire authorities adopted  is arguably better than the techniques many other States use, still the optical scanners are a less than a secure system.

Perhaps, we must consider that charts and editorial information furnished, while interesting, do not lessen the need for our shared concern.  For those that think there is a well-crafted campaign to conspire, we are likely to hear, “Hackers would not wish to leave an easily observable trail.”  For those who do not necessarily fear a plot to alter or obfuscate the results, there is a consensus humans are fallible.  Programmers are not perfect.  Nor are locks.

One brand of machine leads in market share by a sizable margin: the AccuVote, made by Diebold Election Systems. Two weeks ago, however, Diebold suffered one of the worst kinds of public embarrassment for a company that began in 1859 by making safes and vaults.

Edward W. Felten, a professor of computer science at Princeton, and his student collaborators conducted a demonstration with an AccuVote TS and noticed that the key to the machine’s memory card slot appeared to be similar to one that a staff member had at home.

When he brought the key into the office and tried it, the door protecting the AccuVote’s memory card slot swung open obligingly. Upon examination, the key turned out to be a standard industrial part used in simple locks for office furniture, computer cases, jukeboxes – and hotel minibars.

Once the memory card slot was accessible, how difficult would it be to introduce malicious software that could manipulate vote tallies? That is one of the questions that Professor Felten and two of his students, Ariel J. Feldman and J. Alex Halderman, have been investigating. In the face of Diebold’s refusal to let scientists test the AccuVote, the Princeton team got its hands on a machine only with the help of a third party.

Even before the researchers had made the serendipitous discovery about the minibar key, they had released a devastating critique of the AccuVote’s security. For computer scientists, they supplied a technical paper; for the general public, they prepared an accompanying video. Their short answer to the question of the practicality of vote theft with the AccuVote: easily accomplished.

The researchers demonstrated the machine’s vulnerability to an attack by means of code that can be introduced with a memory card. The program they devised does not tamper with the voting process. The machine records each vote as it should, and makes a backup copy, too.

Every 15 seconds or so, however, the rogue program checks the internal vote tallies, then adds and subtracts votes, as needed, to reach programmed targets; it also makes identical changes in the backup file. The alterations cannot be detected later because the total number of votes perfectly matches the total number of voters. At the end of the election day, the rogue program erases itself, leaving no trace.

Computers, cared for, corrupted, and programmed by people, can be as a compulsively confounding as a poll worker.  A central processing unit, by rote, will remove the excess waste as mindlessly as a human might endeavor to do.  In days of old, poll-workers were the problem.  A misplaced bag of ballots or a box filled to the brim with bogus paper ballots was the reason anxious Americans sought a better system.  Mechanical means were thought to eliminate human error or manipulation.

Some elections officials next adopted lever machines, which record each vote mechanically. But lever machines have problems of their own, not least that they make meaningful recounts impossible because they do not preserve each individual vote. Beginning in the 1960s, they were widely replaced by punch-card systems, in which voters knock holes in ballots, and the ballots can be stored for a recount. Punch cards worked for decades without controversy.

Until, of course, the electoral fiasco of 2000. During the Florida recount in the Bush-Gore election, it became clear that punch cards had a potentially tragic flaw: “hanging chads.” Thousands of voters failed to punch a hole clean through the ballot, turning the recount into a torturous argument over “voter intent.” On top of that, many voters confused by the infamous “butterfly ballot” seem to have mistakenly picked the wrong candidate. Given Bush’s microscopic margin of victory – he was ahead by only a few hundred votes statewide – the chads produced the brutal, month long legal brawl over how and whether the recounts should be conducted.

The 2000 election illustrated the cardinal rule of voting systems: if they produce ambiguous results, they are doomed to suspicion. The election is never settled in the mind of the public. To this date, many Gore supporters refuse to accept the legitimacy of George W. Bush’s presidency; and by ultimately deciding the 2000 presidential election, the Supreme Court was pilloried for appearing overly partisan.

Partisan politics is perhaps the truer issue.  Even those that do not ascribe to conspiracy theories, doubt their opponent.  The “enemy” in an election may be the corporations, the rival candidate, the government, or anyone who might garner support in opposition to a particular voter.  Jonathon marvels at the foes that lurk in the shadows.  People he does not know and perchance, personally, never will, are those he does not trust.

In New Hampshire, the electorate attempted to approve the best of both worlds.  Paper ballots are used in every precinct.  Granted, all votes are cast on traceable tallies.  However, recounts, such as the one now proposed by Presidential hopeful, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, may not be possible in the way a verification of the vote once was.  

Consider the plight of Elections Director Jane Platten, in Cuyahoga County Ohio., At 3 in the morning on November 7, at the “end” of a twenty-two hour workday, the too-tired public service official said, “I guess we’ve seen how technology can affect an election.”  The electronic voting machines in Cleveland were once again a source of trouble, and the reason for more time spent on the job.

All went well for a while.  Voter turnout was light on that fateful day.  About 200,000 voters strode through the polls, tapped their choices onto the county’s 5,729 touch-screen voting machines, and gladly turned in their electronic memory cards ready for the count.  All security procedures were followed.  Then the fun began.  

Suddenly, at 10 Post Meridian the server froze, as did all operations.  No votes could be counted.  Technicians gathered.  A young, and well-dressed employee from Diebold, the company that manufactures the equipment used in Cuyahoga elections , entered the scene; yet offered no solutions.  No one could figure out what was wrong. Ultimately, the election workers did what people do.  They cut the power.  The hope was the machine would clear its “mind,” rest a bit, return refreshed, and then begin the calculations anew.

This seemed to work, until the system crashed a again. Once more, the staff rebooted the computer and resumed the count. Gleefully, the computation was completed.

Worse was yet to come. When the votes were finally tallied the next day, 10 races were so close that they needed to be recounted. But when Platten went to retrieve paper copies of each vote – generated by the Diebold machines as they worked – she discovered that so many printers had jammed that 20 percent of the machines involved in the recounted races lacked paper copies of some of the votes.  They weren’t lost, technically speaking; Platten could hit “print” and a machine would generate a replacement copy.  But she had no way of proving that these replacements were, indeed, what the voters had voted. She could only hope the machines had worked correctly

 

As demonstrated repeatedly, the readable receipt may have been altered. The tangible total may not be as accurate as presumed.  Evidence of the discrepancies is everywhere.  

The infamous Diebold [now Premier election solutions] optical scanner voting machine is used to tally fifty-eight [58] percent of the votes, or 175 of New Hampshire’s 301 precincts ballots.  The AccuVote optical scan machines were the only mechanisms independent-minded New Hampshire residents would accept.  Nonetheless, even this apparatus is troublesome.  Persons such as Jonathon, a man anxious for change, and committed to the democratic process of elections, has had many a sleepless night since realizing his vote may not count.

Jonathon, his wife, children, parents, friends, and neighbors may need to be contacted, to vote again if we are to establish how they voted.  Even then, others would wonder; will the truth be told?

Jonathon understands as do many concerned citizens, the Diebold trail, regardless of how secure the equipment is advertised to be, can be diverted.  Diebold itself has done much to redirect the flow of information.

On November 17th, 2005, an anonymous Wikipedia user deleted 15 paragraphs from an article on e-voting machine-vendor Diebold, excising an entire section critical of the company’s machines. While anonymous, such changes typically leave behind digital fingerprints offering hints about the contributor, such as the location of the computer used to make the edits.

In this case, the changes came from an IP address reserved for the corporate offices of Diebold itself. And it is far from an isolated case. A new data-mining service launched Monday traces millions of Wikipedia entries to their corporate sources, and for the first time puts comprehensive data behind longstanding suspicions of manipulation, which until now have surfaced only piecemeal in investigations of specific allegations.

In spite of attempts to alter any information available on Diebold, the company continues to garner much attention.  Each election cycle generates greater concerns than the one preceding it.  The New Hampshire primaries are no exception.

This method is highly vulnerable to error and manipulation; although many may quibble the authenticity of this claim.  Nonetheless, after much scrutiny and many experiments, the truth was told.  Jonathon recalls the news report.

Election Whistle-Blower Stymied by Vendors

After Official’s Criticism About Security, Three Firms Reject Bid for Voting Machines

By Peter Whoriskey?

Washington Post?

Sunday, March 26, 2006; A07

Miami — Among those who worry that hackers might sabotage election tallies, Ion Sancho is something of a hero.

The maverick elections supervisor in Leon County, Fla., last year helped show that electronic voting machines from one of the major manufacturers are vulnerable, according to experts, and would allow election workers to alter vote counts without detection.

Now, however, Sancho may be paying an unexpected price for his whistle-blowing: None of the state-approved companies here will sell him the voting machines the county needs.

“I’ve essentially embarrassed the current companies for the way they do business, and now I believe I’m being singled out for punishment by the vendors,” he said.

There are three vendors approved to sell voting equipment in Florida, and each has indicated it cannot or will not fill Sancho’s order for 160 voting machines for the disabled. Already, he has had to return a $564,000 federal grant to buy the machines because he has been unable to acquire the machines yet.

“I’m very troubled by this, to be honest — I can’t believe the way he’s being treated,” said David Wagner, a computer scientist at the University of California at Berkeley who sits on a California board that reviews voting machine security. “What kind of message is this sending to elections supervisors?”

The trouble began last year when Sancho allowed a Finnish computer scientist to test Leon County’s Diebold voting machines, a common type that uses an optical scanner to count votes from ballots that voters have marked. Diebold Election Systems is one of the largest voting machine companies in the United States.

While some tests showed that the system is resistant to outside attack, others showed that elections workers could alter the vote tallies by manipulating the removable memory cards in the voting machines, and do so without detection.

A Diebold spokesman scoffed at the results, and compared them to “leaving your car unlocked, with the windows down and keys left in the ignition and then acting surprised when your car is stolen.”

State officials similarly played down the results.

But last month, California elections officials arranged for experts to perform a similar analysis of the Diebold machines and also found them vulnerable — noting a wider variety of flaws than Sancho’s experts had. They characterized the vulnerabilities as “serious” but “fixable.”

“What he [Sancho] discovered was — oops — that the conventional wisdom was all wrong,” said Wagner, a member of the panel that reviewed the Diebold machines. “It was possible to subvert the memory card without detection.”

Rather than take responsibility for a system gone bad, voting machine manufacturers would rather not sell to any Supervisor that might question the quality of the hardware or software.  It seems obvious to all, regardless of the excuses, or rationalizations, no matter the method or the map, vote counts are always prone to error.  

Thus, Jonathon wonders is his will stronger than the way of these machines and the persons who program them.  The villainous touch-screen voting machines, were thought too problematic for New Hampshire voters.  Jon, his friends Julie, Helene, and Amy were among the vocal residents who expressed a need for caution.  However, these activists did not have the influence they hoped to have on official decisions.

In New Hampshire, as in much of the nation, technology was considered manifest destiny.  Throughout the country, the use of electronics to tally ballots was employed at great expense.  The cost in dollars can be overshadowed only by the lose of liberty.  Countrywide, Americans ask . . .

Can You Count on Voting Machines?  For Jane Platten, Head of  Poll Worker Training and Voter Education Programs in Cuyahoga County, Ohio says, “No!”

In the lobby of Jane Plattten’s office in Cleveland sits an AccuVote-TSX, made by Diebold. It is the machine that Cuyahoga County votes on, and it works like this: Inside each machine, there is a computer roughly as powerful and flexible as a modern hand-held organizer. It runs Windows CE as its operating system, and Diebold has installed its own specialized voting software to run on top of Windows. When the voters tap the screen to indicate their choices, the computer records each choice on a flash-memory card that fits in a slot on the machine, much as a flash card stores pictures on your digital camera.

At the end of the election night, these cards are taken to the county’s election headquarters and tallied by the GEMS server. In case a memory card is accidentally lost or destroyed, the computer also stores each vote on a different chip inside the machine; election officials can open the voting machine and remove the chip in an emergency.

But there is also a third place the vote is recorded. Next to each machine’s LCD screen, there is a printer much like one on a cash register. Each time a voter picks a candidate on screen, the printer types up the selections, in small, eight-point letters. Before the voter pushes “vote,” she’s supposed to peer down at the ribbon of paper – which sits beneath a layer of see-through plastic, to prevent tampering – and verify that the machine has, in fact, correctly recorded her choices. (She can’t take the paper vote with her as proof; the spool of paper remains locked inside the machine until the end of the day.)

Under Ohio law, the paper copy is the voter’s vote. The digital version is not. That’s because the voter can see the paper vote and verify that it’s correct, which she cannot do with the digital one. The digital records are, in essence, merely handy additional copies that allow the county to rapidly tally potentially a million votes in a single evening, whereas counting the paper ballots would take weeks. Theoretically speaking, the machine offers the best of all possible worlds. By using both paper and digital copies, the AccuVote promised Cuyahoga an election that would be speedy, reliable, and relatively inexpensive.

Little of this held true. When the machines were first used in Cuyahoga Country during the May 2006 primaries, costs ballooned – and chaos reigned. The poll workers, many senior citizens who had spent decades setting up low-tech punch-card systems, were baffled by the new computerized system and the rather poorly written manuals from Diebold and the county. “It was insane,” one former poll worker told me. “A lot of people over the age of 60, trying to figure out these machines.” Since the votes were ferried to the head office on small, pocketsize memory cards, it was easy for them to be misplaced, and dozens went missing.

On Election Day, poll workers complained that 143 machines were broken; dozens of other machines had printer jams or mysteriously powered down. More than 200 voter-card encoders – which create the cards that let voters vote – went missing. When the machines weren’t malfunctioning, they produced errors at a stunning rate: one audit of the election discovered that in 72.5 percent of the audited machines, the paper trail did not match the digital tally on the memory cards.

This was hardly the first such incident involving touch-screen machines. So it came as little surprise that Diebold, a company once known primarily for making safes and A.T.M.’s, subsequently tried to sell off its voting-machine business and, failing to find a buyer, last August changed the name of the division to Premier Election Solutions (an analyst told American Banker that the voting machines were responsible for “5 percent of revenue and 100 percent of bad public relations”).

Researchers at Princeton University are not surprised.  A comprehensive study, Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine, released in September 2006 revealed the hardware and software in question are not dependable.

Ed Felten [among the  authors of the report] is a computer scientist at Princeton University, and he has become famous for analyzing – and criticizing – touch-screen machines. In fact, the first serious critics of the machines – beginning 10 years ago – were computer scientists. One might expect computer scientists to be fans of computer-based vote-counting devices, but it turns out that the more you know about computers, the more likely you are to be terrified that they’re running elections.

This is because computer scientists understand, from hard experience, that complex software can’t function perfectly all the time. It’s the nature of the beast. Myriad things can go wrong. The software might have bugs – errors in the code made by tired or overworked programmers. Or voters could do something the machines don’t expect, like touching the screen in two places at once. “Computers crash and we don’t know why,” Felten told me. “That’s just a routine part of computers.”

It is true. Each day, many compatriots swear at electronic gadgetry.  Yet, as a nation, we spend millions in hopes that electronic equipment will work on Election Day.  Americans rely on these erratic electronic marvels to calculate our votes.  Citizens of this country count on defective Diebold voting machines to accurately compute what might be considered the most important decision, we, the people make.  Faulty software and hardware determine who will represent our country, and us.  

More than Jonathon has experienced a moment of frustration with a computer.  Election Boards are familiar with the scenario.

One famous example is the “sliding finger bug” on the Diebold AccuVote-TSX, the machine used in Cuyahoga. In 2005, the state of California complained that the machines were crashing. In tests, Diebold determined that when voters tapped the final “cast vote” button, the machine would crash every few hundred ballots. They finally intuited the problem: their voting software runs on top of Windows CE, and if a voter accidentally dragged his finger downward while touching “cast vote” on the screen, Windows CE interpreted this as a “drag and drop” command. The programmers hadn’t anticipated that Windows CE would do this, so they hadn’t programmed a way for the machine to cope with it. The machine just crashed.

Even extremely careful programmers can accidentally create bugs like this. But critics also worry that touch-screen voting machines aren’t designed very carefully at all. In the infrequent situations where computer scientists have gained access to the guts of a voting machine, they’ve found alarming design flaws.

In 2003, Diebold employees accidentally posted the AccuVote’s source code on the Internet; scientists who analyzed it found that, among other things, a hacker could program a voter card to let him cast as many votes as he liked. Ed Felten’s lab, while analyzing an anonymously donated AccuVote-TS (a different model from the one used in Cuyahoga County) in 2006, discovered that the machine did not “authenticate” software: it will run any code a hacker might surreptitiously install on an easily insertable flash-memory card.

After California’s secretary of state hired computer scientists to review the state’s machines last spring, they found that on one vote-tallying server, the default password was set to the name of the vendor – something laughably easy for a hacker to guess.

But the truth is that it’s hard for computer scientists to figure out just how well or poorly the machines are made, because the vendors who make them keep the details of their manufacture tightly held. Like most software firms, they regard their “source code” – the computer programs that run on their machines – as a trade secret. The public is not allowed to see the code, so computer experts who wish to assess it for flaws and reliability can’t get access to it. Felten and voter rights groups argue that this “black box” culture of secrecy is the biggest single problem with voting machines. Because the machines are not transparent, their reliability cannot be trusted.

For years, there has been much concern and more delay.  In 2007, the Senate decided to hold hearings on the security of voting machine.  Citizens who have long yearned for a viable paper trail inquire, why the wait.  For too long, Americans have known when electronic voting machines record the votes, counts are frequently flawed.  Nevertheless, we continue as we have.  

Currently, in the United States, approximately eighty-seven [87] percent of the votes are frozen in computer chips.  Elections remain entrusted to miniature wires, soldered into plastic boards, and so too is America’s future. Adults in the United States are told to vote; our participation makes a difference.  So, cast your ballot with confidence, and know that even if your vote is counted, it may not count.

Sources, Secret Codes, Software, and Scanners . . .