By Loretta Ross, cross-posted from On The Issues Magazine
In Mississippi, we are witnessing the intersection of race and gender politics in two ballot initiatives on which African American voters are the critical constituents on voting day on November 8, 2011. The 2011 Mississippi ballot Initiative 26 on Personhood and Initiative 27 on Voter ID exclusions may be one of the most important opportunities on the ground for the pro-choice and reproductive justice movements to work together.
Both ballot initiatives violate basic human rights. For the Reproductive Justice movement, this is an opportunity to link our human rights struggles in a statewide campaign. The implications of ignoring the twinned priorities of the African American community are enormous.
I believe we have a strong chance of winning on both in Mississippi because I trust that African American people, especially black women, will do the right thing and vote against these initiatives if they are given the opportunity to vote, the motivation to vote and the right information with which to vote. Mississippi has the highest concentration of black people in the country – more than one-third of the population – and African Americans are the largest bloc of Democratic voters in the state.
In Mississippi, with its troublesome history of denying black people the right to vote, disenfranchisement through Voter ID is a very important issue that will bring them to the polls. Our task is to convince them to also vote against the Personhood Initiative. To do that, our messages must link the racial and gender politics of Mississippi.