Term Paper: Political Representation of African-Americans

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[. . .] It also set the race back to square one and made them start over again. This is a fundamental element of the current problem with under representation of Blacks in the southern political arena.

Each time that they had to start over they were set back as white leaders continued to build on the momentum that they had been doing for over a century. To liken it to something tangible one can compare it to a foot race. If two runners begin running at the same time and are headed for the same goal it is anybody's guess who would win. However if one runner was allowed to run as fast as possible without interference while the second racer was constantly being told to go back to the start line and run again, it is not difficult to see who would win.

If there were several Black runners in the race and several white runners the same example can be used. If all of the Black runners except one were constantly being told to go back to the starting block and go again, while all of the white runners along with the one black runner were allowed to continue, the finish line would be very telling. The black runner would arrive at the finish line along with the whites and for all intents and purposes it would appear that the Blacks were under represented in running by choice. The reality however would be that the Black runners were under represented because they had been told to start over again and again while the whites were allowed to leave the starting block and run without impediment.

This example can be seen again and again in the way the political representation in the south has operated.

It would take 72 years after Rep. White left Congress for African-American voters in the South to once again elect a candidate of choice to the U.S. Congress. It would take another twenty years and two amendments to the Voting Rights Act before the opportunity to elect a congressional representative became a reality in most of the Southern states (African-American Voting Rights: (http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html)."

In 1964, two-thirds of the nation's states adopted the 24th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibiting Southern states -- the only places where the practices persisted -- from denying citizens the right to vote by the use of a poll tax. Within months after national network cameras recorded "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, Alabama, where John Lewis and other civil rights marchers were attacked brutally by state troopers, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In the 1970s and 1980s, due to the record of continued violations of the Act primarily in Southern states, the U.S. Congress renewed and strengthened the laws (African-American Voting Rights: (http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html).

Because of continued resistance in the South to African-American voting rights, it took passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to realize rights which had been granted by the 15th Amendment some 95 years earlier (African-American Voting Rights: (http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html).To argue in 1995 that race-conscious redistricting violates the principle of a color-blind Constitution is to ignore what has been a bitter reality for African-Americans since the 3/5ths clause -- neither the Constitution nor the society have ever been color-blind (African-American Voting Rights: (http://www.southerncouncil.org/helpnet/articles/history.html)."

While no one can deny the impact that the constant setbacks have had on the political representation of the Blacks in the south there are things that can be done to speed the process of correction. It is important to take lessons from those who have fought for the freedoms that have been won thus far and those lessons can be built on to improve the political representation of Blacks in the south.

Carol Hardy-Fanta provided important contributions to the theories of correction when it comes to political representation in the south, that can be extrapolated to the Black population. The theorist's beliefs center on understanding how politics are perceived in the nation including the way women perceive them, minorities perceive them and voters compared to non-voters perceive them (Fanta, pg).

Hardy-Fanta challenges the notion of political apathy among Latinos and presents factors that stimulate political participation. She finds that the vision of politics promoted by Latina women -- one based on connectedness, collectivity, community, and consiousness-raising -- contrasts sharply with a male political concern for status, hierarchy, and personal opportunity (Fanta, pg). "

Though her concentration was on Latinos the same theories and concerns can be applied to Blacks in the south when it comes to political representation.

Another political analyst, Carol Swain, believes that whites can effectively represent Blacks if they understand the needs and desires of the Black voters. In addition she believes that Black district can be studied in different categories including historically Black, new Black and primarily white (Swain pg).

She suggests that the Black congressional members are not an automatic representation of the Black interest. Her beliefs lean toward representation of Black interests through the education of all who are elected to do so regardless of skin color or heritage. However, she also believes that is important to have true representation through the election of Blacks to office.

When Ralph Ellison studies political representation it is through the eyes of a Black narration. In his story a Southern Black gets kicked out of school for having the audacity to show a white person what the life of a Black is really like in the south.

These theorist all seem to find the same solution. They want stronger representation of minorities, even if they don't agree with how that should be accomplished. It is important to have increased Black political representation if the voice and desires of the Black voters of the south is going to be realized. Martin Luther King believed that quotas would take care of a list of problems that he perceived in the world. According to King quotas were the only way to right the wrongs that had been perpetuated on his race. Quotas in politics is an interesting concept that could level the playing field for Blacks in the south. It would have to be designed and implemented very carefully as it would have to be fairly done. The use of quotas in a political system would allow voters who lived in predominately black areas to be assured that their desires and voices would be represented.

Among activists who had definitive ideas about how to cure the under representation of Blacks in the southern political system Malcolm X was one of the most vocal.

He started out as a criminal and turned into a political activist for the black community nationwide.

Malcolm spoke about black pride and separatism, and rejected the civil rights movement call for integration and equality. Malcolm was a charismatic speaker, and soon was able to use newspaper columns, television, and radio to spread the Nation of Islam's message (May 19, 1925 - February 21, 1965) (http://afroamhistory.about.com/cs/malcolmx/a/bio_x_malcolm.htm).Membership to the Nation of Islam increased dramatically as a result of Malcolm's speeches. However, while many blacks were embracing his message, civil rights leaders rejected him. Malcolm also became a concern of the government. The Federal Bureau of Investigation began surveillance of him, and infiltrated the Nation of Islam (May 19, 1925 - February 21, 1965) (http://afroamhistory.about.com/cs/malcolmx/a/bio_x_malcolm.htm)."

Malcolm X was a powerful and influential speaker. This excerpt, from a speech in April 1964, clearly and directly expresses his views about the status of black people in American society (Malcolm X (http://www.africanaonline.com/malcom_x.htm)."

Malcolm was murdered before he got to complete his life work but along the way he encouraged Blacks to remain separate from Whites. If a quota system would be implemented to increase southern black political representation it would most likely have to be done with Malcolm's ideas at the forefront of such action.

Ironically, Malcolm X made a bigger impact on black politics and culture dead than alive. The Watts Rebellion occurred and the Black Power Movement emerged just months after his death, and his ideas about community control, African liberation, and self-pride became widespread and influential. His autobiography, written with Alex Haley, became a movement standard. Malcolm X's life story proved to the Black Panther Party, founded in 1966, that ex-criminals and hustlers could be turned into revolutionaries (Malcolm X (http://www.africanaonline.com/malcom_x.htm)."

While Malcolm X advocated separate races and violence to attain that goal, Martin Luther King pushed for integration and changing the system from the inside out. Any quota system would have to include a plan for future blending if this nation was going to work.

Martin Luther King said: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character. But he did not say he believed that the best way to achieve that dream was to pretend… [END OF PREVIEW]

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