By Theotis Robinson
The August general and primary elections have now concluded with plenty of winners and losers to go around. The sad fact is that, as usual, turnout in our community was nowhere near its potential.
As a result, we now have a County Mayor who seems to believe that all problems – funding schools in our community and other needed services for our people – can be best addressed by cutting taxes for the well-off.
We also missed an opportunity to elect an additional member to Knox County Commission from our ranks, Tori Griffin. The African-American community has the capacity to have a greater voice in Knox County. But it cannot be done by sitting at home watching re-runs of “Good Times” on TV and streaming videos on our mobile devices.
There was a time when voting mattered. When we were denied the right to cast a ballot, voting mattered. When simply asking that our right to vote to be respected could be met with jail
time, a bloodied head or even death, voting mattered.
It seems that when things get “too easy,” and when we as a people no longer have to struggle, certain rights lose meaning to too many.
It was a struggle to gain the right to sit at a lunch counter and order a cheeseburger and a Coke. It was a struggle to buy a ticket to go to the movies, and another struggle to watch films
like “Black Panther.” It was a struggle to elect President Barack Obama. After that happened, many thought the struggle was over. But those “rights,” won so hard by means of ongoing
struggles, are being eroded. My son Russell said it best: “We stopped fighting; they never did.”
There is something to be gained through struggles. Many, and we all know somebody who thinks like this, do not take an interest in politics. It’s too mean. You can’t trust anybody. It takes too much time. But consider this: Government is the instrument that formulates the policies that will shape the quality of our lives and the lives of our children, those born and unborn.
Some say, “My vote won’t make any difference.” That’s not true. All votes count. And collectively, they can make all the difference.
November is coming and much will be at stake. A Governor will be elected. So will a U.S. Senator, and a Congressman. Jimmy Duncan is retiring, thankfully. Any person who votes against the Voting Rights Act, as he did, is no friend.
But let’s not be fooled by the folksy manner of his potential successor, Tim Burchett. His warm embrace of Donald Trump’s racist agenda tells us all we need to know.
And this is where we need
elected officials to step up. We don’t need office holders. We need leaders. In matters of politics, we need leaders.
Theotis Robinson Jr. is a freelance writer, former Knoxville City Council member and retired vice-president of equity and diversity of the University of Tennessee. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.