The election was coming down to the winner of florida

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The election was coming down to the winner of Florida. The polls closed, and before long we saw Al Gore’s winning face flash on the screen. Game over. We rejoiced. I joined a joyful exodus out of the television room. We marched to our dorm rooms like fans streaming from the stadium when the Marching 100’s halftime show ended. The people had come to see what the people had come to see. The next morning, I awoke to learn that George W. Bush somehow held a narrow lead in Florida of 1,784 votes. Too close to call, and Jeb Bush’s appointees were overseeing the recount.
The unfairness of it all crashed on me that November. My anti-Black racist ideas were no consolation. I walked out of my dorm room that morning into a world of anguish. In the weeks that followed, I heard and overheard, read and reread, angry, tearful, first- and secondhand stories of FAMU students and their families back home not being able to vote. Complaints from Black citizens who’d registered but never received their registration cards. Or their voting location had been changed. Or they were unlawfully denied a ballot without a registration card or ordered to leave the long line when polls closed. Or they were told that as convicted felons they could not vote. Earlier in the year, Florida purged fifty-eight thousand alleged felons from the voting rolls. Black people were only 11 percent of registered voters but comprised 44 percent of the purge list. And about twelve thousand of those people purged were not convicted felons. Reporters and campaign officials seemed more focused on Floridians whose votes were not counted or counted the wrong way. Palm Beach County used confusing ballots that caused about nineteen thousand spoiled ballots and perhaps three thousand Gore voters to mistakenly vote for Pat Buchanan. Gadsden County, next to Tallahassee, had Florida’s highest percentage of Black voters and the highest spoilage rate. Blacks were ten times more likely than Whites to have their ballots rejected. The racial inequity could not be explained by income or educational levels or bad ballot design, according to a New York Times statistical analysis. That left one explanation, one that at first I could not readily admit: racism. A total of 179,855 ballots were invalidated by Florida election officials in a race ultimately won by 537 votes. A twenty-nine-year-old Ted Cruz served on Bush’s legal team that resisted efforts at manual recounts in Democratic counties that could have netted Gore tens of thousands of votes while pushing for manual recounts in Republican counties that netted Bush 185 additional votes. Watching this horror flick unfold, I recoiled in fear for days after the election. But not some of my peers at FAMU. They amassed the courage I did not have, that all antiracists must have. “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the strength to do what is right in the face of it,” as the anonymous philosopher tells us. Some of us are restrained by fear of what could happen to us if we resist. In our

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