The situation in Ferguson, Missouri evokes many emotions, from sadness and confusion to fear and outrage. Our hearts go out to the family of Mike Brown, the Ferguson community, and those around our nation who continue to face discrimination. The following piece is offered by AdvaNCe Team leader Addy McCulloch of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Today is Monday, August 18th — nine days after Mike Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, got shot to death by a white police officer. Various media outlets have noted that Ferguson’s government and police force are predominately white despite the fact that its population is two-thirds black. In other words, many of the citizens of Ferguson feel that their government does not represent them—that’s because many black people in Ferguson do not vote. Voter turnout in Ferguson hovers around 12 percent.
Low voter turnout has effects beyond the police force – five of Ferguson’s six city council members are white, six of its seven school members are white, and its mayor is white.
We cannot have a representative government if we do not vote. Our representatives can’t act on our behalf unless they hear from us. It’s easy to brush off the power of our single, individual votes – but at the end of the day, those votes are the only power we have to combat the big money influencing local, state, and national elections.
I am not saying that Ferguson’s voting record explains or justifies Mike Brown’s murder. I am not saying that. I know there are trolls out there on the internet that would misconstrue this short piece and imply that I am. I am not saying that the nearly all-white government of Ferguson should not have already examined its diversity policy before this. It should have. I am calling out the fact that voting matters. Every vote matters.
Make your voice heard. Make your vote matter. Help elect governments that care if police officers are properly trained in crisis management, de-escalation, and communication skills; help elect governments that forbid police officers to call protestors “f–king animals.” Help elect governments that represent all people, not just a few.
How do I vote in North Carolina?
Where can I get more information about candidates in my area?
Many of the local chapters of the League of Women Voters host nonpartisan candidate forums where local candidates from both parties (as well as independent candidates) can speak and answer questions. Local media outlets do this as well. Check your local listings and websites for organizations in your area.
Where can I get more information about what is happening on the ground in Ferguson?
The best reporting on Ferguson comes from reporters on the ground in Ferguson. Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post and Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post were arrested last week, and dozens of others members of the press have been threatened and handcuffed.
Addy Robinson McCulloch is a freelance writer and editor living and working in North Carolina. A graduate of Duke University, her clients include Pearson Education and Houghton Mifflin. Her work has appeared in publications such as 234 journal and Get Out of My Crotch, an anthology of writing on women’s health and reproductive rights. Addy is also a local liaison for Women Advance. You can find her on Twitter @addymac.