By Brittany Lashley
Since forever, African Americans and other minorities have struggled for freedom, equality and just treatment. Many hope that one day, the right president will assist in bringing everything together, or at least make an attempt to improve the unjust treatment of the black community. Which is why every American taking the time to vote is so crucial. However, the normalization of felony disenfranchisement laws have resulted in the heaping record of 6.1 million Americans being forbidden to vote this year.
Studies from The Voting Project conclude that one in 13 African Americans of voting age is disenfranchised, which is a rate four times greater than non-African Americans. That is 7.4 percent of African American adults that are disenfranchised compared to 1.8 percent of the non-African American population. That being said, with the majority of the disfranchised black, the struggle of freedom in the African American community still remains today.
Felony disenfranchisement is to deny someone’s right to vote due to a criminal offense, most often times, a felony. Felony disenfranchisement laws differ throughout states. The Voting Project gathered that Maine and Vermont are the only states that currently allow people in prison to vote. Thirty states ban voting rights to felony probationers and thirty-four disenfranchise those on parole. Unlike New Jersey, twelve states continue to deny voting rights even after a person has finished their prison sentence as well as parole and probation.
African Americans are clearly criminally targeted in the United States. The New York Civil Liberties Union did a study on stop-and-frisk data, concluding that in 2015, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 22,939 times. Of the 22,939 stopped, 12,223 were black which accounts for 54 percent; 6,598 were Latino (29 percent), and only 2,567 were white (11 percent). Of the 22,939, eighty percent ended up being innocent. These numbers have been relatively consistent for years now. So you have to ask yourself, why are blacks being stopped the most? Why are blacks constantly being criminalized?
Jamal Hagler, Research Assistant for Progress 2050, points out that people of color make up more than 60 percent of those behind bars. Although African American’s are only 13 percent of the overall U.S. population, 40 percent of those who are incarcerated are black.
With all of these facts and statistics about how the majority of those imprisoned and disfranchised are black, now think about those who have been wrongfully committed of a crime and the long-term effects. Kalief Browder for example, was a young black male accused of allegedly stealing a book bag. Due to his family not being able to raise enough money for the $10,000 bail, Browder sat in jail for 3 years awaiting a trial. Browder endured harsh treatment, spent time in solitary confinement, and attempted suicide while incarcerated. Once the case dismissed, shortly after, the mentally scarred Browder committed suicide.
What mental damage is being done to those who are wrongfully committed of a crime? Not to mention the innocent lives of those who were taken by the police, of which most were people of color, unarmed and mentally ill. Although this is an example of blacks losing their lives as a result of the U.S. criminal justice system, it’s also important to acknowledge that if someone is wrongfully committed of a felony, they are getting their right to vote for no reason.
We should all have a voice. Blacks need to be heard. But blacks cannot be heard when the majority of those targeted, incarcerated and disenfranchised are black. Inequalities that result from the criminal justice system have great consequences to our nation. It’s time to shed light on this injustice, and take a stand.