Election 2012, What Presbyterians Should Care About – Norb Kumagai

Photo: LWVC

As part of the ongoing Patheos 2012 election coverage and commentary, I am opening up my blog for Presbyterians to answer this week’s question, “What are the key issues at stake in this election for people of your tradition?” I gave no guidance other than to keep it under 500 words and to avoid bashing and dehumanizing rhetoric. If you would like in for this week, message me via my FB Page.

First up, Norb Kumagai -

We lost our Dad, Lindy Kumagai M.D., to cancer almost five years ago. Our Dad, one of the original faculty members at The U.C. Davis School of Medicine, was the author of the school’s “Special Admissions Program” and was Chair of The Admissions Committee the two years that Mr. Alan Bakke applied and was denied admission (U.C. Board of Regents v. Bakke, 1978).

In mid-November’07, I made arrangements with our County Elections Office for our Dad to cast a “Vote By Mail” Ballot (February’08 California Presidential Primary Election), as soon as it was legally permissible.  I recall explaining to our Dad that he would be able to vote early (“One, Last, Final Time”) and asked whom he would support to which he replied, “Obama, Because It’s All About Race”.

Sadly, our Dad was never able to cast a ballot for Barack Obama having passed away over Thanksgiving Weekend’07.

For me, someone who has a strong interest in civil rights and social justice issues, Election 2012 in many respects, is all about race. My faith and my personal experiences are what guide me.

Our Mom, my relatives and my grandparents were interned during World War II in Topaz, Utah. They were denied their constitutional rights as they were rounded up and “deported” to “The Jewel of The Desert”.  The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., U.F.W. President Cesar Chavez and U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy all combined their faith with their advocacy for civil rights. As Presbyterians, we should be called to do the same.

We have witnessed Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer’s SB 1070 “Papers Please” which targets Latinos. Although The Supreme Court threw out most of the statute, local law enforcement is presently allowed to stop and question anyone whom they “reasonably suspect” is undocumented.

Voter Identification Laws, which Republicans claim will ensure the sanctity of the ballot box, also targets race. According to The Brennan Institute For Justice (New York School Of Law), potentially five million eligible voters, many of who are people of color, could be disenfranchised because they lack the identification necessary to vote in specific states.

U.S. Attorney General Erik Holder has successfully challenged both Arizona’s SB1070 and Voter Identification statutes. I’m pretty certain that former Attorney Generals John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzalez (who both served under President George W. Bush) would not have done the same.

Following The Rodney King Verdict and the subsequent unrest, a close friend of mine, Ms. Angela Oh, was asked by President Clinton to serve on a task force which traveled throughout the country and engaged others in discussions about race.

As you cast your ballot (either by mail or at the polls), please prayerfully ask yourself, are we progressing forward or taking our country back to the early 1960’s where African Americans lost their lives to ensure our right to vote?? I would welcome a renewed discussion about race relations and social justice issues once this election is over. Perhaps like-minded Presbyterians could lead the way.

[Norb Kumagai, who “Lives & Breathes Politics”, resides in Northern California and is an Ordained Elder in The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)]

Content Director’s Note: This post is a part of our Election Month at Patheos feature. Patheos was designed to present the world’s most compelling conversations on life’s most important questions. Please join the Facebook following for our new News and Politics Channel — and check back throughout the month for more commentary on Election 2012. Please use hashtag #PatheosElection on Twitter.

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