In 2004, one semester before I arrived on the campus of Prairie View A&M University, the school received national attention for the protest of Waller County politicians when they tried to stop students from voting on the grounds that because they were not from Waller County, they shouldn’t be able to vote. Students marched from the school to the Waller County courthouse in protest and in part because of the national attention the move received, reversed the action being taken. Prairie View is a Historically Black University in a predominately white county. The legacy of segregation has designated PVAMU to be in the predominately black area of the county while the nearby towns of Waller and Hempstead are predominately white.
While it was inspiring that so many people were inspired to protect their rights, it has been equally disappointing that people do not take a more active role in understanding why they are voting for the candidates they are voting for. Additionally, some do not even take the time out and vote at all, something that even I have been guilty of at times. If the student body is not truly interested in who implements the policies they are to live by, then the question comes to mind is why even march? It is even more disturbing when one considers the sacrifices made by those who lived through the Civil Rights Movement, some of whom are still alive today.
It was personally frustrating to me, especially while at Prairie View, when I encountered people who would only vote for a candidate because they see others around them doing it. This is particularly disturbing by people in my own race who generally choose to vote for the Democratic Party without even truly considering the issues at hand. And unfortunately, some people are so locked into a, for lack of a better phraseology, “all or nothing” mentality where if one does not agree with the policies of the Democrats or President Obama they are automatically labeled a Republican or so called “Uncle Tom” as I’m sure some labeled me before or possibly even after reading this sentence. It is unfortunate that people take this stance, usually stemming from an understandable tendency for African Americans to stick together because we’ve had to historically due to segregation. And because some, though not all people, don’t actually pay attention to the issues, it leads to embarrassing moments such as one where a reporter for the Howard Stern Show interviewed people about why they were voting for Obama, pretending that he actually supported John McCain’s opposing views.
At school, I saw people worried about anything except politics (with some exceptions naturally) and while I didn’t have my mind on it 24 hours and seven days a week I did at least try to keep a neutral stance, no longer affiliating with any party after 2005. To be fair, people come to college to learn about the field they were trying to enter but there’s no doubt that the prevailing sentiment was to vote Democratic or to be criticized.
That said, Prairie View is no different than many college especially, relevant to the issue at hand, Historically Black Colleges and Universities. That is why it’s not fair to single the school out and hopefully I have not come off as doing that. As much as I love the school I attended for four years, I would love for students and for more African Americans in general to look at the issues for what they truly are instead of being afraid to go against what leaders in the community go for. Some would say they do but the fact that 97% of all African Americans who voted casts their ballots for Obama in the last election says otherwise. Although it’s exciting to see someone of the same skin tone having a chance at the presidency, any vigilant citizen still needs to be mindful if the person who seems to have thir best interest at heart truly does.
I’m hopeful one day people can do as Martin Luther King asked and judge not by the color or a person’s skin but by the content of their character because it matters not what a person says or if they look like you. It matters what they do.