Thursday 8 November 2012

The power of the minority vote

The dust has barely settled on the US presidential elections but the influence of the ethnic minority vote on Barack Obama's re-election is already clear to see. Maybe the Black vote was expected but some polls suggest that 75% of Latinos, the fastest growing ethnic minority group in the US and a people who had generally voted Republican in previous elections, voted for Obama. Without these votes in the key swing states, it is very easy to argue that Mitt Romney would have been giving the victory speech.

The 2012 US Presidential elections has to be one of the most exciting election races I have seen. The prospect of Obama, once the darling of the masses but now struggling to rebuild confidence after an average first term, up against Mitt Romney, a severely conservative but very successful businessman left many voters undecided until the final day. And with a global audience glued to their screens to see how the story unfolded, Election Day certainly did not disappoint.

The UK was not left behind in the euphoria. BBC, ITV and Sky News ran overnight programmes streaming the results as they came in. Many stayed up all night to watch the outcome, taking to various social media channels to share updates. What intrigued me the most about this is that very few of these people, especially those from ethnic minority backgrounds, had ever shared anything remotely political and shown any interest in politics.

In the UK, there still seems to be a severe level of political apathy among ethnic minority groups. Some studies suggest that only 59% of Black Africans are registered to vote, a significantly low number when compared to the 90% figure seen in White British communities. The argument among many ethnic minority groups is that, unlike Obama in the US, none of the current offerings sufficiently represent them or inspire them to vote.

If these statistics are anything to go by, it looks like there is a lot of work to be done by all concerned; politicians and ethnic minorities alike. Ethnic minority groups need to understand and exercise their power to alter the landscape of politics and politicians need to appreciate that power. With numbers set to rise to 20% by 2051, ethnic minorities need to realise the power that comes with this and begin to speak according to this progress.

I believe the responsibility lies more in the hands of ethnic minorities than politicians. As things are, politicians are sorted but ethnic minority groups, like a lot of their White British counterparts, are still feeling the ill effects of the laws and policies put in place by the politicians they choose not to engage with.

Regardless of the seeming apathy, there is definitely every reason for optimism. If the US Elections have shown us anything, it is that in a democracy, everyone has a some power but when coupled with the power in others , there is no telling how much can be achieved. And for ethnic minorities, our collective voice is getting stronger but unless we speak up and make our voice heard, no one will get to know how powerful that voice is.

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