right to vote

'Suffragette' Comes Out Swinging

Though some critics have claimed that the film doesn’t do enough to show the effects of the suffrage movement, it seems appropriate that Suffragette ends while the fight is still going on. In the era of Black Lives Matter, battles for reproductive rights and immigration reform — causes with hoped-for but still undetermined outcomes — it’s reassuring the see a film that portrays historical characters in a similar situation. The women of Suffragette are confident in their eventual victory not because they know what will happen. They’re confident because they have to be — because for them, allowing defeat was not an option.

Celebrating the Vote

Image via Everett Historical/Shutterstock

I've done it in booths at a New York City public school, and the 92nd Street Y. I've done it on a small, enclosed counter in DC. But you never forget the first time you voted.

My first time at the polls was not particularly spectacular — it was an off-year for elections, so I voted on a referendum. Since then I have voted every year except twice. Once was on another off-year — I was in grad school for public administration and had to finish a statistics assignment. And for the other, I’d just become a DC resident, too late to vote in the special election that year.

In case it’s not obvious, voting is important to me, and I’m kind of a dork about it. And when I consider the hard fight for women’s suffrage, I feel that the best way to honor the women who fought hard for that right is to responsibly exercise it.

So it’s disheartening to hear women say that they don’t really pay attention to politics or take the time to vote. And as a DC resident whose interests are determined by the legislators of other states, it’s hard to watch anyone take for granted their right to vote.

The Unfinished Business of Selma

Terry W Ryder / Shutterstock.com

Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., site of Bloody Sunday. Terry W Ryder / Shutterstock.com

The journey to end systems of injustice begins with a single step. This theme resonates throughout the recently released film Selma, which recounts the events leading up to the famous Selma-to-Montgomery march. Led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this march catalyzed the full enfranchisement of people of color through the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Voting Rights Act is considered to be one of the most successful achievements of the civil rights movement. But 50 years later, the residue of Jim Crow laws that banned people of color from voting lingers today in a new, subtle form: disenfranchisement laws for people with felony convictions.

Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, examines how these laws strip minority communities of their voice in the public sphere because of the disproportionately high percentage of racial minorities “swept into” America’s mass incarceration system.

It’s Easy to Forget Privilege When It’s Always Been Yours

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Three unidentified women make history by becoming the first of their sex to vote in an election. Underwood Archives/Getty Images

I’m tired of reading blogs from my White Christian brothers about why they are choosing to vote. There. I said it.

I’m all for being a part of the democratic process, but it seems a bit odd to me that so many of these bloggers are coming from a position of power and privilege they themselves have always had. It seems a bit arrogant to choose something that was always theirs.

The way I see it, they had better vote. The vote of the White male is what finally allowed people like me – a woman, an immigrant, a non-native English speaker – to have the right to vote. I didn’t have a voice. I didn’t matter. Neither did my ancestors, who immigrated here under quota systems developed by people in power for the benefit of the country and the powers-that-be.

And there still are people who have no voice, who have no right to vote, but they are directly impacted by the politicians, referenda, judges, and local officials as well as the “agendas and policies.” As a Christian who is new to the process, its a privilege and responsibility I don’t take lightly because it isn’t a given. I’m not American born. We are not post-racial America, and the fact of the matter is the church isn’t either. We are working on it, but we aren’t there.

Did you know that in 1882 Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act denying citizenship and voting rights to Chinese Americans? Yup, they could build the railroads but they can’t vote.