“Eating An Elephant – One Bite At A Time”
By Calvin Miller, II
During the Tele-worship Service of my church, Madkins Chapel Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America on Sunday, February 6, I heard yet again how schools and legislative bodies across the country are trying to deny the deposits of Black people into history by re-shaping, re-writing and reworking laws and historical accounts to limit our contributions and struggles. At the same time, a great effort has been put in place “to sweep under the rug” all historical injustices against people who look like me by those who don’t look like me!
The failure of the John Lewis Voting Rights Bill in Congress has itself left me totally confused. As I understand it, the bill would counter act laws that have been or are being put in place around the nation to suppress the rights and abilities to vote by certain folk who may or may not look like me.
Yes, the bill in question is necessary to curtail the actions of current and future bigoted losers who never had our best interest at heart in the first place. OK, I get that part, but that is not what I am confused about.
I am confused about the thought, mindset, and approach to the issues of Education, History and Law by those most directly affected: People who look like me.
I am not trying to disparage or ignore my Latina Brothers and Sisters or other Americans of color, but from where I sit there are only four colors: White, Red, Green and Black. I can sum it up in one sentence: It is an historical and obvious fact that White people see Red when faced with losing their grip on perceived superiority and their Green dollars to Black people!
We, as Black people, have known that fact forever. So why are we acting like this is something new?
This is not our first rodeo, nor our first time at the table of inequality attempting to eat the elephant of ignorance and in- justice. We must do now as we have before – eat the elephant one bite at a time!
First, minimize and localize the threat. Someone once said, “All Politics Are Local.” True. We must stop looking at the whole and say, “O, woe is me.” Divide these issues and the weapons against them into your District, Neighborhood, City, State as your individual portion of that elephant. The Black folk in Huntsville cannot fix things for Black folk in Mo- bile or Montgomery.
Black Alabama cannot fix Black Georgia, so stop wasting resources by biting off more than you can chew. Eat smaller, local potions that you can swallow and add fuel to your energy.
Next, realize the threat to our voting rights for what it really is: White folk are scared that if we vote, they lose. We have not passed them in numerical strength, and we are far from it! The fact is, we have a history of showing up and showing out with resiliency when are backs are up against the wall.
We must use the strengths that we have to our benefit and remember that all sickness is not death.
The White majority and mostly Republican state legislatures around the country have enacted laws that seek to deny, delay, demoralize, defeat, and destroy our will and right to vote. Their laws and tactics include, but are not limited to: (1) Requiring difficult to obtain identification; (2) Limiting access to vital voting information; (3) Reduced voting hours at polling locations; (4) Minimizing our vote impact through unfair redistricting applications; (5) Closure of voting locations in Black neighborhoods; (6) Eliminating voter drop box locations; (7) Voter registration restrictions. Make no mistake about it, those things are obstacles, and they can make you ill, but they cannot kill you and there is a remedy readily available.
What is the remedy you say? I am glad you asked!
I believe it was Sojourner Truth who said that the biggest mistake the White people ever made was to make our people walk behind them because that way we could see everything they were doing and learn from them!
I propose that we adopt a similar posture and follow their lead – do what they want us to do only with a different twist. WE GO VOTE ANYHOW. ANY WAY. ANYWHERE!
Keep in mind that we only need to keep it local, but everywhere is being local! We are a proud people with great resources that include financial, educational, and good old street sense.
It is important to under- stand that to eat, you need utensils. In conflict, you need resources! You need LOCAL personnel. You need to beat the bushes LOCALLY to find the best and brightest; the most resourceful; the most connected and the most willing among our people to aid in our cause and fight for legitimacy. We want and need the Cream of the Crop! We want and need people who can bring something to the table rather than just eat from it!
Search out those who al- ready claim to be about service to and for the community. Seek every LOCAL Fraternity, Sorority, Masonic Organizations, Social Clubs, Small (and Large) Business Owners, Civic Interest Groups and Churches. Arrange a meeting with the LOCAL heads of these organizations and map out a strategy.
Work on items like LOCAL availability of transportation; low-cost or no-cost capability to print or reproduce flyers or voting information material. Identify which groups LOCALLY will take responsibility for which LOCAL area to ensure needs are achieved, especially in voting! Put major emphasis on getting people to the polls to vote! It does no good to have twenty-five thousand Black folks registered and only three thousand go vote.
Now that we have our resources let us get to work on breaking up into small pieces and swallowing the elephant in the room. For illustration, I will reference the same tactics mentioned earlier and identify our conflict remedies.
(1) Obtaining Voter Identification and Vital Voting Information: These are just too easy! All that needs to be done is to LOCALLY identify who needs the ID and take steps to ensure that they obtain it. If literacy is an issue, there are plenty of educators and educated members who look like us that can help with that issue. If it is transportation it too should present no problem.
Folk can always catch a ride to the club, Wal-Mart, or the Casino if the need or desire is present. These endeavors should get no less attention from the haves or the have nots. Use the LOCAL Volunteer RESOURCES to get the job done. The same goes for the issue of voter information.
That information is in the English Language. We speak English, don’t we?
(2) Reduced hours at Polling location. Again, utilize the LOCAL resources to get assistance in getting folk to the polls. If an employer does not afford employees the opportunity to vote when the polls are open, that information needs to be known and publicized.
(3) Unfair Redistricting ac- tions. It will take time but if we get out there and vote, we will soon be the ones in charge of the redistricting. (AND THE ONES WRITING THE LAWS!!)
(4) Closure of Voting polls and Reducing/Eliminating Drop Box Locations. Educate ourselves on where and when and then get to the polls. Learn the rules for Absentee Voting. These items only require a fix in the transportation area for those that need help. Our responsibility does not go away because the location changed. We would still go to a grocery store if it moved.
Constantly examine additional measures that will aid our mission completion including dividing the LOCAL area into smaller segments (Voting Precincts, Sub-Divisions, etc.) that can be assigned to certain groups or organizations.
This will allow for better control, oversight of your resources, and eliminate duplication of effort. Ask that when engaged in voting activities or canvassing, the members of the group or organization endeavor to dress in similar attire that will identify them as members.
Identify and coordinate with churches in the local and sub-local area and solicit their assistance as relates to utilization of transportation resources and distribution of necessary material at the church.
Identify and contact businesses in the local and sub-local area to solicit their assistance in providing support such as paying for the gas of donated transportation vehicles or materials reproduction costs.
(Their acknowledgement to the community of their involvement is ideal advertisement)
I hope you are getting my drift. Use the resources we already have, stay within the frame and letter of the law (at the time), and exercise our right to vote. The thought process of those who seek to suppress and prevent us from that right is that if faced with difficulty, we will cuss, fuss, and stay home. Do not give them the satisfaction of thinking they can run us off by changing the hours or making us travel a little further!
Remember, take this project on as a LOCAL issue. Start on your street, then help it spread throughout the neighborhood, voting precinct, sub-division, City, State and Nation. Success will be achieved by getting out of our comfort zone, assisting our fellow citizens, and doing our civic duty all at the same time. What we thought was being taken away actually brought us TOGETHER!
In closing, remember: “THE BLESSING ISN’T ALWAYS WHAT GOD GIVES TO YOU, BUT ALSO WHAT HE CHOOSES TO TAKE AWAY.”
We need to give God the Glory for taking away the excuse for us to act irresponsibly.
If we do this right, and I know we can – the Wednesdays following a Tuesday voting will never be the same!
If we do our work and do it well, there won’t be time or need to blame anyone for our situation!
AS THEY SAY ON THAT TRACTOR COMMERCIAL: C’MON LET’S GO TO WORK!
Thank you for your time and attention. Be Blessed!