I’ve decided not to vote. While there certainly is power in voting, my understanding of and attitude toward America’s political system prevents me from engaging. The responses I’ve received from this commitment have been that of confusion and criticism, but I’m confident in revolution. Just as the anti-draft advocates of the early 1960s experienced backlash, I too will face opposition, but my belief in self-determination must persist. Voting has been forced into the minds of the public as the most necessary political tool citizen’s yield, but hammers don’t drill screws. In other words, there is a need to re-imagine our approach to achieving representation, not securing votes. Since the power of the vote has been gerrymandered, hacked, and undermined, all faith must be lost. The divisions of America are too complex to come to consensus by count, so movement toward compromise must be pursued. Overtime, I’ve come to realize that my voice is much louder in the streets than in the ballot box.
My Voice > My Vote
The traditional approach to obtaining representation through the promotion of and voting on policy and candidates is systemically biased, and hence obsolete. The political machine was created given the idea that slaves, my ancestors, were not to be counted as humans. Even when Martin Luther King, Jr. led Blacks to “earn the right” to vote no ballot was voted on by citizens. It was demanded by the people! Organizations like Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), used their voice, not their vote, to make direct change to the status quo of America. Although still working within the corrupt system, this type of civic action is needed most during a time when police are brutalizing our brothers, judges are depriving our sisters of justice, elected officials are abusing their influence with greed.
Statistically and politically, my vote has minimal influence. Among the millions of voters at federal and state levels and thousands in local, my one vote will garner no real change. Even if my vote did count, I refuse to waste my influence to put altruistic “white saviors” in position of power. I commend Blacks for stepping up, but our total influence in white-dominated (often supremacist) politics is low. Further, my vote would not represent my true interests. Since options of candidate or policy are limited, I must make immediate exceptions upon my beliefs and surrender my vote. Therefore, the decision making that determines what people vote on holds deeper influence to affect change. I’ve decided not to vote because my power rests in my truth, not my sacrifices.
What’s the Worst That Can Happen
This election has been promoted with striking significance because people desperately want to get rid of the current president and changes to political districts are on the line. For those people who seek changes to the presidency, have you stopped to reflect on the positive effects of the last 4 years? People all over the world have awakened to the inequities of imperialism, racism, and capitalism and have decided to take action. We’ve seen mass levels of civil disobedience, insurrection, and increased awareness comparable to the Civil Rights and Black Liberation Movements. This empowerment has mostly been the result of the overt discrimination and injustice experienced and observed by many. I argue that this type of action, while still viable, is less likely to continue under less extreme symbols. Trump is definitely not the president we want, but he may be the president we need to transform this country from the ground up.
Further, America has been drawing lines around Black communities for the betterment of white quality of life for centuries. History shows us the denial of access to decent housing, proper education, public resources, and opportunities by the white power structure. Regardless of how the lines are drawn, the barriers which they manipulate will only restrict our power to the confines of the oppressive political system. I’ve decided not to vote because I’d rather use my time to free Blacks of this tyranny and take control of our destiny.
Opposition to the System and Its Institution
Maintaining the traditions and status quo of America would be a detriment to citizens of all demographic, socioeconomic status, and/or philosophy. We have lived the imagination of the “Founding Fathers” and the Constitution through genocide, terrorism, and subjugation. American citizens need to heal from these traumas. The life of America is dependent on our ability to coexist and collaborate, but the current systems prevents that exchange. I’ve decided not to vote because voluntary participation within the same systems which I know oppresses my community, is counterproductive. I don’t subscribe to the edition of the “American Dream” where whites have the authority and everyone else asks permission. I believe in a power structure of partnerships not superiors.
Instead of voting, I’ve been exploring ways to add value to my community directly and intentionally. Election processes are too cyclical and frequent to make much immediate and long-term change. The real change happens within the daily interactions of everyday people and our environment. It’s the, community fundraisers and rallies, creative artistry, and political organizing which affect the hearts and minds of people. These actions bring people to the table to express themselves, build relationships, and work together to solve problems. I oppose the system and its institutions not to sit back and complain, but to find or create the alternative approaches to representation.
This decision not to vote may surprise some, but I hope you understand that voting is not the only route to make your voice heard and I challenge you study history for alternatives. It provides great context for our current social and political struggles of today. More immediately, I challenge you to take 5 minutes to simply breathe and be. No music, no people, no phone, or anything. Just fall into your being. Too often, we find ourselves caught up in trends, gossip, and even our personal growth. We deserve time for reflection and peace.
Thank you for reading.