My neighborhood of Woodlawn was one of several asked to come
back to the polls this week and finish the job we started in
February. The 20th ward aldermanic election field was narrowed down
to two contenders: Willie Cochran and Che Smith. This post isn't
about their political prowess or plans to decrease gang violence
and bring new commerce to the area - though there's plenty of interesting stuff
This post is about the sad example of political apathy we're
setting for our kids.
I'm no historian, but its important to note that it took, by my
count, four constitutional amendments to get to the point where I
have the free and clear right to vote alongside my white
The 13th amendment abolished slavery, the
14th defined what makes a U.S. citizen, the
15th prohibits denial of voting rights based on race, and the
24th made it illegal to throw up financial hindrances to
voting. If you're an African American woman like me, tack on the
19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
Do you see where this is going?
According to the
Tribune, only 32 percent of 20th Ward voters voted in the Feb.
22 race, compared to 42 percent citywide. Estimates from Tuesdays'
run-off are hovering about 25 percent.
I'm both angered and deeply saddened that the same people who
cluck about how no one cares about our area couldn't be bothered to
show up to vote themselves. Given the low voter turnout, odds are
that the teacher who lives down the street and is in charge of
explaining the judicial system to our kids didn't vote. Neither did
the beat cop who lives around the corner and knows firsthand how
badly we need allies in the struggle against those who would have
this neighborhood crumble. The landlord who is sick of vacant
lots on every block may not have voted, and the same goes for the
group of guys who stand in that vacant lot every.single.day.
We take pictures with my son whenever we go to vote. Our polling
station workers are used to "the lady with the baby on her back."
We take pride in investing in our neighborhood with our dollars
and our vote.
But one day, we will have to have one of two conversations with
our son about politics and the neighborhood we brought him home
from the hospital to. Either Talk #1, where we explain why we had
to move away, move to a neighborhood/city/suburb where the other
mamas and daddies who work as hard as us take few minutes to do the
minimum of their civic duty and elect people who are able to lead
and guide us to bigger and better things. Or Talk #2, where
the place where we lived has been through some rough times, but the
people around us, the neighbors you've known all of your life,
decided it was time to step up and make this block a neighborhood
and this ward a community.
I hope it's Talk #2.
Courtney is a mom living in Woodlawn.
See more of Courtney's stories here.
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