Lack of civic engagement undermines the democratic process

Kyle Simpson

It’s clear that most students don’t really care about who represents them in Congress and much less about how an infamous secret society governs our school. However, the fight against “The Machine” is about more than who becomes homecoming queen or SGA president. This kind of takeover of democracy on any level – from your middle school class president to the President of the United States – is antithetical to freedom, and that’s why we students at The University of Alabama need to learn to actually stand for what we want to see happen in the world instead of letting people steal our power.

It’s clear that if all of the people that don’t vote suddenly decided to, they would completely take control of elections on all levels of our democracy. Most students probably feel that their one measly vote doesn’t make a difference, but it is precisely this mentality that corrupts democracy and allows those in power to keep their power.

The well-documented Machine takeover of the 2013 election of Cason Kirby to the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education demonstrated the power of collective action, as a 26-year-old recent UA alumnus narrowly defeated a 45-year-old incumbent. This recent example is but a single chapter in the history of The Machine’s control of the University and even the city’s political process.

The same board of education had a hand in the resegregation of Tuscaloosa’s public schools in the past decade. Central High School, once a model of integration’s success, is now 99 percent black and lacks adequate funding for arts, AP classes and other key elements of a successful public school that many of us likely took for granted a few years ago. Anyone who has friends from Tuscaloosa has anecdotal evidence that segregation is alive and well in Alabama’s fifth-largest city, like my white friend who lived within walking distance from Central but was told to go to Northridge instead. It’s a story that has received national and even international attention, and the people that can change injustices like this – the 80 percent of young people that don’t vote – continue to do nothing.

Stories like this should show the importance of civic engagement, which doesn’t just mean voting in an SGA election once or twice a year. Involvement in the decisions that shape our society is the only way we will create a society that is just and fair, and it’s impossible to have a hand in that if you are sitting on the sidelines.

Kyle Simpson is a junior 
majoring in biology. His column runs weekly.