Questioning My Vote: Is it Really Important?

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Think about it Black folks.

We are told all of our lives how valuable our votes are. Canvassers of all colors and political persuasions boldly come to our Black communities nearly every election cycle (except when they are pulling the okie doke on us). They come cheerfully to ensure we get out and vote, most times for the Democratic Party. These people stalk us outside of our grocery stores, the library, and community cultural events like we matter. Unless you live in an area that is heavily African American (i.e. Atlanta, Baltimore, D.C., Detroit, etc.), Black folks never really get to see the impact of their vote. All we get are good feelings from seeing our candidate win. In all actuality, we lose. We lose because all we really do is help the majority remain in the majority. No matter how Black people vote, we see little if any improvements from the local to the federal levels.

Black folks are always having to choose politicians we really didn’t want, hoping the individual will remember us when they get to their seats at the table. Black people are always having to choose the “lesser of the two evils,” which makes absolutely no sense.

We essentially have to choose between who will harm us the most, and who will harm us the least. Our two evils are usually White (unless you happen to reside in an area where Brown folks dominate the district). On occasion, a Black candidate will slip through the cracks, but rarely do they get the support from the establishment to be successful.

After years of personal observations, it seems White candidates are great at convincing us to vote for them in support of their agendas. It’s the only time we are considered equal. When the shoe is on the other foot and the candidate happens to be Black or Brown though, they have a hard time trusting us. They always find an excuse why Black or Brown candidates are inferior to White ones.

For example, I have a Black friend who ran for the State Superintendent of Education a few years back in the deep South. He had all of the right credentials. Military career, college graduate, School teacher, principal, earning his doctorate and then onto become a superintendent of a school district. He did all of the things we Americans deem good as a political candidate.

This young man was uniquely qualified to hold his position because he knew the system from top to bottom. He did not have the political support from party big wigs in the state. He was constantly being told by his party that he needed to do more than his White counterparts to “crossover” from just being a Black candidate to being a desirable candidate for White voters.

This will never change, because White people and the powers that currently be, are so used to seeing themselves in power. When the candidate doesn’t look like them, they have issues.

Hell, Barack Obama knew he couldn’t get elected as President of the United States without having powerful White people to make is candidacy more palatable, legitimate, and acceptable to White people. He hired David Plouffe, Jim Messina, David Axelrod, and a host of other experienced White political strategists to help him become the first Black president of America. He had to use:

White tools- Extreme data mining technologies, fundraising, national canvassing, donor engagement, and some good old cut throat/savage strategizing;

White tricks- Educating voters, decoding trickery related to paper ballots and moving polling places at the last minute, designing White campaign strategies for a bi-racial male candidate;

White power (celebrity endorsements, high-dollar fundraising events, White political connections; and

White lies- Telling the desperate electorate he was going to change Washington to get our votes, when in fact he likely already knew he couldn’t. He had already worked in Congress, he knew the limitations of Presidential powers.

Over the last few years, I’ve taken a look at my personal voting track record and taken inventory of how my vote improved the quality of my life. I had to truly ask myself what was my Black vote getting me? Is it helping my children and grandchildren? Thinking big picture here, it wasn’t very much. Actually, it was nothing. Nothing happened because of my vote. Nothing really meaningful for my well-being anyway, except my ego was stroked because my candidate won (if that was the case).

The revelation after the thorough examination angered me. As battle lines are being drawn for Supreme Court Justice picks, I’m being asked to align myself with various groups and individuals, so I’m examining what’s in it for me. What’s really in it for me?

When people see me, they don’t see my degree or my years of experience working in the public sectors. They have no idea that I write for a living. They don’t know how much money I have, nor do they care. People don’t know my sexual orientation. The first two things people see when they look at me anywhere are my race and my gender. I’m a Black woman.

Therefore, before aligning myself with any group, I must weigh my race and gender first, along with the history of how America has treated Black women from slavery until today in order to make informed decisions about who I support and how. Before addressing our intersectionality, I now must heavily consider my own marginalized group individually. Call it self-awareness, or maybe even self-care I suppose.

I’m looking out more for my interest than ever before. I’m all I got.

Where do the majority of federal, local, and state funded economic development programs go that could improve Black communities? Where is economic development and community development going full-throttle now? It’s not happening in the Black neighborhoods, unless it entails running Blacks out so young White people and real estate investors can swoop in and claim it as theirs. Where I live, economic development goes to redeveloping coastal beach areas, main streets, downtown, farmers markets, creating art and cultural districts and new shopping malls that are not in Black communities.

No amount of voting by Black folks has ever made Black communities whole, restored what has been involuntarily removed, replaced what was stolen, or fixed what was broken. Ever! We can’t seem to beat this system that was never designed for Black folks to play in anyway. From the system’s original conception to its Reconstruction, nothing really changes for Black people. We’re always fighting for shit!

Do you ever see the politicians visiting your community after they’ve been elected? Likely not. They are gone on doing the work of collecting their pay check, joining in the party line fights that got us to this ugly place we’re in today, and perfecting the art of becoming polished liars. We get to stand on the stage in the background as the votes are counted or after the big win. After the big day, their gone.

The Black population nationally is not reflected in America’s political landscape despite having Federal Voting Rights Law of 1965 which is supposed to prohibit discrimination. Just pull up any state legislature or Congressional class photo. After 53 years, Blacks still can’t break through the glass ceiling, no matter how much we vote.

If discrimination is prohibited, why doesn’t the political landscape reflect the Black and Brown population of America in State legislatures and in Congress? Does my Black vote really count?

The unemployment rate is never good for the Black community. The Black unemployment rates are always higher than any other ethnic group. We are over looked, unemployed, and underemployed. Employers have a disdain for Black folks. No amount of policing, monitoring and voting can control that. No one I voted for ever talks about Black unemployment rates until it’s time to go to the polls, even then it’s used merely as a statistic to describe lack. Rarely do pundits, talking heads and politicians provide rational, logical reasons behind consistently high unemployment rates for Blacks.

Politicians never say we are going to study the root causes (again) in order to do something about the issue. They know Blacks are out here saddled with all of the barriers set up by this system to make us fail, compounded by employer biases and racial discrimination in hiring processes. According to the Harvard Business Review, employment discrimination against Blacks hasn’t declined in 25 years. The Voting Rights Act has been around since 1965. The trickery is working well, and the Black vote isn’t working well for us. Our votes don’t stop the persistence in hiring discrimination, and our White lawmakers simply don’t care.

Furthermore, a variety of other ethnic groups place their businesses in Black communities so they can capture Black dollars via resettlement economic development and microenterprise grant programs via state and federal governments. Most immigrant groups come right into America and jump on the hate/racism train with White Americans, at the expense of Black people. Many refugees come here hating us, they don’t want to be us, and they don’t want to work with us, but they will take our Black dollars.

Our Black votes ensure refugees are well taken care of, while Black folks need to always pull themselves up by their boot straps. Refugees are able to get help pulling themselves up. Refugees and immigrants can come here and work, when African Americans who want to work and do everything society says you should do to achieve the American dream can’t seem to break through. The irony.

Everything Black folks have ever been given is consistently taken away and given to someone else. So, what exactly am I voting for, hope and change? Regaining what Black folks have had systemically taken away? Inclusion? I don’t know anymore. I just know doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same results is insanity. It’s time for Black folks to wake up and smell the coffee. Voting does not improve your economic condition.

Let’s talk about education. We vote for the same politicians over and over again (Black and White ones) who claim to “care” about the educational attainment of Black youth. How does your Black vote translate into high-quality education in African American communities? Many of the historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU’s) are struggling to stay afloat, and low-income public schools in Black schools are still underfunded.

Bad, racist teachers are allowed to stay in classrooms, and those school supply lists are getting longer each year. Most Black public charter schools are underfunded, and schools districts are fighting to keep charter school dollars for their own kids.

College education for Black people is less attainable due to higher tuition costs (for no good reason) and less money awarded for financial aid. Furthermore, Blacks getting a college education does not guarantee employment or upward mobility as long as the human resource office contains people (especially White people), with biases and agendas. There are no guarantees for us.

I do not in good faith believe my Black vote is translating into better educational outcomes for Black children.

The criminal justice system hasn’t been reformed yet, and unfair sentencing at the state, local, and federal levels still exist. The criminal justice system’s origins began with slave catching and a focus on harming African slave lives. Nothing has changed except the name from slave catching to community policing. Black folks need “community policing” and “community engagement.”

White Nativist and Nationalist don’t need policing. Permit Patty doesn’t need policing, neither does Barbecue Betty or Pool Patrol Paula. The only people that seem to need policing are Black people. Kids included.

White people, particularly White women, aid the police with their community policing initiatives because of misplaced White fear and White fragility. Black folks can’t sell water, barbecue in the park, use a pool without White folks calling the police. There is no sign of slowing down either. White folks seem to be in rare form policing us since getting the green light from the current POTUS.

I don’t need to vote for that shit. The criminal justice system is going to be what it is with or without my vote, and it’s certainly not going to change with or without my vote.

White folks are using the police as tools against Black people, including Black children, to harass, threaten, and keep Black folks out of public spaces we pay tax dollars for. After we vote, White folks go right on back to the business of instilling fear upon us (aka Black folks’ Applecare) using America’s systems. The criminal justice system is used from the top to bottom to put fear into all people of color, but especially Black people.

I’m tired of being used. I have nothing against White people personally (really), I’m just discussing my day to day realities. If you’re going to be an ally, you need to get this. If you’re going to fight with us, it’s important for you to understand how America’s systems work for us Black folks, for you, and other immigrant groups. It’s not fair, no matter how you believe it to be.

I’m asking you to stop coming into Black spaces asking for our votes without giving us something tangible for the long-term.

Doing anything otherwise is stealing.

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