They were the three most important words of 2014:
Black lives matter.
But so do black votes, or for that matter, brown votes or young votes, or the vote of any citizen who has an opinion about how laws should be enforced or civil rights protected in our communities. But last summer, during all the demonstrations, I had a suspicion that many of the people chanting the other, more infamous three words of the year -- "I can't breathe" -- would have had to make another three-word admission -- "I didn't vote" -- if asked about their participation in local elections.
The recent municipal elections in Ferguson, Missouri, the epicenter of the controversy, illustrate this problem. A tripling of voter turnout heartened community leaders, but the sad footnote to this improvement is that voter participation was still only 30%.
The right to demonstrate and the right to vote are both privileges we enjoy in a free society. But they are very different actions. One is cathartic and an expression of solidarity. The other is deliberative, and only in the phony plebiscites of a dictatorship is voting an exercise in unanimity.