I have this conversation every election season with a close friend. Are you planning to vote? Yes, I know the system is trash and was designed to minimize us, silence us. Yes, I know that we fight and change comes slowly, if it comes at all. Yes, I know they’re old, and white, and cis, and straight, and they don’t care about our family in prisons, or getting rid of our student loans, or about defunding the police. Are you planning to vote? Will you do it for you? Will you do it for me? Will you do it for us?
We are tired. We are angry at the failure of this country to protect us and we don’t trust that it’ll ever change. Black folks, queer folks, femme folks, folks who watched their families and friends lose jobs and healthcare during COVID, lose their lives to police brutality and incompetence. Stubbornness. How is voting going to fix this?
Voting doesn’t mean we accept the validity of our corrupt system or that our responsibility to change these systems comes once every 4 years.
If I’m being honest, I don’t “want” the options that have been given to us. If I’m being honest, I want a dyke for president. I want to be seen, heard, felt, cared about. Cared for. But mostly, today and on November 3rd and beyond, I want to survive, I want us to survive.
We may not have candidates that embrace our exciting new solutions to today’s problems or inspire us to dream big, but elections still put people in power, and who those people are will have serious, material impacts on our ability to survive another day. You may think that the people in power don’t matter, that they’re all the same, but their decisions matter to the breast cancer survivor who lost medical coverage when her hours were cut, the pregnant person whose governor shut down abortion clinics during a pandemic, the parent of a child locked in a cage, and the person who relies on the USPS for their medications.
Voting doesn’t mean we accept the validity of our corrupt system or that our responsibility to change these systems comes once every 4 years. Voting will not solve everything and getting the “right” person in the White House won’t magically fix what has plagued this country since its beginning. We know better. Incarcerated women were sterilized in California under a Democratic governor. Having a Black president couldn’t save Kayla Moore, Sandra Bland, or Trayvon Martin. We know this system wasn’t made for us and we know that long after this election, and the next, we will still be fighting for justice, and for our lives.
To make meaningful changes that will benefit us and our communities we need to elect people, at all levels, from local district attorneys to the White House, who will listen to us—people who believe we matter. It makes a difference if we’re running up against a brick wall or jumping over a hurdle. There’s a difference between someone who sees police brutality as a real and urgent threat, even if they support inadequate responses, and someone who encourages white supremacists to arm themselves against protesters. These things matter.
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I want to wake up one day and know that we’re safe enough to dream of a future beyond this month, this week, this day, and that my parents can do the same, and my sister can do the same, and you can do the same. We can look to Afrofuturism to envision this world. Envision a world beyond this world. And we can work to make this vision a reality, but we can’t do it if we don’t make our voices heard, in the streets and at the polls.
I’m asking you to vote because we both know we need and deserve better. I want you to vote because if we’ve learned one thing from the last few months, it’s that we keep us safe, from police brutality, from COVID, and from politicians who want nothing more than power. It’s our job to show up for one another and to commit to doing the work, big and small, to make the change we want to see. Change isn’t something that just happens, it’s fought for. The vote wasn’t given to us, it was fought for. I need you to fight.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “my vote doesn’t matter, they won’t listen anyway,” I hear you. Many in power are invested in making you feel that way, in keeping things as they are. They don’t want you to vote. They want you silent, apathetic. We can’t give them that satisfaction, and we also can’t let them think the work is done when they win our votes.
As Audre Lorde said, “To refuse to participate in the shaping of our future is to give it up. Do not be misled into passivity either by false security (they don’t mean me) or by despair (there’s nothing we can do). Each of us must find our work and do it.”
The work is voting. The work is showing up at city council and school board meetings. The work is taking care of your neighbors. The work is to not give up. The work is to fight. The work is to live. Let’s get to work.