On Tuesday, October 4, Bellevue College students and faculty gathered to hear Councilman Larry Gossett speak about the importance of voting in elections, along with its connection to race. The forum was sponsored by the Business Leadership Community, Office of Student Legislative Affairs and Black Student Union.
One of the main organizers of the forum was Leslie Lum, business professor and adviser for the Business Leadership Club. Lum said “he spoke about disproportionality. I couldn’t believe some of the numbers he gave when speaking about the breakdown of black men and other groups in jail. His heart is completely with communities of color and for that I have a tremendous amount of respect for him.”
Gossett attended The University of Washington beginning in 1963. During this time, the majority of black people could not vote in the US, although the state of Washington granted blacks the right to vote in 1910. Throughout the talk, Gossett quizzed the audience about issues and engaged in discussion.
Gossett said “out of the entire black population, the thirteen southern states with the overwhelming majority of black people resigned and lost their right to vote through intimidation, terror, a very overt racism.”
He further expressed knowledge about slavery and its lasting effects in present day. Gossett explained that the reason why black citizens were continuously brutalized was because there weren’t any blacks voting. According to him, without the right to vote many decisions were made for black people, but not by black people.
It wasn’t until the advancements of the 1950s of the Civil Rights Movement where things “got serious” in the pursuit to gain basic rights including voting rights for black Americans, said Gossett. There are 15,800 black elected officials in the US which is less than 2.5 percent of all elected officials in the country.
Gossett repeatedly spoke about the important of voting as young people, stating that 38 percent of young people between ages 18 and 24 vote, compared to 70 percent of those over 65.
Gossett also talked about crime and used a finding in the Seattle Police Department’s arrest records from 1999 to 2004 to make his point.
These SPD records showed that 74 percent of illicit drug users are white, but out of arrests for possession or selling drugs, the same percentage arrested are black.
“This isn’t fair. The issues I have identified can be dealt with if people are willing to vote and check out the platforms of those who want to be your elected leaders,” said Gossett.
BC student Jada Rogers said “he gave us inspiration. I’m really glad that he came to the school because it is critical during this time that we need black figures and people of color to come to the school. People won’t about these issues know unless we speak about it.”
Gossett closed out by saying “all police are under government agencies and as politicians, we set all of the policies for them. Voting in these United States of America makes a difference and it particularly makes a difference if you are a student. Go vote, let your influence be known.”