I'm tired of hearing POCs (people of color) use institutionalized racism as a cop out for why they do not exercise their right to vote. Like they've been "woke AF" forever and now they see the Matrix for what it is and they are going to just watch it all burn from the sidelines as they sip their tea... PEOPLE abstinence-only awareness does not work without a conscious educational understanding of what you're boycotting. It hasn't worked for sex-ed, or for drug use and the war on drugs... why would you think it would work for civic participation.
The thing is, participation in our system is what makes the system work. If the system is broken, it's because the wrong people are behind the steering wheel driving us to god knows where. It's our responsibility to get the right people in the driverseat. Sorry but protesting alone won't make it work. It's great for raising awareness, like the Ice Bucket Challenge (raised awareness and got people to donate LOTS to ALS research), but ultimately it, like protesting, was only a catalyst to move people toward change. Protesting isn't sustainable because once the shock value wears off, the empathy level of the general population (the majority of people not experiencing your angst and pain points) drops.
However, when people protest and there are civic representatives inside of institutions, oh my god... magic happens. You have the opportunity to change the system from the law not just from public opinion alone. I'll use Nina Turner (State Senator, OH). Someone voted her in. She has a perspective on policing communities of color from both angles because her son is a police officer. She took a seat in the senate in Ohio from someone who maybe did not feel like she does. And she got there because people voted for her. Did she change the world, no, but her voice was left in the Senate and I'm quite certain she left an impact on her constituents and her peers. In order to combat institutional racism, we must put more people inside the institutions so that those on the outside who are protesting have allies on the inside that say, "Hey, it's bad out there, let's change these laws so that everyone can live a positive and productive life".
You may think, why participate in a system that has oppressed me for years? Well, once again the system was constructed by people and fortunately for all of us we have a U.S. Constitution that can be amended. Remember when blacks were 3/5 human, yeh that was only a couple hundred years ago. Or Remember when women couldn't vote, that changed when my great-grandmother was born (less than 100 years ago). Remember that? Those things changed because our "system" is malleable and can adapt to the needs of the people. We think the Constitution is like the Bible, the Torah or the Quran, which minus translation, haven't been updated in millennia. The U.S. Constitution is awesome and can be changed.
So here are some considerations for anyone that is willing to silence themselves because they think their vote doesn't matter:
Educate Your Self On The Issues
What is a hotbed issue in your community right now? Who, up for election, is addressing this? Do you agree with their tactics, plan, etc.? If you don't know, here are a few sites that can help you get your political and civic participating life together:
Participate in Local Civic Life
Think about your school board, city council people, circuit judges, the mayor. You know, the people that can really mess your daily life up by implementing the wrong plan for the new traffic light near your house, or placing speed cameras in unnecessary places, or decisions about trash collection and recycling options, or not budgeting enough money toward education to keep quality teachers... that stuff. If you don't know these people, you need to do a general Google search about who they are. These people should be your best friends (or frenemies).
Government is Slow... Be Patient
It's People, (Not Systems) That Are Messed Up
I think this is self explanatory but, I'll use an analogy... It's like the pastor at the church that sleeps with the secretary and gets her pregnant. The congregation doesn't burn down the church and leave. Hopefully if they're smart, they kick him out and search for a new pastor. People are flawed but we believe systems are because people represent the systems they're in most times. Don't throw out the baby with the bath water... think about what matters to you, what you can't live with and then find out if your representative is or is not following through on their promise.
To Exist, Is To Vote
Sore Loser Syndrome
"But, my candidate won't win". Yeh that may be true, however, the more you vote for people who believes in your causes and passions the more the system acknowledges your pain points until those inside who didn't really f*** with you before begin to f*** with you, or you end up replacing them all together. How long did it take for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to get signed by LBJ? Do you know how much marching, meeting, partnering, registering people, and voting occurred before that act was even considered? Decades of real on the ground work happened... Long lasting change is not swift, but steady. Buckle up and get ready for the long ride.
Inside-Outside Game MUST Be... "on fleek"
Some of the best basketball teams had a guard and a forward/post- Stockton & Malone, Kobe & Shaq, Steph & Draymond... Point is you can't win by having all guards or all posts, you gotta work together inside the paint and outside the paint.
Black people have to work with white people, democrats have to work with republicans. OR no problems are ever going to get solved. Look at this last Congress and their reaction to President Obama... so many stalemates because the Congress wasn't really willing to work together on solutions. Teamwork makes the dream work. You know why? Because we all live on this planet together. And until Mars is habitable, there's nowhere else for us to go. So instead of tearing each other apart, we must foster and strengthen relationships and learn how to compromise.
Wolves (In Sheep's Clothes)
There's a lot of noise out there... Stop listening to people making money off of you. There are so many bloggers, academics, social media and tv personalities, etc. who have positioned themselves as "the leaders" of the black community. Some of them are actually doing great work, whereas others are seizing this opportunity for personal gain. Beware of who you trust with your mental space. Think critically. If this individual or group is only preaching anger but not providing any solutions, that will positively affect you, maybe just maybe this person/organization doesn't have your best interest at heart. Every self appointed leader isn't MLK or Malcolm X or Angela Davis.
So are you "woke" or are you just lazy? I say this because if you aren't going to take the time to read up on your candidates and hold them accountable by paying attention then yes, the system is broken and it will not work for you. And I would say that people have marched, bled and died, blah, blah, blah for you to exercise your right. It's true. But I won't beat that dead horse. Even though it's true. The beautiful thing about this country is you actually have the right to stay out of politics and ignore your obligation to educate yourself on the facts. Ignorance is bliss, right? That's why America is so great. When you make your choice to sit on the sidelines... just shut up and don't discourage the people who are attempting to make change.
P.S. On black people... I am an African American Studies Major and I am well aware of the seriousness of the plight that faces many black people and people of African descent. James Baldwin said it best, "To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time." This doesn't mean we live in a blind rage. There are lots of opportunities for communities of color to work together and opportunities for whites and blacks (and other communities of color) to work together. Change cannot happen in an insular fashion. No man is an island and we must reach across the aisle to assist one another in order to improve the quality of life for everyone.
P.S.S. On government... Think of government as a filthy mess of concentric circles. You, yes you, are in the middle. From there is your family, your friends, your church/place of worship. These forces govern your immediate life and long term viewpoints. Then there's your municipal government- your mayor, your city council, school board- these forces make decisions about how you as an individual can maneuver in your daily life with others in the neighborhoods and where you shop. After that is your state government- Governor, State Senate & House, and State Supreme Court. Your state government allocates tax dollars at a higher level to roads, schools and things like that. These forces affect your life somewhat directly but not as directly or as closely as the municipal government. Finally we have the national government- President, Senate & House, and Supreme Court. This draws the most attention but is like the dad of government when your mom has already said no but you want another opinion.... This is a brief and very crappy overview. You can learn more about Federalism (state vs federal government) via iCivics (a very reputable, nonpartisan educational resource). Here is a lesson broken down in plain english and I know the person who wrote it if that helps. Also learn about state vs. federal control through this fun game Power Play.
Consider this the last time the usher passes you in church with the donation basket or to walk you up to the front to say you want to join the church...but...
Convinced yet? Register to Vote now... National Voter Registration Day Registration Page
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.