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Racial Literacy and Voting Equity

Racial Literacy, Voting Equity and the 2020 Election  

Published: Tuesday, 20 October 2020

How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? –Dr. Seuss, “How Did it Get So Late So Soon”

Racial issues have been woven into important elements of our lives, regardless of our consent or awareness.They’re in our government institutions, our educational infrastructures and our social constructions. Our nation’s history has seen the course of slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the civil rights movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). And yet, over 400 years later, we near another presidential election with bittersweet hope – this will be the year real change sets in.

However, because race is so ingrained in both our nation’s history and our present reality, we need to thoroughly understand that it cannot be ignored.

Black Americans, Indigenous People and People of Color (BIPOC) were largely denied voting rights and citizenship until the 1870s. Even with the taste of democracy offered after the Civil War and during Reconstruction, a resurgence of segregation, discrimination and violence against people of color set our nation back. With the later civil rights movement and VRA, many believed and claimed that the fight against racism was over. From elementary to high school education, our younger generation has been taught that racism was a thing of the past - that everyone is free in the U.S. and our democracy is prospering.

What they failed to teach us is that our 21st century still breathes systemic, institutional racism. Two U.S. Supreme Court rulings in particular exemplify the continued effort to increase barriers that prevent minorities from voting. In the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder case, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted Section 5 of the VRA when they declared the coverage formula used to determine jurisdictions subject to preclearance were unconstitutional. In the 2018 Husted v. A. Philip Randolph case, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that Ohio’s decision to purge infrequent voters did not violate the constitution.

The disenfranchisement of our BIPOC population persists while our social and educational infrastructures refuse to improve our racial literacy. Without the “capacity to decipher the durable racial grammar that structures racialized hierarchies and frames the narrative of our republic,” as defined by civil rights theorist Lani Guinier, how can we leave behind the cycle of chronic racism, inequity and barriers to civil freedom?

Our government institutions, educational infrastructures and social constructions need to do better, and that starts with our vote. 400 years of racial setbacks is long enough. Mark your calendar and vote on November 3. We cannot wait anymore.

Register to Vote!

For all other voter information related to LBSU, be sure to visit

This article was written as a part of the ASI Student Government advocacy
series by Sumaiyah Hossain, a third-year student at LBSU majoring in English literature and serving as Lobby Corps Student-At-Large.