George Floyd’s death set off a global movement for racial justice.
In the fervor of this movement, two events should be seen and understood through the frame of white supremacy.
The Peoria Park District is evaluating the fate of the Christopher Columbus statue in Bradley Park. Removing the statue is not “rewriting history,” but seeing history more clearly. Columbus was a slave trader and conducted a brutal campaign against Indigenous people. To put down dissent, he ordered the murder of Indigenous people and displayed their dismembered bodies.
He conducted mass genocide and rape.
He continues to be honored only through the lens of white supremacy.
Another example especially current now as we approach the 2020 presidential elections is the Electoral College, a system that denies the popular vote for determining the winner of the presidential election and discounts some votes to elevate others.
The system is based on the formula that enslaved people could be counted as three-fifths of a person. That gave Southern slave-holding states enormous advantage in Congressional representation, and that formula carries over to the Electoral College. The number of electoral votes granted to each state is based on the state’s representation in Congress.
States that are most resistant to eliminating the Electoral College in favor of the popular vote are the states that benefit most by this undemocratic process – primarily the southern states.
The 15th amendment states no one can be denied the right to vote “on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.” But a horrifying array of measures were enacted to deny Black people the right to vote.
Even today, those measures can be seen in long lines, few polling places, unduly burdensome voter ID laws and disenfranchisement of former felons.
In Illinois, former felons regain their right to vote after their release, but some states still disenfranchise them. Some states require all court fees and fines to be paid before a person has the right to vote. This is akin to a poll tax.
Voting is critical this November, but many states do not allow mail-in ballots. People have to risk their health during a pandemic to exercise their right to vote. Fortunately, Illinois is one of the states that understands mail-in ballots do not result in greater election fraud. Illinois is allowing mail-in ballots, and people should take advantage of that. This is not a partisan issue. It’s a public safety issue. Mail-in ballots can be requested by completing a post card mailed to every registered voter by the election commissions or mail-in ballots can be requested online at www.peoriaelections.org. Ballots can be taken to your election commission. In Peoria, there will be a secured drop-box outside the election commission for after hours.
Steve Schmidt, clear-eyed political observer and former campaign advisor for Sen. John McCain, said American democracy is young –– birthed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But it might be even younger –– emerging from the racial justice movement of 2020.