Does Voting Really Matter? The Conversation Black People Don’t Want to Have
It seems to be a no brainer, right? Of course it matters (most say)! If you want to have your voice heard in the political domain, voting is the way to do it. Instead of complaining about politics and politicians to people who have no power to address your displeasure, express your discontentment with elected officials by voting them into or out of office during election season.
Does voting matter? Of course it matters (most say)! It mattered enough that our foreparents shed tears, and in some cases blood, because they were fighting to exercise a right that was being suppressed. Voting, in some respects, is a moral responsibility—a way to honor the sacrifices that previous generations made so that future generations would be in a better position.
I get it. I really do. But there is a (difficult to articulate) inner frustration that nags me every time there is a presidential election.
“Vote or Die!” They said in 2004. “Vote for your life” they are chanting in 2020…
I am frustrated because I sense that we are being handled as a community— distracted with a process that holds no legitimate weight in a system that has not historically and does not currently work for the best interest of Black people and other People of Color. It’s the “Don't look behind that curtain /keep them busy over there while business is being conducted as usual over here” ploy that I feel is largely at play. And it is frustrating because when anyone tries to express this difficult-to-articulate sentiment, they are criticized and labeled as unpatriotic or under-appreciative of ancestral sacrifice.
In this blog post, I will explore my inner frustrations and do my best to express them. It is not my intention to convince people to stay home on Election Day. Herein, however, I will unapologetically challenge former arguments, raise some difficult questions, and contribute to Ice Cube’s conversation about solutions.
Challenging Former Arguments and Difficult Questions
Argument 1) Our ancestors died for our right to vote.
I may get in trouble for this, but those who reason that our ancestors died that we may have the right to vote, or the right to sit in the front of the bus, or the right to eat in segregated restaurants are only partially right. As I see it, our ancestors fought and prayed and cried and died that we may have the right to CHOOSE to vote or not to vote, or to sit in the front of the bus or the back. They fought to lift the legal restrictions that limited the Black man and woman’s right to determine for themselves. Our ancestors fought for true freedom and such freedom is expressed in the right to CHOOSE. I think it is misleading and manipulative to superimpose arguments like this on our youth. I am confident that our ancestors want us to do what is best for us in this day and in this time, and would not want us, neither are they expecting us to repeat what they thought was best for them in their day and in their time.
Is it possible that voting had a different power in their day than it does in our day? Is it possible that today’s voting process has morphed to play an integral part in a larger corrupt political system that silences voices and disempowers we, the people?
Argument 2) Your vote counts.
Or does it? I believe it was Joseph Stalin who said: “He who votes counts for nothing. He who counts the votes, counts for everything.” When I first heard this quote sometime in graduate school, I had to read it a couple of times before it really clicked. But when it did, I was changed. Putting aside your personal feelings about Stalin and his philosophies, it is difficult to deny the truth of this quotation. There is, indeed, a veil between the voters and the announcement of the outcome of the election. That buffer is the counting process. It seems pretty flawless. If enemies of human progress can persuade the masses to vote and then agitate the outcome to the favor of a predetermined candidate, the voters will have no idea of the corruption. They will go along with results because they have faith in the system.
Could this be happening in 2020? Why is it that people suspect cheating in high school elections, American Idol/ America’s Got Talent competitions, and even churches who vote their pastors in and out, but suspect little to nothing concerning the election of President of the United States and other local and national political officers? Voter suppression examples do not contradict the above argument to the extent that persons fighting this threat believe that if everyone votes that every vote will be counted and tallied honestly. For historical and political reasons, I just don’t believe that is the case.
Argument 3) If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.
The main reason I voted in previous elections was because I was advised not to complain about the state of the union if I didn’t vote. That if I didn’t vote, I would essentially subscribe to whatever the outcome is, and therefore can’t complain. Well, as a former complainer who wanted the space and place to complain, I voted in previous elections. After I voted, however, and began complaining about policies and political happenings, I was told how I still couldn’t complain because the process works. There is a possibility that your candidate may not win and your participation in the process means you consent to the results of the process. If you don’t like what happens after the process, write strongly worded letters or participate in peaceful demonstrations until the next time you are allowed to speak again.
Unfortunately, this is where the Black Community, in my view, has been stuck for the past few decades. We have participated in the process, consented with the results and even endured the subsequent suffering from decisions we didn’t support or legislation handed down by a candidates we didn’t vote for. We have waited the four years to decide which of several candidates would be the “least evil” to replace the one with which we were currently dissatisfied.
Where is the power in this? Why are we so content with voting for the poison that will kill us the slowest?
My Contribution to the Conversation about Solutions
Solution #1) Critically think. It’s OK to have suspicions and alternative views.
Alternative views have always been a prerequisite to advancement and new and creative ways of doing things. I have alternative views about the systems that are positioned to have authority over the people. I don’t think I am less patriotic or Black for having them. Here are mine in summary:
Ideally, voting is a demonstration of how Democratic governments value the individual people being governed. It is a time periodically carved out so people can speak as a people and make decisions and or changes in how they are governed. Ideally, voting is fair and honest and no groups are denied their right to express their political sentiments.
We are not living in an ideal society though. And unfortunately for too many, voting has been reduced to a game; a game of manipulating people’s opinions through media coverage, controlling behavior through emotional psyops, and distracting the people from their true power. The way I see it, American Democracy, American Justice, and American Politics are just ideas—paraded around as realities until the government becomes so powerful that it will be very difficult for any other power to stop it… every power except the power of a united people.
Solution #2) Know your power.
The indisputable truth is that we, the people, have the power (whether we vote or not). In fact, we ARE the power. But if we don’t get present to our power, we will remain in a position where we have to submit to authority (which is a concept of power if not an illusion completely). We are living in a time where we are becoming aware of our power and a transition of power is happening on multiple levels. This is why recent world events are unfolding the way they have. We are being injected with so much fear that we are begging people with no answers, no power, and no genuine concern to teach us, protect us, and govern us.
We are more powerful than we know. But as 2020 ends and 2021 begins, we do not have the luxury to remain ignorant of that power. We must get in tune with our individual and collective power and shed all associated fears about expressing that power so that we can sustain our lives and our communities regardless of who is in office.
Solution #3) Seek to answer the difficult questions. Solutions are revealed during the quest.
Is our faith in a crumbling system so strong because we view ourselves as so weak? Have we been conditioned via education and religion to have such a low view of ourselves that we are afraid of power being in our hands? Why do we continue to give up our power to self-interested politicians who lie for a position our tax dollars pay for? Why do we submit to dishonest politicians who make many promises just to get elected? Do we still even need governments?
Every election that I am old enough to remember has been “the most important election in modern history.” Whether it was between Regan and Bush or Clinton and Bush or Gore and Bush or Obama and McCain or Clinton and Trump, each year I have been admonished some variation of vote or die. And at this moment, as the results of the 2020 election are in the hands of the humans (and Artificial Intelligence) counting, I wonder: Did Breonna Taylor vote in 2016? Did George Floyd? Did Eric Garner vote in 2012? Did Sandra Bland?
You see, in the Black Community we are told to vote or die; but after we vote we still die.
This bothers me because it makes me feel like I am being played with. It’s another promise made and another promise broken. And while I am uninterested in participating in a process where I will be promised something by someone who has no intention on keeping it and/or no power to deliver on it, I am exponentially more uninterested in wasting my precious energy being angry at a politician using his or her authority to hurt me when I did not/ would not use the real power I possessed inside to help myself.
THE ULTIMATE Solution: Solve your own problems.
Perhaps November 2020 should be about a decision we make in our individual hearts and souls. Perhaps we should decide, not whether we want Trump or Biden to represent us in how we are governed, but how it would look if we learned of our natural powers and used them:
To BE ourselves in a society where humanity is being conformed to an image of the world through social engineering;
To FREE ourselves in a society where we are educated to be dependent on systems that operate outside of the collective best interest;
To TEACH ourselves in a system that conditions us to behave as “sheeple” who submit to authority, whether corrupt or honest;
To THINK for ourselves in a deceitful time when telling the truth is considered a revolutionary act;
To HEAL ourselves in a world where vaccinations are being misrepresented as antidotes to a natural virus that was likely altered (and weaponized) in a lab;
To DEFEND ourselves in a time when innocent people are being intimidated and killed in the streets by the very entities that are supposed to protect them;
To LOVE each other in a time when hate and division are injected in every artery of society
To LOVE ourselves in a way that will align the heart and the mind and unite the body and soul;
To EMPOWER ourselves in a system that uses fear and intimidation to manipulate us to hand our power over to unworthy puppets;
To GOVERN ourselves in a time when current governments has proven unwilling and unable to represent the best interest of all people.
If not us, who? If not here, where? If not now, when?