Civil Rights Act enfranchised black voters, but Texas politics is discouraging

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U.S. President Lyndon Johnson passes out some of the 72 pens he used to sign the civil rights bill in Washington D.C. on July 2, 1964. From left standing are, Rep. Roland Libobati (D-Ill.), Rep. Peter Rodino (D-N.J.), Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rep. Emmanuel Celler (D-N.Y.) and Whitney Young, executive director of the National Urban League. 
U.S. President Lyndon Johnson passes out some of the 72 pens he used to sign the civil rights bill in Washington D.C. on July 2, 1964. From left standing are, Rep. Roland Libobati (D-Ill.), Rep. Peter Rodino (D-N.J.), Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rep. Emmanuel Celler (D-N.Y.) and Whitney Young, executive director of the National Urban League. 

Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. Although the bill did not comprehensively address all inequalities that prevented African-Americans from voting — a more inclusive bill, the Voting Rights Act, was passed the next year — it was a step in the right direction to enfranchising black voters in the United States. But the historic legislative measures do not explain the relatively low voter participation among black people today. The more closely watched minority on the political stage is without a doubt the Hispanic population, and concentrating on the demographic makes sense considering its rapid growth, especially among the young. Unfortunately, the treatment of the black voter as the red-headed stepchild by conservatives and progressives alike has led to apathy among some black voters.

Despite having one of the largest populations in the country, voter turnout in Texas tends to be very low, and white, conservative voters are the most active participants in state elections. Although we legally have the right to vote, I can say that as a black voter, I am less inclined to care about an election, especially when I have not heard how voting for either state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, or Attorney General Greg Abbott, the two parties’ respective nominees for governor, will better my life as a black person in Texas. Even though candidates who work to promote the interests of all people should be the ones elected, people vote selfishly and are more likely to vote for the candidate whose beliefs adhere most closely to their own. And there has been very little mention as to what the candidates on the ballot will do for the black community. Yes, the Civil Rights Act gave black people the right to vote, but statewide campaigns have not given us any compelling reason to vote other than to exercise a civic duty.


Davis is an associate editor.