This year’s election is critical. While some are choosing to sit out, others have been denied the right to vote due to felony disenfranchisement legislation. In this video from The Atlantic and Vann R. Newkirk, II, there is a glimpse into how vital it is that states revisit and revoke these laws to re-empower voting in Black communities.
A Black woman in the video named Sherhonda Price explains that she hasn’t been able to vote in 25 years. A man named Harry Coleman says he was never able to vote, not even when he was 18 years old. Randy Tyler, another disenfranchised voter, explains that this political rule “hurts” because he has never been able to express his voice in elections. Newkirk says, “Here in the capital of the Old Confederacy, it’s important to realize that this is a step to racial justice.” These laws are clearly most impactful to Black voters.
Newkirk also explains that this is not only happening in Virginia. Across the country, almost 6 million people cannot vote because of felony disenfranchisement. Roughly 40% of them are Black.
The most important point in this video is the clear and direct link between felon disenfranchisement laws and White supremacy. These laws originated following slavery as Blacks became more political active. By linking voting rights to predatory and racially biased criminality laws, White political leaders were able to effectively erase Black voices in the political arena.
Hopefully other states will begin following in Virginia’s footsteps and restore voting rights as essential to citizenship in the United States no matter the color of one’s skin.
Photo: The Atlantic video screenshot