Voting is (a form of) Activism. Here’s why.
Voting is one of my staple forms of activism. I engage in the political process, not because I think the system works, but because I am painfully aware the system is broken.
I don’t vote because of nostalgia or legacy, so please don’t encourage me to vote by using guilt or coercion tactics. Telling me black people died for my right to vote doesn’t get me to the pools, it just makes you an asshole.
I do vote, but it has fuckall to do with the “respect for those who died” argument.
Black people didn’t die for the right to vote, they were murdered because they were black and pissing off the white establishment. It wasn’t the idea of casting a ballot that infuriated racists; it was the idea black people dared have autonomy and opinions.
Being killed for voting isn’t a badge of honor in world where being black and whistling, talking, walking, being employed, going to university, sagging pants, wearing hoodies, Jay walking, having cigarettes, sleeping on a couch, or driving a car can also lead to your death. You can be murdered for anything if you’re black. No matter if you’re doing activism, engaging in a crime, or just trying to live your life. Your age, gender or income level don’t matter. If you’re black, you’re a target, both inside and outside of the voting booth.
I respect the sacrifices of past generations, but I will not vote because of it.
I choose to vote because it’s part of my activism and I believe in harm reduction- not guilt voting- as a strategy. It’s something I can easily do, something I can access, and becomes a bare minimum form of activism for me.
I may not be able to stop homelessness, but I will try to make sure the candidate who wants to close homeless shelters doesn’t get elected.
I can’t stop the war on reproductive rights, end poverty, make clean water, end lgtbqia discrimination, end the pay gaps, but I can at least try not elect officials who will make these problems worse. That’s the least I can do while we organize and try to improve our communities. And we do need to continue to fight. Voting at best will prevent problems from becoming worse, but they will not solve our problems. we need to be realistic about what voting can and cannot accomplish.
I know, I can hear the argument now,
“voting doesn’t change anything!!!”
I disagree. We many not be able to find an official who represents us, especially since we are not a monolith and have different ideas. we may not find a solid black candidate because white supremacy is powerful, but what about life outside of the election?
In many areas, voting can increase your odds of being called for jury duty. Of course jury duty isn’t fun, but would have happen if more black people showed up for jury duty? would the grand juries for Tamir or Mike Brown have made different decisions? How about a different outcome for Zimmerman? If voting can help us increase our odds of serving on a jury shouldn’t we take it? How else can we try to ensure our own are truly judged by a jury of peers?
Our elected officials have the right to nominate judges at different levels. Despite the corruption in the system, do we really think all candidates would have equally awful nominations? Do we think gerrymandered districts benefit us? Can having clearer district lines help us? What about the homeless, felons, and others who are routinely denied the right to vote? Can we help elect candidates who are more sympathetic to marginalized groups who can’t vote themselves? If nothing else can we at least try to reduce harmful impacts by keeping the most dangerous candidates out of office if possible? Would higher voter turnout have prevented electing a governor of Kentucky that lowered minimum wage and cost working poor thousands of dollars a year?
Of course voting is not a magic bullet, it cannot solve our problems, or fix things at a structural level. Voting is the least we can do, but it still needs to be done. Let’s be frank- we are overwhelmed as it is. Trying to end police brutality, end racism, classism, and ableism is daunting. we try our best, but we are worn down and have few resources. So if we can at least slow down the bad legislation being thrown on us, I say we try.
So I will vote. I don’t vote because of nostalgia or out of obligation, but I vote to try and give back to the community in all ways possible. and that includes reducing harm whenever possible.