Malcolm X in Blue

My Ballot or My Bullet

Jose 26 Comments

 

 

Malcolm X in Blue

 

Shocked? Bewildered? You shouldn’t be.

Outside of Dennis Kucinich, I haven’t been impressed with any of the candidates really. I’ve disbanded myself from all political parties, and frankly, I’m disenchanted with all the choices I have now, which leads me to this:

“We must understand the politics of our community and we must know what politics is supposed to produce. We must know what part politics play in our lives. And until we become politically mature we will always be mislead, lead astray, or deceived or maneuvered into supporting someone politically who doesn’t have the good of our community at heart.”

- Malcolm X, “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech, April 12, 1964

I’m no Malcolm, but I swear he’s speaking to some of us from the grave. I had a discussion about the discrimination that both of the candidates face with my lady, and while I contended that Obama and Hillary face their own discrimination based on their race or sex respectively, I also found myself discussing people who didn’t really speak to me. As I’m chomping down my arroz con habichuela (rice and beans, people), I’m sitting there like a fool trying to justify whose plight is worse in the media.

Just then, I think: really, are they looking out for me?

When we look at Hillary and Obama based on their voting records, they’re almost identical. Obama diidn’t get to vote for the Patriot Act or the Iraq War. Yet, Obama’s still lambasting Hillary for a vote he seems to support (since he continues to use his votes to fund that war). Hillary’s camp (looking at you, BET founder Robert Johnson) made some rather harsh and albeit racist comments towards Obama, so even with all the sexist comments people make about her, she has a hard time gaining any credibility with her deft tactics.

On paper (i.e. their plans and designs for their version of America), Hillary’s got the better health care plan, saving hundreds of dollars against Obama’s plan, and many years in politics to back up her claims. On TV and around the country, Obama’s got a better movement behind him, people of all races and classes rallying behind him, and some of the most thrilling speeches in recent history. But frankly, I even support Al Gore’s positions from 8 years ago more than I do either Obama’s or Hillary’s at this point, and I’m definitely a more educated voter now.

The candidates’ plans are all pipe dreams unless we really start investing in our own self-worth. No celebrity-filled pop music video featuring my favorite artists or stacks of campaign money from some of my favorite actors and actresses can convince me otherwise. I couldn’t care less for Obama if he has no clear position about education when he’s been a huge beneficiary of excellent education in this country. I couldn’t care less for Hillary either (or Bill for that matter), especially since her political bedfellows include GOPers keeping us from true and universal health care. It’s been fairly obvious that, despite all the progress we think we’ve made, the poor are poorer and the rich are richer.

I often think that there’s no point in me voting in a heavily Hillary-influenced state like New York for any of these candidates if the Most Children Left Behind Act still helps corporations privatize education and helps destroy unions, if the need for universal health care doesn’t awaken any of these candidates who line their pockets with monies from those very companies we need protection from, if we still have young men and women dying needlessly for oil’s sake and when they come back into the country, we don’t respect them by giving them adequate benefits for them or their families.

Of course, I won’t even touch McCain, Huckabee, or whoever the Republicans will try to throw into the race since the higher-ups aren’t pleased with their leading candidates. They’re a crowd I wouldn’t get too close to for fear of contracting a plethora of contagions and other icky shit.

And I love seeing people get into discussion about politics and how it affects them, but we can’t vote for the politics of “the lesser of two evils.” It’s either that we vote for the person that represents our views or we don’t. And if we don’t like the person, then let’s withdraw our vote until we like who we see. To paraphrase Malcolm, I’m not shooting my bullet ballot until the right candidate’s up in my range.

jose, who wants to know what you’re thinking as you read this …

p.s. – Don’t just throw out the word “teachers” in a crowd just so people can clap for you. Either you really support them or you don’t. Simple as that.

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonMy Ballot or My Bullet

Comments 26

  1. pre_k

    I have to agree with you in he aspect if there is no one that you are willing to stand with than you should wait for a candidate that is worth your vote.. I have always been an advocate of voting in the name of one’s own consciousness.

    i haven’t decided how my consciousness will lead. right now i have a foot in obama’s camp and i am looking at McCain. but i see McCain doing a lot of pandering to the right. it is very possible come november I will most likely not vote again if none of these candidates prove to me that they are worth my vote.

    personally a part of me wants to see history being made.. so i would like to see either obama or hillary in office.. more so barack because i would love to see how black people in this country will act knowing that a black man had become the president of the united states. what would be the excuse of black people not getting their act together and taking advantage of some of the opportunities afforded to people of this country.

    you are a better than me.. I think the only time i regretted voting is when i voted for al gore. that man was a do nothing vice president. I am glad he did not get in this race. However i am glad that he found a cause to fight for and that he is doing what he can to fight for it.. thought the fact that he flies around on personal jets and things of the sort is kind of contradictory.

    anyway i could be responding to this post all night but i am going to get to my own post.. i have some political stew brewing that i need to let simmer..

    good post as always.. piece and blessings

  2. Jen

    I can’t do the not voting thing. Not yet, at least. I keep thinking back to Gore in 2000 and Nader. I try not to be too bitter about those Nader voters. Those, I can’t be part of this system voters. We wouldn’t be in Iraq right now if people had voted “lesser of two evils” rather than Nader. We’d never have been there at all.

    I’m Obama. He’s a learner. He’s most likely to stop the ridiculous executive stuff we’ve seen, to be fully anti-torture, to think big on the environment of the big three. McCain is far too right for me, though he’s good at looking moderate and centrist. Obama’s the only one saying that we’re better than this, that we have to sacrifice, that we have to move past fear, and I admit, I’m sappy enough to think that having high ideals we try to maintain is sort of where you have to start.

    Not that I think he’s perfect. Or you are, or I am. Just that he’s coming at this differently and he’s not yet a plastic politician.

  3. Jen

    I will say that it’s in the area of education that I like Obama the least, policy wise. He needs to read a few people on my bloglist for a month or two.

  4. Post
    Author
    Jose

    Sorry pre_k, but McCain sold his soul to the company store a while ago. Before he was very much the “voice of reason” in the Republican party. It’s almost as if after all that racket he was making he was sent to the principal’s office. Notice that after a while he started taking pictures of him and Bush hugging and laughing together. Sold out.

    Alisha, I think you missed the point. I’m not voting against anyone either. The point of the post was to show why I wouldn’t vote for any candidate simply because they look flashy.

    Jen, I think people genuinely voted for Gore, and he was robbed, and Bush’s people FORCED him into the White House. But that’s just me. Even if it’s a policy to “vote against”, the better case study would be 2004, where we had John Kerry who didn’t really inspire us much. For most of that campaign, his body language told us that he didn’t want it badly enough. Besides, I have a few more months to decide whether any of these candidates will do me justice.

    bygbaby, I’m on it.

  5. pre_k

    well you know i had to come back based on that comment.. I do not think McCain has sold his soul no more than any other politician. the truth of the matter is he was the only dude who sought to try to handle to whole immigration issue, campaign finance issue. i don’t like a lot of McCain’s views but i respect the fact that he is willing to face the issues. Personally i do not care who the man takes a picture with I only care if their policies make sense. personally i thought it took political gumption to endorse that surge (we both know i do not agree with the war at all) even when it is not very unpopular. though i will admit right now i am not liking his political pandering to the far right.

  6. Jason G.

    I see where you are going with this, but I want to develop this further. See, Malcolm also said in that same speech:

    “The political philosophy of Black Nationalism only means that the black man should control the politics and the politicians in his own community.”

    What I wanted to point out in the note I sent to you and others on Facebook, is that political progress has to go beyond one candidate. No matter which candidate is elected, all power remains in the people. We are the ones who set the tone of the community. Consequently, “political maturity”, as Malcolm notes, is not about removing yourself from the process, but engaging yourself to the point of having complete control of its destiny and not being susceptible to “being led astray” by any white man or “negro sent by the white man.”

    Do I support Obama? Yes, and there is a whole host of things I can be critical of with him or Hillary on a variety of issues. Namely, Obama’s insistence on “reforming” ‘No Child Left Behind’ and him overstating how much better his health care plan is better than Clinton’s, which I can’t agree with. There are also problems with Clinton’s Health Care Plan, and her and Bill’s political tactics have not been all that appealing either. However, on the issues there is very little difference. And I can’t sit around trying to nit-pick on what I disagree with them, when I know there is a greater evil to be taken care of and a greater good to be handled on the grassroots and local community level.

    But I do believe in his vision, and like Professor Campbell pointed out, his intelligence cannot be surpassed by many other politicians. But even if he is elected, I don’t naively sit here and believe that, as much as he thinks he can find common ground with the Republicans to push his policies, that it will be that easy and we will have equality in education, health care, housing etc. That is why it is the job of the people to develop political strategies and even strong independent political parties to counter and remove those in office who do not represent OUR vision.

    It is not progressive or “revolutionary” to sit on the sidelines and “wait” for someone who might be like-minded to become a candidate. If we don’t create the movement that gives rise to real “change,” than we are doing a disservice to ourselves and our people.

    “It’ll be the — the ballot or it’ll be the bullet. It’ll be liberty or it’ll be death. And if you’re not ready to pay that price don’t use the word ‘freedom’ in your vocabulary.”

    Peace.
    - J

  7. Mes Deux Cents

    Hi Jose,

    Here’s the thing; most people of color vote for the Democrats 100% of the time. Then they say it’s because the other Party, the Republicans, are not responsive to their needs.

    I say, first; if you don’t vote for them, you allow them to ignore you. And since you don’t vote for them, the non-responsiveness becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    If I as a politician know that group A is never going to vote for me that allows me to ignore them with no repercussions on voting day.

    I think it is the best interest of people of color to force both Parties to be responsive. The only way that can happen is to hedge our collective bets by spreading our votes around.

    That’s why I am seriously considering voting McCain.

  8. Anonymous

    So wait a minute… not voting for anyone because no one candidate aligns with your way of thinking and has your best interest at heart is better than voting for the person who comes closest to what you believe in? By not voting you are letting EVERYONE else decide your future for you. I’m so not in agreeance with you, Jose. I really hope you’re playing Devil’s Advocate here. How can you throw your voice (vote) away. No response is a response…….usually one that gets us no where.

  9. Amauri T.

    Modern campaigns seem very ‘scientifically managed’, with minute tracking of polling, results, opinions, etc by each candidates platoons of analyst, statisticians, PR people, consultants etc. The negatives of this situation are innumerable and obvious, but I’d point out that the flip side of it is that to the extent you vote or make your preference known you cannot help but show up as a blip on numerous radars of the professional campaign bureaucracy. Someone, somewhere, with the ear of a politician or two, will note apparently trivial things like ” X twenty-somethings in Manhattan’ supported yo, or ‘statewide, Latinos supported you X%’. So to that extent, yeah there is value in voting, even for a lesser of two evils, and even in a state like ours where one party and in fact one particular faction of the party has things so sewn up.

    More importantly, if everyone en masse decided not to vote it wouldn’t help anyone or any movement unless it is replaced with direct, violent action. The politicians would be that much more empowered to pander to monied interests if the pool of voters gets smaller and smaller . A

  10. Ensayn

    Dios mio mi hermano!!! You said it here. At this point in my life I cannot vote for anyone I can’t touch. I don’t mean that literally, but someone I can see on the street. I vote for my local sheriff, I vote for my local school board candidates, city council members and such, yet they must appeal to my since of knowing what good for our community. I don’t vote just to vote, nor will I vote for the “lesser of tow evils” cause I don’t for evil on any level. Al Gore, don’t know if he was robbed or it was given away. The Congress had enough votes to stop the election of 2000, but they needed a senator to sign on and guess what? None did, Gore had no allies in the senate? Humm, that really stank.
    The main thing I have against Obama, is the things he proposes seem quite impossible. He, wants to take away tax breaks from companies that close shop here and send the jobs overseas. Sounds good, but GM, still the largest car maker in the WORLD, is closing doors here in the U.S. and moving jobs overseas, AT&T is doing the samething. Now, I am to believe one man, one Black man, is going to put the screws to these huge business’s just like that? I don’t think so, just talk on his part. He also says he is going to change the tax laws and this will take 5-10 MILLION U.S. workers off the payroll tax rolls, they won’t even have to file taxes. Not going to happen. I dis-like this type of smoke and mirror thing. He says change starts at the bottom, then why in the world does he want to be at the top if he is really for change? That statement is very contradictory. In the last vote for the Patriot Act, Obama DID vote for the Patriot Act.
    I have taken the time to really try and understand politics as a non-politician and I no longer have much feeling for the people that are running for president.

  11. Post
    Author
    Jose

    Jason, that’s exactly it! I think Obama’s fine if I had to choose, but in my heart of hearts, I know that he is not America’s savior. Is he going to bring about the kind of change that makes communities galvanize? Will we form a collective and hold these politicians accountable? Obama may be intelligent, but what will that do when he’s at the top of the pyramid? If the top of the pyramid is knocked off, the structure’s still intact, so the truest means for action is through local and national activism, not leaning on the hopes of someone who can sell us a dream. I mean, even if I can’t agree with Obama on everything, does it mean I won’t vote for him later on? That’s neither here nor there. I’ll think about voting in the general election, but as for a primary? Eh, their positions aren’t clear, so :: shrugs::. When we look at what defines revolutionary, it’s not simply a vision, but the people. So it’s not me really sitting on the sidelines, but more observing and making a better informed decision. (check below, re: devil’s advocate). We’re both from a city where the unions just wish and pray that the next mayoral candidate will treat them better, and when the next incumbent comes, we get nothing but the same ol’ treatment. And Prof. Campbell’s essay was on point, let me just say. We’re not that far in our ideology, J.

    MDC, history has shown us that it’s the Republicans who decided to switch their agenda towards more conservative folks. They didn’t respond to Black people, and many insiders within the Republican party aren’t concerned with the Black vote as was showcased when they reneged on many Black institutions (including BET) to debate at their events. Even when we hold many of these entities accountable, they still find a way to stick to their own constituencies. Now, does that mean I have a lack of understanding about a politician’s accountability? No. I definitely understand. But I sincerely can’t vote for McCain. A vote isn’t just holding a politician accountable; it’s about a group of people holding the politicians accountable.

    MNS, yes yes.

    “anonymous” (since I know who I’m responding to), I know you’re aware that the electoral college was formed precisely because they wanted to suppress the people’s wish, mainly because they couldn’t trust everyone’s intelligence. Think about how Al Gore lost in 2008, when he clearly won the popular vote as well as the electoral college. I remember that, and how by a slew of divide-and-block methods by Jeb Bush, Fox News, and Co., and others, Bush stole the 25 or so delegates from the electoral college needed to win. Same in 2K4 in Ohio. The media blamed it on everyone else but that. It’s called voter fraud and we never heard it once after 2000.

    In some ways I am playing Devil’s Advocate because I’m wondering what people will do when their vote doesn’t get counted, or when Diebold decides to push fake numbers on critical states, or the plethora of ways government officials find to restrict and repress the votes of the American people. Activism.

    Thanks, Amauri. I agree statistically with what you’re saying, but again, it needs to be a concerted effort from a cabal of individuals who have one goal in mind and have the ear of a few valuable politicians either locally or nationally. I need to be more informed about these politicians’ positions and thus they need to make their positions on the topics I feel are important to me and my people before I can jump into some candidate.

    Again, people, it’s a primary. Please.

  12. Cero

    I feel you. I was so looking forward to voting for Kucinich! I’ve been a non voter before, and a third party voter before, because I do not like the lesser of two evils theory.

    However: this time my priority is beat the GOP, and I think Obama has a better chance of doing that than Hillary, so I’m voting for him tomorrow.

  13. e

    i’m thinking… wow he went there. this is the realest post. i kinda refuse to go here on my blog b/c i’m not interested in people judging my political decisions. so i give you props. i’m not sure how i feel about not voting to make a point. lemme think about this.

    peace,
    e.

  14. Francis L. Holland

    Jose, I voted for Obama because I believed it would increase his likelihood of becoming president or vice president. If I voted for Clinton, it would only encourage her to believe that she had attained the nomination on her own and could afford to nominate “Mr. White Southern Guy” for all-white “balance” on the Democratic ticket. I think the kind of balance we need is balance that represents all of our constituencies – women, Blacks, Latinos, gays, white men, etc. – not “balance” that is defined as “white people from every geographic region of the country.”

    I hope the kind of balance we will get in 2009 is Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton, ending the 43-term white male monopoly of both the presidency and the vice presidency, while putting Democrats on ticket who are from demographics that make up most of the Democratic Party: women (53-60%) and Blacks (20%).

    Blacks vs. Latinos

    But, here’s something equally important: In recent years Blacks and Latinos have allowed ourselves to be cast in opposition to one another politically and economically, with Black believing that Latinos are getting ahead at Blacks’ expense, or that Latinos are unfairly getting ahead before Blacks do. Latinos, I imagine, have their own beliefs and emotions about Blacks.

    I have always believed that most Latinos have far more in common with Blacks than with whites in terms of our status in America. We all come from countries that have been underdeveloped and exploited by the US at our expense, and we find ourselves sharing – for the most part – the lowest socio-economic and political status here in the United States.

    But I can’t help but think that Barack Obama would have gotten more votes from Latinos in recent voting if Blacks had focused more in recent years on what we have in common with Latinos instead of letting resentments and envies fester, believing as whites do that immigration and immigrants are costing us something.

    As I’ve said before, neither slavery nor Jim Crow, nor shipping of manufacturing jobs overseas not the overwhelming presence (83%) of white men in the US Senate is attributable to Latinos coming to America. It’s all been done by white people, and Blacks people’s troubles wouldn’t be much different if all Latinos left the United States overnight. Our problems predated the arrival of large numbers of Latinos in the United States.

    I think it’s the failure to understand that and the failure to make common cause and understanding with Latinos that cost Obama votes in recent primaries.

  15. Post
    Author
    Jose

    Cero, let’s also make sure that we’re not voting “anti-GOP”, because that was the strategy in 2K4. That didn’t work too well. I feel you on it though, because unlike 2K4, the candidates up for the Dems are more forthright and passionate.

    e, i’m a g. it’s what i do.

    Francis, that’s interesting since you were a proponent for Hillary. Just goes to show that after a few months, things can change.

  16. NYC Educator

    Well, I’m voting anti-GOP regardless. I don’t think we can afford them anymore, and if a Republican wins the White House, I’m gonna look long-term into relocating to Canada.

    I’ll vote for Obama or Hillary, or whoever wins the Democratic nomination.

    McCain seemed to have integrity in 2000, but not anymore. He opposed the Bush tax giveaways to the rich, but now wants to make them permanent. He refused to pander to the evangelicals, but changed his tune on that too. And he’s talking about staying in Iraq for 50-100 years, while most of our National Guard is stuck over there. Who’ s protecting the homeland?

    Not our faux-patriot GOP hopefuls, that’s for sure.

  17. Jonathan

    I’m with you.

    There is, however, a place you can vote for someone who has the same interests as you, who will represent you the way you want to be represented, and who is not some helicopter millionaire pretending to know you, your life, your concerns.

    Usually when you vote for your chapter leader, you are just voting for the guy who did it last time, and the CL can’t end the war in Iraq (not that I trust Obama or Clinton to do that) or fund pre-K. But there you go: 50 or 100 or 200 teachers get to choose one of their number. And if you don’t like the choice you can run, and you can win, and it happens regularly.

    But these elections? You nailed them.

  18. Kika

    The post and comments gave me much to mull over. I feel you, I mean I haven’t bothered to become a NYC resident yet…call it denial, too busy, what have you…but even if I had I don’t know if I would have voted in the Primaries either. For me it definitely does come back to information….although to be honest once I did some minor research I was impressed with Edwards political stances more than Clinton or Obama..so that choice being eliminated didnt really bode well with me. Maybe I’ll get my act together in time for the gen. elec. but until then I don’t know…
    so I definitely have a lot to think about…
    as always well thought post
    peace

  19. Kika

    Also, Something that Francis’s comment made me think about this whole Black vs Latino thing….anecdotaly I have been bothered/disturbed but not surprised at a lot of Latino talk in support of Hillary, not because they necessarily agree with or know her political stances, but because she isn’t Black….I saw the vote breakdown in my grandmother’s building today and 343 people voted for Hillary and 69 for Barak…just more to think about

  20. Jen

    I just wanted to make one more quick (and late) point. I really don’t hear Obama saying that he’s going to win over Republicans. I hear him saying that he’ll listen, he’ll try to address concerns, but that he will use the power of the people to get what he wants — that is, if health care isn’t going down, he’ll go on TV and make a speech and tell people that if they don’t call their Rep and Senators, it’s not going to happen.

    That’s the power of the presidency (it’s also what Reagan did, you know for evil). The obstinate, hardheaded president? Doesn’t get very far since everything has to be started by the congress.

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