Being black in America is difficult. This is a fact known by most considering when asked nobody wants to be treated how black people are. This treatment for the last couple of centuries has done nothing but exclude us from this “land of the free” that patriots are so obsessed with. The exclusion of black people from America, as well as the voting system, makes it more favorable for black people to not vote.
From the time the first Africans set foot on American soil, this country has never been welcoming. It was not built for black people (or any other person of color). When looking at the history of this country it strongly favors the stories of white people because it is their country. So, when black people are told to vote, they do not see a reason why they should. We have never truly felt apart of this country and when over 95% of the elections for president have us choosing between the less racist white guy, black people could care less. There has never been space for us in this America even thought we have tried to make one.
We often feel unseen and unheard because we are often not represented. That is largely why so many black people felt so connected to Obama. He was the first person to look like us in such a high position. While the other government positions were still majority old white men, Obama was a symbol for black people. He represented what we could be and showed we could have space in America however short-lived it was. Now declining back to our choices of white man and worse white man we no longer have a person we want to vote for.
However, this is not the only reason black people do not vote. Starting with literacy test to long waiting time or inaccessible voting polls, voting has always functioned in a way that prohibits black people and even other people of color to vote. Dan Rather even says, “Waiting in line for hours to vote should be considered less a story on voter enthusiasm and more a story on voter suppression. No one should have to wait hours to vote.” I agree, this is voter suppression. This especially hurts lower-income black communities where people have to work long hours to support their families. They don’t have time to vote on a regular year considering voting at polls close as early as 7 pm on election day and long waiting times are just making it even more inaccessible. Additionally, the ability to vote through other methods have just become popularized due to Covid-19. In the past, when voting by mail or voting early was not as accessible, voting was more difficult for black people and other people of color.
So, if voting is so difficult, why should we do it?
While voting in today’s America may seem futile I encourage everybody I know to vote. If you don’t vote you know you won’t get the outcome you want but if you do at least there’s a chance. I like to think of it as if every revolutionary in the world thought “I am just one person what difference can I make?” then nothing what have ever got done. Voting is also a privilege that sadly not everybody who is affected by what happens in this county has. There are people who wish they could vote and if you have the privilege and are willing to exercise it, I encourage you to do so.
How can we help people who are facing voter suppression?
Spreading the word on other methods of voting. Many people only know one way of voting. Educate others on voting early or by mail so they do not have to wait in long lines or are unable to vote because of work and other obligations. Help anybody you can with the process of registering to vote if they do not know how to. Education is a powerful tool.
However, what about people who do not have access to early voting or whose ballot fails to make it in time. Organize. If you are in a privileged enough position to organize transportation for people who need rides to the polls do so or volunteer your vehicle to an already established organization.
What if I am really unable to vote or it is completely inaccessible to me?
It is okay. I know it can seem like a lot of pressure with everybody constantly saying go vote but if you do not have the privilege, means, or just do not want to because you truly believe it is ineffective, then you do not have to. It is okay not to vote, however, if you had the privilege and means and decided not to, shut up when your community and county leaders do not look the way you want to.
You do not have to have deep political knowledge to vote. You do not have to follow every presidential debate, be super active in your community, or be heavily liberal or conservative. Whatever you choose to do this upcoming election remember all hope is not lost. We can make history.