Why do White Americans have on average 13 times more wealth than African Americans? There have been government policies since the Civil War that have led to this disparity. Bread for the World has documented some of these policies. Here is their 13th and final policy contributing to the gap.
Minding the Gap: Voting Restrictions
Voting is key to ending hunger. As early as 1890, blacks faced organized campaigns to prevent them from voting, including biased “literacy tests,” poll taxes, and lynching. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act passed, making efforts to prevent voting illegally. But today, people returning from jail or prison (who are disproportionately black) are denied the right to vote in many states. In addition, as recently as 2017, states have proposed “Voter ID” laws, which would require voters to have government-issued identification. It is more difficult for African Americans to obtain these—one in four face barriers, compared with one in 10 whites. Barriers include, for example, having to pay up to $150 for an acceptable copy of a birth certificate and Social Security card, travel costs, and time taken off from work.
How do voting restrictions contribute to racial hunger, income, and wealth gaps?
After the 1875 Civil Rights Act was rescinded, many African Americans were prevented from voting for representatives and policies that would have helped end hunger and poverty in their communities. Voter suppression is a major reason for the passage of laws and policies that discriminate against African Americans, such as “separate but equal.” This was particularly evident in areas that had a majority African American population, but very few African American voters. If African Americans had not suffered disenfranchisement, it would have been much less likely that legalized discrimination against blacks in the workforce, school, financial systems, and other institutions would have been allowed to continue. As we have shown in these articles in the past year, many forms of discrimination contribute significantly to greater hunger and lower incomes in the African American community. Undermining efforts that are meant to end discrimination in voting enables the wealth gap to further expand.
Mending the Gap: An important way to mend this gap is for you to vote and make sure your representatives know your feelings about voter suppression tactics.
Here are some websites with recent information about voting restrictions.
1. Felon voting Rights. National conference of State Legislatures. November 2017.
2. New Voting Restrictions in America. Brennan Center for Justice at New York University of Law. https://www.brennancenter.org/new-voting-restrictions-america
3. Citizens without Proof: A Survey of Americans’ Possession of Documentary Proof of Citizenship and Photo Identification. Brennan Center for Justice at New York University of Law. http://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/legacyd/download_file_39242.pdf