BY: MOMAL RIZVI
Lately, it seems as though no matter what the tragedy is, the only response people have is to "go out and vote." As the 2020 Presidential election approaches closer every day, the voting discourse grows more and more intense. It seems as though the current state of the U.S. has created a feeling of desperation and fear among citizens. Whether it be the endless pandemic, raging wildfires on the West Coast, the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or systemic racism, people are convinced that voting is the only solution.
In the eyes of many, four more years under the Trump presidency is the last thing that this country needs right now â€” and they're probably right.
But, will voting for the Biden-Harris ticket really save us?
There is a misconception among many Democrats that Joe Biden will be our country's much-needed savior. This has led to a huge emphasis on voting. Every other post on social media is an in-your-face infographic relating back to the election â€” it's gotten to the point that a movement called "Settle for Biden" has gained traction, which somehow manages to simultaneously insult and promote the former vice president and his campaign.
Quite honestly, voting in this election was not an easy choice for me. I was, and still am, frustrated at the fact that I gave in to the narrative that we must choose the lesser of two evils â€” because why should we be put in that position?
After careful consideration, I mailed in my ballot last week. Based on my identity and experience, I chose to vote because of Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric, because my family members have lost jobs and fallen ill due to COVID-19 and because I'm a person of color. But, my choice to vote for Biden does not mean I should be put on a pedestal, and it certainly does not grant anyone the right to put down those who don't (or can't) do the same.
While the conversation around voting is much needed, hand-in-hand with it has developed a culture of shaming of those who don't vote. People have created the narrative that if you vote for anyone other than Joe Biden, you are voting for Donald Trump â€” even if you don't bubble in his name on the ballot.
This mentality often demonizes those who are excluded from the voting process, including marginalized people who have seen the ways that their vote doesn't instill change, or those who face obstacles when voting at every step of the process. In the U.S., 1 in every 13 Black Americans cannot vote due to voter disenfranchisement, and counties with larger minorities populations have fewer polling sites. Over 5 million Americans have lost their right to vote due to felony disenfranchisement. This includes 1 for every 16 Black people, compared to that of 1 in every 59 non-Black persons.
Rent moratoriums have ended all across this country with an estimated 40 million people expected to be evicted. If voting by mail is supposed to become the go to voting option come this fall, how exactly are 40 million supposed to vote when they have no reliable address?— Fiona Applebum says block Shaun King! (@WrittenByHanna) August 13, 2020
When white liberals pressure Black, indigenous, or other people of color (BIPOC) into voting for Joe Biden, they aren't just asking us to vote for the Democratic candidate. They are asking us to vote for a man whose history includes a crime bill that is directly responsible for mass incarceration in the 21st-century, support for school segregation, support for a war that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and accusations of sexual assault.
Dear white liberals: Don't tell us who we can and can't vote for, especially when we know how these systems work. We know that electing another white man into office won't stop the institutionalized systems of racism, capitalism, and imperialism which continue to oppress us every day. Please realize that you, as white people, have no say in what we choose to do on Election Day.
And the same goes for the other side of the argument â€” the white leftists who will shame BIPOC for choosing to vote for Biden. You don't have to remind us that electing Joe Biden won't put an end to the oppressive systems that we face. You don't have to remind us that we will continue to be marginalized. As previously stated, we know how these systems work.
But what we also know is the way that Donald Trump mobilizes hate within the American public. We have witnessed the power behind his words when he said that Mexicans were rapists and criminals, when he called for a complete shutout of Muslims entering the country, and when he didn't condemn white supremacy just a few weeks ago during the first presidential debate.
To white folks, Donald Trump's words are something for you to roll your eyes at or tweet about. But for BIPOC, his words cause us to live in fear. His racist and xenophobic rhetoric led to a 45 percent increase in hate crimes against minorities in just his first year of being elected.
And most importantly, don't bring your guilt and shame tactics into voting discourse when it is our communities that are impacted the most by voter suppression.
The intention of this is not to say that the political concerns of white Americans do not matter. We all have every right to feel uncertain, anxious, and downright terrified at the state of our country. We are living through a historic pandemic with no end in sight, and our uncontrollable president has a chance of being in power for another four years. Anyone who is not fearful is feigning ignorance.
However, do not forget that the decisions being made in the political arena will hurt communities of color the most.
When the conversation is about healthcare, keep in mind that white Americans have higher rates of health coverage than all other racial groups. When the conversation is about the environment, remember that communities of color are more likely to end up living in areas with higher pollution â€” just look at Flint, Michigan as a key example. When the conversation is about the economy, remember that the net worth of the average white family is approximately ten times greater than that of the average Black family.
So, with the election less than a month away, continue to do what you are doing. Keep phone banking, keep organizing, keep protesting. Keep the energy high, because we need it now more than ever.
But, don't use your voice to speak over BIPOC, especially amidst voting discourses of voter suppression and disenfranchisement.
Don't tell us what we should or shouldn't do with our ballot. Whatever we do is our choice. Respect that.