Date of Award

5-18-2014

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Department

Africana Studies

First Advisor

Lynn Johnson

Language

English

Abstract

For Blacks specifically, voting has been a tool used as a way to maintain freedom, address questions of their humanity, and to survive in an anti-Black racist nation. Because the opportunity to vote can be more significant to Blacks than other populations, when systematic disenfranchisement of Black people occurs, questions of Black existence naturally arise. Grounding my work in theories of Black existential philosophy, I argue that current voter ID laws are a reincarnation of past Black disenfranchising mechanisms and cause a Black existential crisis or Black philosophical currents concerned with freedom, existence, “humanness,” agency, and citizenship.

The project puts forth a philosophical framework for understanding the creation and effects of voter ID laws. These laws require a potential voter to present an acceptable form of identification (photo ID, driver’s license, utility bills, and Medicare/Medicaid cards, etc.) in order to successfully cast his/her ballot. While these laws may appear race-neutral, I argue otherwise. Studies show that Blacks are more than three times more likely than whites to not have “proper” identification, thus Blacks are disproportionately affected by these laws. Using a method called problematization, which by asking critical questions about a specific phenomenon can help one understand the ways that a phenomenon appears and the reasoning and discussion about said phenomenon, I argue voter ID laws deprive Blacks of a tool used to define their own existence. I posit this continued deprivation reveals that the US has only made cosmetic, not substantial, changes as it pertains to race.

COinS