Do Images We See Reflect Who We Are?

Protest images demand a change in expectations

We see a lot of images in the news covering the Black Lives protests and the spinoff for police reform. Every city has its own sampling of the turmoil, the confrontations, and the marching, marching, marching outcry for change.

Protests, of course, are nothing new but this time it all seems different. Some say it’s an inflection point, meaning it is not just noise that will dissolve into the background – again. Policies and training and expectations are now different.

It’s that last piece – expectations – that should catch our attention. What do we expect? And, if we can find sanity and calm amidst the cacophony, will our expectations reflect who we really are and what we want to be?

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Protest images have been with us a long time

This time, the protest has not simply spread to every U.S. city, it has gone global. Sparked by the needless death of George Floyd at the knee of a Minneapolis cop, the systemic racism is exposed, empathized with, and shocks us.

But it shouldn’t really be shocking. This nation was founded in the midst of the notion of slavery as being accepted, expected, a way of life that reduced human beings to pieces of property – chattel to be bought, sold, and tossed away. The notion, the pervasive sentiment, lives on way past the civil war (why do we call it that?), beyond the so-called reconstruction, racing past emancipation and the more recent civil rights protests some 50 years ago.

Llyasah Shabazz, daughter of the late Malcolm X advises Black Lives protestors:

Organize so that 50 years from now we do not find ourselves where we were 50 years ago when my father, Malcolm X, was alive.

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Protest images are often personal

The images we see make it personal. They stir us. If you’re of color, the images may anger you, may give you hope, may make you raise your voice. If you’re white, as I am, shame courses through your frame like the red blood you have in common with those we suppress.

Some take individual stands to join, albeit far from the crowds. Caitlin O’Kane reported in CBS News of the U.S. Marine, Todd Winn, who stood in silent protest in support of the recent protests. Twice deployed to Iraq, wounded twice, Winn observed:

You know, until I left home and joined the Marine Corps, I didn’t really understand that that was wrong. Until I served with men whose skin was a different color than mine, who were the finest men that I’ve ever known, help me to learn that really, we’re all the same.

O’Kane further reported on the criticism Winn received from fellow veterans. Winn’s response was:

Really, all I have to say to my fellow Marines and veterans is you’re right. What I did in a prescriptive sense was wrong. But I believe that morally and ethically it was the right decision to make.

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The images we see should confirm that change is coming because we expect more. We expect better things to happen. We expect more justice and more fairness. We see hands held together – black and white and every color in between. It’s a solidarity that repeats, “We are in this together!”

Protest images show change is needed

So many things need to change: our attitudes, our behaviors, our speech, our laws, our policies, the very perspectives we’ve clung to for generations.

This spirit of being inclusive, to allow space for those who do not think like we do to have a voice – a foundation of our democracy – should also be present when we elect a president. Sadly, we still allow those in the majority to elbow their way in and shut down our votes, silence our ballots of protest, make us feel we do not matter. And so, our democracy is threatened.

Equal Voice Voting (EVV) can play its part in the healing that is needed. It can raise our expectations as the winner-takes-all aspect (a preference of National Popular Vote proponents) of our voting hides a more honest Electoral College result. EVV promises a voting result that adheres closely to our popular voting and lets the many minority voices be heard.

Images we see points to a better democracy

What would the image be then?

As a graphic example of what voting representation looked like and could be from the 2016 presidential election, compare these two images. The first shows the political party representation (blue for Democrats, red for Republicans). The white space of each state reflects how many votes were not represented or the registered voters who did not vote.

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The second image shows the voting results if EVV were used instead. Notice that it shows purple, reflecting that vote representation is a blend of the red and blue. The purple covers more area because it includes the 46% of voters disenfranchised by our current system. It shows that all voters matter! Each state still has portions of white to show how many registered voters do not participate in the election.

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Which image speaks to you? What image would you rather be a part of? It’s time for a change on our streets, in our homes, and at the ballot box. Let everyone be heard and respected. That’s called democracy!

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By Jerry Spriggs and the Equal Voice Voting Team