On the 19th of October, I cast my vote for the 2020 presidential race. I opted to vote early in person. There were no long lines, and everyone was following COVID-19 protocols. Polling volunteers outnumber those who showed up to vote. When the volunteer behind the desk said, “welcome, young man,” I turned around to see who was behind only to realize he meant me. The entire process took less than ten minutes. Less than ten minutes to cast my vote for the next President of the United States. And, hopefully, end this horrific nightmare our country is undergoing.
Watching the news that evening, I was struck by the long lines in places where early voting was happening in North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and other states. People were or had been in line for hours, some all day. For me, ten minutes. The disparity was not lost on me. Nor the tenacity of those individuals’ who were determined to exercise their legal right to vote early just as I had.
After voting that afternoon, my mind was already struggling to formulate a series of cogent thoughts to explain why I vote. Unable to coalesce around anything compelling, I finally arrived at a chain of thought spurred by a recent Max Boot article entitled: We’re better than this. Aren’t We?
The following paragraph helped me in gathering my thoughts on why I vote.:
“Racism is, of course, a defining feature of the American experience, but so is fighting for racial justice. America is the land of W.E.B Du Bois, Rosa Parks, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and other storied civil rights activists. Let their example inspire us today.”
Mr. Boot is correct. Racism is indeed a defining feature of the American experience. As they say in the world of programming, “it’s not a bug; it’s a feature.” This defining feature propagates the very idea that the right to vote is the sole provenance of those who see themselves as having the right of ignoring the rights of those they see as:
“ unfit to associate with the white race either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.” — Justice Roger Taney The Dred Scott Decision 1857.
Yes, the Dred Scott Decision was nullified with the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. Yet, the essence of Taney’s words is ever-present in states, which at this moment is doing all they can to suppress the vote of thousands of their non-white citizens. Spurred on by the chief racist, Donald J. Trump* and his horde of unctuous governors and sycophantic lickspittles doing all they can to do to ensure he wins this election.
This is why I vote. I see the long lines. I’m dismayed that people are subjected to this completely avoidable situation. I am heartened to see these individuals are standing tall and firm, and not letting these obstacles keep them from voting. They know what is at stake.
This is why I vote. Dubois wrote: “There is always a certain glamour about the idea of a nation rising to crush an evil simply because it is wrong.”
Many believe in the tenents on which this country was founded. They recognize there are injustices and an unwillingness of some to change. But, that hasn’t discouraged or dissuaded them from pushing forward to claim the rights they fervently know they are entitled to.
It has not been an easy process. Many have died at the hands of ignorant and hateful people who believe that they are superior to all others who live here in the US. They embrace Taney’s words “no rights, which the white man was bound to respect.” Have done their best to sustain the unsustainable. For these individuals, they believe might makes right.
The following nullifies Taney’s words:
“We hold these truths to be as self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
We have two contrasting theories here. On one side, we have the founding fathers’ words extolling the belief all men are created equal. On the other side, the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice said Black people are not equal because white men didn’t have to respect them or acknowledge they had any rights. This nihilistic thinking becomes the foundation on which Black people build their campaign to vote and take and hold office.
You don’t tell Black people they can’t vote because you don’t respect their rights. Not after for years, you’ve been cramming your religious beliefs and teachings down their throats to convert them. From your own religious instruction, you tell them they are children of God, and God loves all his children. From which they deduce, they are created equal. And thus endowed by their creator with the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is akin to giving two of your children a Christmas gift and tell your third child she can’t have one because she’s not equal to her siblings.
The exciting thing about a federal democratic republic form of government is the people actually believe they have the right to govern themselves. Meaning, they have the right to vote. So denying any citizen that liberty will only result in their demanding it. After all, it was the gift given to all the children but one. So that child set out to obtain that gift and did what was necessary — in a nonviolent way — to avail themselves of what was rightfully theirs. That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That was the give they wanted. Why? Simple. They, too, were God’s children, created in his image. Their determination knew no limits. They fought and died for this right. They fought in every war this country ever waged because of their staunch belief as children of God, made in his image, entitled to those unalienable rights.
One does not sit on their hands when four young black girls are killed in church by a bomb because certain people didn’t want their fathers and mothers to vote. One does not ignore the right to vote when a well known civil rights leader is gunned down in his driveway because he was instrumental in getting people to vote. One does not say “what’s the point” when this country’s history is replete with examples of black men, women, and children marching for their right to vote. Only to have high-pressure fire hoses and dogs unleashed on them.
In his essay Stranger In The Village, James Baldwin wrote the following:
“When one considers the history of the Negro in America it is of the greatest importance to recognize that the moral beliefs of a person, or a people, are never really as tenous as life — which is not moral — very often causes them to appear; these create for them a frame of reference and a necessary hope, the hope being that when life had done its worst they will be enabled to rise, above themselves and to triumph over life. Life would scarcely be bearable if this hope did not exist.”
In the year 2021, we are still dealing with voter intimidation, and suppression is unfathomable.
All the child who was denied their Christmas gift wanted was what Baldwin referred to as “a frame of reference that when life had done its worst, they will be enabled to rise above themselves and triumph over life.”
I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me. They are the ones who enable me to rise above myself and have triumphed in my life. This is why I voted and I’ll be damn if I going to let anyone stop me.