The November 3rd U.S presidential election is less than 30 days. Major controversies have already intoxicated the smooth flow of the process to electing who to steer the affairs of America in the next four years. From the coronavirus pandemic that infected President Donald Trump and his wife, while turning the White House into an epicentre, to climate change or economic recession, every issue is at stake. Yet, the systemic racial injustices meted on African Americans is set to heavily influence the black minority vote.
The November 3rd election therefore turns out to be an opportunity of the black minority to exercise their franchise in voting for a president they believe will ensure equality, freedom and justice regardless of racial differences. A Gambian woman is among millions of African Americans who will be voting next month to decide between the Democrat’s nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. Her conviction as to whom among the two will respect her dignity and freedom through equality and justice will be the determining factor of her choice.
“Owning my actions to make a difference, elections are a sanctioned process through which we exercise our franchise – our vote – so that positive change happens. I will vote for a candidate whose platform embodies my values and one, when elected, will enact policies that are beneficial to my community – Immigrant rights; access to affordable health care; social justice; economic justice; access to quality education; to elect leaders who look like me, female, immigrant, black, brown,” Maryland based Soffie Ceesay said.
She said racism and racist policies have created unequal social norms, unequal access, and downright criminal behaviour by some law enforcement officers, whose repulsive actions foul the name of good, decent, and hardworking members of the establishment.
“Certainly, my vote will go to candidates whose administrations will, among other things, promulgate policies to address and root out the evil, that is racism, and will investigate and prosecute officers whose conduct is perverse and criminal.”
Role of Gambian American Women in U.S election
According to Soffie, African immigrants made a huge splash on the DC, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) political scene in 2014 with the inauguration of the African Immigrant Caucus.
“A Gambian woman is a founding member and an executive of that organization. Although no Gambian woman has yet emerged to run for political office in the U.S, we have plenty of role models in the African Immigrant community. Many African immigrant women sought political office and will continue to do so. Be that as it may, Gambian women are excited and energized to participate in the political process.
“They register voters, show up to vote, volunteer to raise funds and work the polls, act as election judges, conduct phone-banking and go door knocking. It is just a matter of time before some of them join their sisters from Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Liberia to seek political office,” she tells The Chronicle.
Influence of Black Lives Matter at the polls
Since the brutal killing of George Floyd which sparked violent tensions across the U.S and other parts of the world, it’s generally believed that this will contribute significantly on who amongst the candidates will win the support of the African Americans including Gambian Americans. Dr. Lorenzo Morris, professor of Political Science at Howard University admitted to the significance of racial influence in the elections especially after the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) became more prominent through civil rights, social and local political protests.
“The similarity of national reactions to protests, its interracial support and high media exposure in the face of a harsh federal government response, along its sympathetic support from right-wing militia, has turned them into an electoral movement. BLM remains much decentralized, a weakness, but, it should be remembered, that the initial successes of the 1960s civil rights movement came from decentralized local initiatives. That means simply that the most important factor in black voter turnout, coordination and mobilization by movement groups, has been building since the summer. Threats to voting access and polling restrictions may have a limiting effect but they are an added source of motivation for black and liberal white voters. It appears that BLM is already mobilizing early voting,” he said.
Dr. Lorenzo said Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests were widespread but uncoordinated with irregular, less systemic, demands and still decentralized but much more coherent movements.
“In the past, the focus was on individual violations e.g. the racist policemen. Today, the focus has clearly expanded to elected officials. In 2016 Obama was in the White House and the federal government was seen as a savior. Today, BLM activists often associate Trump with the people they most oppose. Ironically, Obama’s presidency may have drawn attention to the limits of public office.”
In 2016, the Howard faculty survey (HIPO) showed strong black voter support for Hillary Clinton. In fact, black turnout for her, while dropping from Obama last election, was about the same as for his first term, 58 to 59%. . Dr. Lorenzo Morris said the drop in turnout from 2012 may well have been a function of voter suppression especially in the swing states.