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Are We Ready for a Minority President?

Natasha N. Rushing

Is the United States ready for a minority president?

It is very easy for people to immediately reply “yes” in response to this question. Yet, if our country is ready, then why has a minority candidate yet to survive the cuts of the party caucuses and primaries to receive the nomination? I venture to say that we are in denial of political inequalities, and the realization of a minority president is nowhere in the near future. There are many things in this country that we overlook that may be holding back our electoral process from reaching its full potential envisioned by our forefathers of representing all citizens of this country. Let us look at the primary example of African-americans in national public offices.

First, the time elapsed since the end of blatant racial discrimination in this country is equivalent to an eye blink in the span of history. Slavery in America, which ended approximately 140 years ago in 1865, was in place for over 250 years. If you consider the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the end of the civil rights movement, then there have only been 36 years between then and now. Despite the american ideal that any person can “make it to the top” with hard work, I find it very improbable that a man can rise from the dregs of society to one of the most reputable positions in the world in the time span of only 36 years.

Secondly, the number of blacks in Congress is pathetically low. White males represent approximately 40 percent of the US population, yet comprise 77 percent of the House of Representatives and 87 percent of the Senate, a total of 79 percent of Congress. African-americans (both male and female) represent approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population, 9 percent of the House, zero percent of the Senate, a total of 7 percent of Congress.

How can we expect the American people to elect a black president when they cannot keep a black Senator in office? Perhaps there just aren’t that many blacks aspiring to public office. Even still, that cannot possibly account for the fact that there are currently no black senators.

Next, we can look at the trends for the blacks who have braved to run for the Presidential office. Jesse Jackson ran for the nomination of the Democratic Party in 1984 and 1988. Both times, he was unable to win the nomination. Colin Powell was speculated to become a candidate in the Presidency in 1996, but did not enter the race. In 2000, Alan Keyes ran for the Republican Presidential nomination, but eventually stepped down from the race. In this year’s Democratic Candidacy Race, we have seen Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun. Braun, a former US Senator, recently dropped out of the race. Sharpton recently received zero percent voter support in the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire Primary. Democratic sources say Braun felt it was time to quit because her campaign failed to catch fire. Solely based on the trends of black presidential candidates, things aren’t looking too good for the possibility of a black president.

Finally, the number of minority voters in the country is disproportionate due to voting restrictions. With the exceptions of Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts, the remaining 47 states and the District of Columbia prohibit inmates serving felony convictions from voting in any public elections. While a majority of states restore voting rights to convicted felons after they complete their prison terms or probation periods, at least ten states, including Virginia, Delaware and New Mexico permanently prohibit former felons from voting. Due to the war on crime and racial profiling, there is a disproportionate amount of blacks convicted of felonies. Thus, more blacks are losing their rights to vote. This is not to say that these felons would vote for a black presidential candidate or even at all, but it is something to think about. Also, there are thousands of homeless people who are unable to exercise their right simply because they don’t have an address to register with.

There are probably many other intangible constructs of our society that are working against the election of a black president. Being a black woman, I would love to think that this country has reached a point of equality for all, but then I would only be fooling myself. I do believe that one day this country will have a black president, and apparently I am not the only one. The television drama 24 and the movie blockbuster Deep Impact both have black presidents, so others are definitely open to the idea. But as usual, reality is far behind the imagination of Hollywood.

The question of whether our country is ready for a minority president is one we should all contemplate. The true answer to this question now and in the future will be revealed at the ballot boxes. In closing, I would like to urge all fellow students to vote. Based on the most recent census, only 63.9 percent of the voting population is registered and only 54.7 percent of the voting population actually votes.

There is a problem with that, especially since active participation in government is one of the principles that this country was founded upon. Please make an effort to learn about this year’s presidential candidates and vote. The first step to change is action.

Natasha N. Rushing is a member of the class of 2005.