Blacks in Politics: A Case Study in Neo-Colonialism
The right to vote for a candidate of one's choice in political elections is the one characteristic that allegedly distinguishes the United States from the Soviet Union. Theoretically, any race or class has its interests represented by democratically elected members of the legislative and executive branches of government. As true of many American creeds, the concept of political democracy has never been fully applied to black Americans.
Blacks arrived on U.S. shores in 1619, but they did not get the right to vote until the passage of the 14th Amendment in 1865. That legal right could not be exercised for 70 years after the Reconstruction era due to a series of disenfranchising codes and acts of violence and suppression against blacks by the Ku Klux Klan and other white groups. Only after passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 did blacks regain the voting franchise in the South. The effect of the Voting Rights Act can be seen in the increase of black elected officials from 1,160 in 1969 to 6,056 in 1985.1
Although blacks are approximately 15 percent of the voting age population in the U.S., they only hold 1.2 percent of all elective offices in the country. Black voting strength is diluted by a number of factors, including reapportionment and gerrymandering practices that favor white voters and the lower percentage of black voter turnout. In 1984, only 56 percent of voting age blacks actually voted, compared to 61 percent of the white voting age population.2
This racial differential in voter turnout seems strange in light of the importance of government policies to most black Americans. Aside from their dependence on governmental bodies to insure their civil rights, black people, more than whites, look to the political arena as a source of jobs and services. As Landry has noted, government jobs were the first