Polling station voters sign (79332)
Polling station voters sign Credit: Nia Sanders

Approximately 200,000 New Yorkers were illegally purged from voter rolls by the Board of Elections just before the heated Democratic presidential primaries in 2016.

Forgive me for feeling as if that was just yesterday, because discounting anger stemming from injustice is painful for anybody or any group. If you were one of the politically disenfranchised 200,000, the pain you experienced is no doubt raw and legitimate.

If you were a Bernie supporter who was denied that vote you might feel an empty space in your soul as you wonder what a win for Bernie in the State of New York could have done for his trailing campaign.

And if you were a Hillary supporter who was denied that vote, you might even have wondered if a disgruntled, disenfranchised Bernie supporter could overcome disgust and vote for your preferred candidate back then.

What a dangerous assault the New York City’s Board of Elections had wrought upon the sensibilities of some 200,000 Democrats in those already polarized and bitter Democratic presidential primaries of 2016. But feel that pain again. Feel it well. Know that for 200,000 of you, it may be the closest you may come to understanding what it means to be a Black citizen in America.

Please feel that pain again because it is a necessary sacrifice in steeling you against the typical state-sanctioned tactics that have defined political marginalization of the Black vote in America. If we are to be a nation of one, then it is progress to finally get a small taste of what the Black experience has been in these United States. After all, solidarity is a necessary component in a nation’s exercise of bringing different groups together.

But, just a taste it will have to remain because one primary election is nothing compared with 150 years of suppressed Black vote since the freed Negro gained his right to vote. Sure, there were all kinds of qualifications and tests that followed the right to vote for Blacks. And we must remember that those tests continue today with some states’ need to prevent imaginary voter fraud with new voter ID laws and “cost-necessitated” shutdowns of voting registration centers in Black and Brown communities.

Given the unfolding history of race in America, I can promise you that even more tests are yet to come. This certainty need not be witnessed in the eyes of some beholders. The decimation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 will tell you what is to come, if you care to know.

And for those who might have breathed sighs of relief that the NYC’s Board of Elections is finally going to mend its ways, please remember the privileged thinking that comes with your stations and skins.

Indeed, it is privilege to have your voting rights restored within one year of some illegal purge. It is very privileged to have your voting right restored without coughing up blood over some bridge in Selma in pushing for some inadequate amendment in the American halls of power.

Sami Disu is an adjunct professor of African-American history at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.