Are you noticing that some people are refusing to vote this election? What's that about?
Oh Stacey Dash. Dear darling, sporadic, Mitt Romney—loving Stacey Dash. Social media and the blogosphere have been aflame taking her to task for her flamboyant support of the GOP’s frontman in this presidential election, calling her everything from a sellout idiot to a soulless doofus, and plenty of really hurtful stuff sandwiched between. Despite the drama, she proudly tweeted pics of her dropping her ballot this week, just a-grinnin’ and giving Mitt at least one in what was once zero percent of the Black vote.
I may not agree with her choice of candidate (I don’t) or find sound reasoning in her outspoken cheerleading of him (I can’t), but I do applaud Stacey for standing behind her decision, despite the heat she’s taken, and for actually getting out to exercise her civic duty.
As campaigning picked up speed and both President Obama and Mitt Romney have made their cases for election, I’ve encountered a disturbing number of people who are refusing to vote. A few of them have been the occupy-any-street political vigilantes I run into here in the lovely District of Columbia. I can expect that from them. But most of the people I know declaring their refusal to participate in the voting process are Black folks. And if anybody needs to vote, it’s us. It’s bigger than just the presidential election, though that’s certainly the political headliner that everybody focuses on. State and local offices—attorney generals, city council, school boards—wield an impact on the way our communities operate on a day-to-day basis.
Granted, unless some sort of scandal erupts, they’re not nearly as sexy as seeing two presidential hopefuls duke it out center stage for the title of commander in chief. But I know my beloved Barack isn’t doing anything about the snow not being removed fast enough in my neighborhood, the ridiculous traffic in front of the Metro station, and my passionate hatred of race-based redistricting and the gentrification that obliterates mom and pop shops to replace them with the 400,000th Starbucks. That’s all local politics, and that’s why voting matters.
But even more importantly, it is a tremendous insult to our ancestors—some of them not-so-distant—to mount an imaginary high horse and refuse to cast a ballot one way or another simply because you aren’t really feeling any of the candidates. Or you don’t believe voting really changes anything. Or you’re tired and can’t muster up the energy. Or any of the dozens of other excuses that have been conjured up to justify not getting in line and getting involved, if only for the fleeting moments it takes to do a little research and pick a person for the job.
It’s so easy to take the liberties we have for granted because we’ve lived this way, free and unrestricted, at the expense of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. For some reason, while I was in Forever 21 of all places (we can talk about why I have no business still shopping in there another day, thank you), the thought crossed my mind that when my mother was a little girl, she couldn’t just roll on into any store and pick up some nonsense item that she didn’t really need like I was about to do. We’re comfortable in our freedom to choose where we want to shop or club or live or eat—that battle has been fought and won—but it’s not like there isn’t still work to be done for the kids coming up behind us. Voting helps facilitate that gifting to the next generation.
There have been many, many, many times when I’ve seen politicians and the system kick us in the collective tail and it ticks me off. But just as often, I see us suffering from a failure to use our resources to our advantage instead of allowing the powers-that-be to steamroll us and then complaining about it in the barber shop and church meetings. Thousands mobilized the masses to vote and thousands more risked their homes, the safety of their families and their own lives to give us an opportunity to align, as closely as possible, with representatives who voice our concerns and desires. Most of them weren’t household names like Dr. King, either.
Think about Lamar Smith, a farmer and WWI vet who was shot in broad daylight on the lawn of a courthouse in Mississippi because he organized Black folks to vote. Think of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, who dedicated her life to equal rights for Black folks, woman folks, all kinds of folks, at great personal risk and continual threats to her life. Think of Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was beaten and shot by state troopers in Alabama as he tried to protect his mom and grandfather in a civil rights march that led to the eventual passage of the Voting Rights Act. And please, think of the community, because our decision to cast a ballot is so much bigger than us.
Chime in. Are you voting in this election?