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Democracy in Marginalized Communities

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Democracy
Courtesy of Chris Oakley (Flickr CC0)

Democracy is a form of government where the supreme power is vested in the people. In modern democracies, this power is exercised through the election of representatives and through the participation of citizens in referendums, which are important parts of the government. Marginalized communities are often left out of the democratic process because they are excluded from the mainstream.

In many cases, their exclusion is compounded by racial discrimination and economics that causes their voices to be heard less loudly than others. A report from Johns Hopkins says that “these problems do not get solved by creating programs specifically for marginalized populations or communities, but rather by making sure they take part in all processes involving policy decisions affecting them directly or indirectly.” We need to make sure everyone has a voice at the table when policies are discussed and also that representatives are elected who reflect the values of those communities themselves,” said Dr. Rachel Hardeman, assistant professor at Center for Health Equity, lead author.

Democratic and non-democratic governments are essential to people’s worldview no matter the country or societal norms. Democracy enables structure in our government system. Non-democracy allows for more corruption which is the root of the violence happening daily in our marginalized communities. On the flip side, there are different types of democracy, such as direct democracy, representative democracy, and participatory democracy. Direct democracy is the direct participation of citizens in democratic decision-making. Representative democracy is when the people elect officials to create and vote on laws, policies, and other matters of government on their behalf. Participatory democracy is a form of government in which citizens participate individually and directly in political decisions and policies that affect their lives, rather than through elected representatives.

Democracy is a verb, which means to take action. Citizens of this country have the right and accessibility to take an active role in the government and manage it directly or through elected representatives. In modern democracies, this power is exercised through the election of representatives and through the participation of citizens in referendums which are important parts of the government.

Democracy
Courtesy of SBT4NOW (FlickrCC0)

Civic engagement amongst the youth specifically, of the Lawndale community, north and south, would be a vital tool to reach out to these representatives. Elections are the primary way that people exercise power in a democracy. They also allow citizens to choose who will represent them in law-making bodies such as legislatures or parliaments.

A referendum is a way to give the people a direct say in the law-making process by allowing them to vote for laws directly without having to elect representatives first. If the community is not actively using their voices, they aren’t making a point to be seen by the people who need to see them. Yet, in marginalized communities, people feel oppressed & suppressed by the games of the system. In many cases, their exclusion is compounded by racial discrimination and racism that causes their voices to be heard less loudly than others.

Furthermore, the government allows certain establishments to be placed in these communities. For instance, liquor stores, take up the majority of the establishments that promote not only liquor but nicotine, drugs, unhealthy sex influences and etc. Which is far from the mutual goal of the original intent for democracy.

They should be franchising, more than anything, proper education, stability, financial literacy, and the study of politics and what it means to the people, amongst other constructive influences. A referendum for marginalized communities holds the potential to achieve greater political empowerment and representation. This is one reason why democracy reform has been a focus of international aid organizations and governments since the end of colonialism. The referenda of marginalized communities are only part of democracy and its structure.

Looking back, the ‘United States’ has a vast history of greed and not using its tools for healthy or equal opportunity for all of its people. It is imperative that the government and the people have peaceful transfers of power rather than violent uprisings and revolutions. Hence, the reason the United States has such a prodigious record of corruption and violence is because of its violent uprisings. There wasn’t a strong alliance between citizens and the government. This is why we’re making up for the lost time.

The inclusion of marginalized communities in the democratic process is imperative for a government to function as its citizens expect it to. In many cases, their exclusion is compounded by racial discrimination and racism that causes their voices to be heard less loudly than others.
Though this may sound obvious, the fact that democracies are often not representative of all groups of people is an issue worldwide—and it’s one that’s becoming more urgent with each passing year. As more people around the world move into cities, they’re discovering that they have fewer opportunities for meaningful political participation than those who live
in rural areas do. This can lead to frustration when governments don’t reflect what citizens want or need.

We need to change the way we are looking at democracy. It is also important that we become knowledgeable about these things so that we are not ignorant or oblivious to what is going on in our world. Although we have different roles in society, we all serve a purpose. The purpose of democracy is to bring togetherness.

If the goal is to build a better world by creating a better democracy, then subjecting communities that have lower statuses and/or economics, to the bare minimum, won’t do the job. The world vs. politics will always be a constant war if neither party is educated about what they have to offer each other. As far as what the people can do, as mentioned before, we can vote and more importantly get the youth to understand what it means to vote so they can voice their needs and wants.

Written by: Johnitha Brown

Sources:

Icma: Engaging Marginalized Communities: Challenges and Best Practices by Pooja Bachani Di Giovanna

Vera: How Systemic Racism Keeps Millions of Black People from Voting by Karina Schroeder

Top and featured image caption courtesy of Chris Oakley Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

Insert image courtesy of SBT4NOW Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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