Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What is democracy to the minority among the majority?

*This article was originally published by the Viễn Đông on 4 January 2012. It was reported by Vanessa White.

WASHINGTON D.C.—The GOP 2012 Presidential primaries and caucuses have given “the minority” some chances at making their issues heard on the national level.
As Democrat President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, he represented the majority of Americans who voted him into office.
The Republicans represented the minority.
However, since the summer 2011, the Viễn Đông has reported on Republican-corporate alliances, like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), that are believed to support bills promoting business success at the expense of the American people-the majority.
Since fall 2011, the Viễn Đông has also consistently reported on the Occupy Movement, its protesters working toward what they feel democracy should look like: rule by the 99 percent, or the masses-the majority, as opposed to rule by the 1 percent, or the wealthy and corporations-the minority.
Yet, as the election of President Obama supposedly proved, their vision for democracy is already in effect.
Although the democratic election of President Obama represented the majority of U.S. voters, the Occupy Movement and ALEC exposure have led to insight into how much weight the minority actually holds.
The term “democracy” commonly meaning “rule by the people” comes from the ancient Greeks, who only gave one in five people the right to vote, University of California Irvine (UCI) Director for the Center of the Study of  Democracy and Sociology Professor David Meyer told the Viễn Đông.
“In contemporary discourse, democracy is supposed to allow the majority to rule,” he continued, adding that it is also supposed to protect the rights of all minorities as they try to become majorities by using their civil liberties and persuading others to join and push for their cause.
Though, he also told the Viễn Đông that it is common for democracies to “stomp on the rights and well-being of minorities.”
“Look, virtually all of the elected officials in the American South supported segregation,” he added, mentioning pre-1964 Civil Rights practices, including separating people’s meeting places by their race. “They had to if they wanted to be elected.” 
American slavery, institutionally ending in 1865, resulted in a system where Blacks were viewed as the “minority,” submissive to Whites. Especially prevalent in the American South, the rights of Whites were considered more important than the rights of Blacks and Whites representing the “majority” did not want to give up their privilege or perceived entitlement.
Civil Rights legislation only resulted from the federal government intervening and “imposing solutions over the objections of the majority,” Professor Meyer continued.
Minority-majority coalition
Mr. David Ajasin, who graduated from the State University of New York (SUNY) Plattsburgh with a Political Science degree, told the Viễn Đông that minorities have historically been represented by gaining support from the majority.
“The Civil Rights movement may not have been as successful, as it turned out, had it only included minorities,” he continued.
However, the motives for including minorities into democratic representation are not always pure, he added, like when politicians do everything they can to gain support in minority neighborhoods just so they can get elected.
He used another example of a Black woman’s, the late Ms. Rosa Parks, arrest for sitting in the front of a Montgomery, Alabama bus and refusing to give up her seat to a White person.
In 1955, the Montgomery Bus Service was legally segregated, designating the back of the bus for Blacks and the front of the bus for Whites.
Ms. Parks’ arrest spurred a mass protest called the Montgomery Bus Boycott, resulting in Blacks choosing not to ride the city busses.
After city officials realized the boycott was causing the city to lose money, as Blacks were the majority of the people riding the busses, they allowed Black people to sit anywhere they wanted on city buses.
However, Mr. Ajasin told the Viễn Đông that unlike what inspired the city of Montgomery’s decision, there have been more pure motives behind majority support of minority causes, like the mixture of White and Black supporters in the crowd at Civil Rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches.
“It seems like minority representation is based on uniformity between all communities,” he added.
Minority wins majority
As a Black male in the United States, Mr. Ajasin recognizes his gained opportunity for civic engagement though “it’s almost numerically impossible for a Black male to win a majority decision, especially on issues pertaining almost exclusively to Black Folks,” he told the Viễn Đông.
“It’s similar to feeling somewhat left out within an arguably ‘inclusive’ governmental system,” he added.
Though, President Obama was elected as the first Black President to the United States of America.
“People wanted change and voted him in,” Mr. Ajasin told the Viễn Đông, though, “unfortunately, he is frequently used as a reference to ‘prove’ that racism does not exist” and the minority is being sufficiently represented.
Although President Obama’s election “brings minorities a step closer, we still have a long way to go,” he added.
Mr. Ajasin shared with Viễn Đông a common phrase he remembers children yelling when he was a youngster, “majority rules!”
He laughed, “How ironic for a minority.”
Asian American community: minority or majority?
In September 2011, the Viễn Đông reported on the Republican National Convention (RNC), including comments California Board of Equalization (BOE) Vice Chair Michelle Park Steel made about the Asian American community’s seemingly natural alliance with the GOP party.
She told the Viễn Đông that most first generation Asian Americans do not want the government handling their money and want less government involvement in their lives, typically views also shared by GOP party members.
As Asian American community members are considered to be ethnic “minorities” in the United States, their mostly GOP membership could position them to be in the “majority” depending on the results of this year’s Presidential election.
Or, like ALEC and the Occupy Movement appear to reveal, the Asian American community might already be among the majority when it comes to U.S. democracy.

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