The great-granddaughter of a slave on the failure of Amendment T
Supporters of anti-slavery Amendment T were shocked Thursday to learn that Colorado voters had officially turned down the ballot measure. Those who worked to advance the amendment had expected it to pass handily, and thus did not engage in much voter outreach.
Amendment T would have removed a clause in the state constitution that makes an exception to the state slavery ban for those convicted of a crime. It failed by about 18,000 votes — less than one percent.
Proponents are currently combing through the results, wondering whether fatigue, confusion, sloth or even racism led Coloradans to vote in favor of an exception to the state ban on slavery. The Colorado Independent asked Lee McNeil, who was active in the Yes on T campaign and who has a personal connection to the issue, for her thoughts on its failure. The interview was edited for clarity and brevity.
The Colorado Independent: When did you hear that Amendment T had failed?
Lee McNeil: I had heard from Together Colorado that it would be called on Wednesday or Thursday, so I was watching the numbers [from the Secretary of State’s office] come in on Wednesday and Thursday, and on Thursday I learned that it would not pass.
The numbers were so extremely close. It’s hurtful. I do believe that the way that it was written up [was confusing], and I think that’s a lot of it. But it’s still hurtful to know that there’s still people that think the language of slavery should still be there.
CI: In our previous interview, you talked about the pain that comes from knowing that Colorado’s constitution permits slavery under certain circumstances. How did it feel to know that the language would remain?
LM: We as a people, a community, a nation, we should be thinking more forward. We are a people that believe in equality. There should be human dignity for all. The connotation for the word slavery — there should be no one who is designated to be in slavery. It’s not equal to people having human dignity. It’s just awful.
CI: Could you talk about your family’s connections to this issue?
LM: My great-grandmother was a slave. My very close ancestors were part of slave families. I had been keeping my mom abreast of all that was going on, and she asked if it passed.
When she first asked, I actually did not know, so I said, “Mama, it looks like it will not pass.” She actually did not speak. Her facial expression said a million words. As I told you before [in our previous interview], my mom is 103. So it did not go well.
CI: You have told me that your faith is one of the reasons you care about Amendment T. Could you talk a bit about that?
LM: It’s a human dignity issue. It’s about equality for all.
Also, it’s about the community. Not only does my family have a direct link to slavery, it would have been a healing process for many families who have direct knowledge or connections with the connotations of what slavery means. When you reflect that, and knowing that your people or your family has gone through this, that causes a rising of hurt, of anger, of all mixed emotions that — you know, it just kind of works you up.
So the connection with the faith community is that it’s a healing process for our people in the congregation.
CI: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
LM: I’m very hurt that it did not pass. But I’m hopeful. I’m very hopeful that we are able to bring this back again. Personally, I don’t give up easily. I have the strength of my great-grandmother, my ancestors, my mom, who is a very strong woman.
So with that strength, I plan on going back at this. I won’t give up, with the help of other leaders.
Photo Credit: Image Editor, Creative Commons, Flickr
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