For those who have not voted yet and those who believe your vote doesn’t count, please read this. All Georgians need to know the facts, but I especially want you to hear this information now, because we need everyone to consider how current policies and practices affect our lives and how elections might profoundly alter them for generations.
Frustrations, economic and emotional struggles, emotions, apathy, financial and mental stresses, racial and wealth divides are real and understandably are creating one of the most dynamic climates leading up to a mid-term election in our history.
All voters – but particularly Black voters – need to vote based on facts, not on emotion or social media propaganda.
Our choices in voting should be based on what candidates promise to do and their track record of keeping those promises.
In our daily work, the Urban League of Greater Atlanta works with Black families, communities, and small businesses in the metro region. This year, we decided to go deeper. We traveled across the state to learn firsthand the conditions of Black Georgians to compile and study hard data.
We met with residents in urban and rural communities and delved into matters of education, economics/wealth, health, housing, civic engagement and social justice, and we are on the cusp of releasing our State of Black Georgia report in January 2023.
Our intent is for this report to form the basis of collaboration necessary for policies, legislation, and investments in our communities to improve life for Black Georgians. What advances Black Georgia benefits all Georgians.
How you vote on Election Day – Tuesday, Nov. 8 — will determine the racial climate and access to resources for years to come?
An intentional movement is flourishing across the nation to divide and mislead us, and a growing number of extremists are even willing to commit violent acts against those they do not agree with.
This intense, unsafe environment is all too familiar to Black Americans and Black Georgians based on our history.
If we don’t act, we are betraying the legacy of our ancestors who significantly contributed to building this nation with their blood, sweat, tears and lives.
Because they fought so hard for our right to vote and enjoy the freedoms accorded to all Americans, we cannot stand idly by.
When you vote, you are making one of the most critical decisions of our era, because this election cycle and the general election in 2024 will determine the soul of America and whether our system of democracy is strengthened or torn down.
Consider these FACTS:
- We have a massive inequality gap between the richest and poorest. Over the last several years, our nation fell into the worst cycle of racial wealth disparities since the 1960s, exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. Georgia ranks among the worst states in the USA regarding income inequality and economic mobility. The richest 5 percent of households have average incomes 15.9 times as large as the bottom 20 percent and five times as large as the middle 20 percent of households. After decades of widening inequality, Georgia’s richest households have dramatically bigger incomes than its poorest. This does not happen by mistake.
- Georgia has the lowest minimum wage in the nation at $5.15 with no relief in sight. Georgia has been ranked #1 for business over the last nine years, yet we have the lowest minimum wage in the country at $5.15. And while the majority of Georgia’s low-wage workers make more than the state’s minimum wage, far too many rural workers and those in some cities are forced to accept unlivable wages because they have no transportation or access to higher skills and higher-wage jobs. We also leave employees with very little sense of security to lodge valid complaints. Georgia calls itself a “Right to Work” state. That, in effect, means a Right to Fire employees without any recourse on the part of the employee.
- Black entrepreneurs get 1 percent of state procurement contracts via the Georgia Department of Transportation based on the most recent Disparity Study, and the State has no requirements for the remainder of the state departments to even track the percentage of business being done with Black, Latino, Asian or women-owned businesses.
- Georgia Ranks 12th Highest in the Nation in 2022 for poverty at 13.39 percent of the population. The state’s policies are historically favorable to big business, but the state has not prioritized policies to leverage wealth into prosperity for everyone they are supposed to represent. There is no official policy or legislation for doing business with Black and other minority and women-owned entrepreneurs despite years of proposals being offered to the State Legislature. Georgia’s governor cut off unemployment benefits for the workers most harmed by the pandemic right before the summer break for public school children, leaving thousands of low-income families with no resources and no access to childcare. He used the rationale of “forcing people back to work” before they had safe places for their children to go.
- Georgia leads the free world in mass incarceration, and inmates are disproportionately Black Men – The state of Georgia incarcerates more people per capita than any other democracy worldwide, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. Those incarcerated are disproportionately Black, and Black male. The Black population in Georgia is 32 percent but according to the Vera Institute of justice in a 2019 report, 52 percent of the jail population is Black. Georgia keeps the formerly incarcerated connected to the system via extended periods of probation, parole, and fines more than any other state in the nation. Georgia has an incarceration rate of 968 per 100,000 people (including prisons, jails, immigration detention, and juvenile justice facilities), meaning that Georgia locks up a higher percentage of its people than any democracy on earth. Mass incarceration is one of the biggest factors driving poverty and broken Black families and communities.
- Georgia ranks among the worst 10 States in the nation for healthcare. Medicaid expansion became available in our nation in 2014. Yet the Georgia Legislature has refused these funds to ensure our most vulnerable citizens, even in the wake of the pandemic and the burden on hospitals. This has contributed to six rural and one metro area hospital closing over the recent past. It means 500,000 Georgians have no access to healthcare, and thousands of jobs and small business procurement opportunities are lost. Rural Georgians often have to drive an hour or more to reach a doctor or medical facility, putting their lives at risk.
- Georgia ranks 33rd in the country in its total average per-pupil education spending of $11,200 a year, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. According to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, “Georgia is 1 of 8 states that do not provide additional money to schools for students living in poverty.” Students living in poverty experience more housing instability; lack access to high-quality, out-of-school resources; and are more likely to face toxic stress. All of these impede success in school. Education is critically important to closing the racial wealth gap for Blacks and other people of color.
- According to Forbes Magazine’s October 2022 issue, “Even with a current budget surplus of more than $5 billion, Georgia is among only six states whose school funding formula does not provide schools with additional funding based on the number of students from low-income families.” The state does provide “equalization grants” to address funding gaps for rural districts with limited ability to raise money through local taxes, but state lawmakers have reduced that funding in recent years.
- The Republican majority in the GA State House passed SB 202, which, among other outrageous steps (1) authorized average citizens to object to another person’s right to vote; (2) allowed jurisdictions to offer voters at least one drop box for the midterms – which resulted in some offering only one inside buildings that close at 5 p.m., and permitting only a direct relative to drop a sealed ballot in a box for another person; and (3) permits precinct “takeovers” if there is an accusation of fraud – with no proof required from the individual asserting the suspicion. If someone does not like the outcome, he can simply make an accusation and demand a recount and challenge the votes on the winner’s side. We’ve seen subtle and obvious efforts here and in states across the country to make it hard or inconvenient for Black and low-income communities to vote.
I am asking you to join me in prioritizing fact over opinion, and to vote in the best interests of the “collective good.” In a functioning democracy, all of us are regarded as equal and we all protect each other’s rights. Let’s treat each other with respect and allow everyone’s voice to be heard through the ballot box in free and fair elections.