We are one day away from one of the biggest elections of our lifetimes. The energy is high, the debate is frequent, and the internal struggle is real. As a Black woman, I am at the intersection of so many causes, movements, and demand that, coupled with the repeated trauma and fear, of the current climate, I can understand why so many people feel powerless. I understand why people are questioning the necessity of voting — especially when many of us feel overlooked and neglected. Despite all of that though, I voted mail-in and early, and this is why.
I am an unmarried, childless, underemployed, 40-year-old woman with two degrees, living in a suburban community in a home with three generations of family. Like many of you, I witness death every day due to the coronavirus pandemic and systemic racism. I, too am afraid and overwhelmed. Not because of who will become president, but what that will truly mean for me and my community: the people with various hues of brown skin, curly, coily, and kinky hair, and other features like mine.
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I share concern for the women like me, who are undervalued and underpaid; who have to justify their merit to an organization every day, as their coworkers question if their presence was to fulfill a quota, or to enhance the company’s appearance of being racially progressive. I fear for the women without children who want continued access to family planning services, and the ones with children who want them to survive to adulthood. For all of them, I am uneasy about the outcome of this election.
For those of us who pray daily that our family members return home to us after participating in the normal required activities of an American citizen, like exercising, driving, and shopping, I am terrified of what policies and laws will be created, passed and enforced from the White House.
While trepidation is often a natural byproduct of the unknown, no one should have to live in constant fear of just existing; that the skin we are wrapped in, which we did not choose, but unapologetically love, is not loved and appreciated in return, and in fact is deemed threatening just because of the shades it comes in. No one should have to live with the trauma of watching our brothers, fathers, and sons be murdered by those who are hired to protect us, while also recognizing that we too could face the same fate, by simply going to bed at night to finally rest, a luxury that we, too are worthy of. All of these doubts and anxieties are why I vote. To face my fears and take an actual, practical stand against them. To empower myself.
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I can understand those that are intimidated by the process. Voter suppression is still alive and well and practiced heavily in communities of people of color. I also can understand those that feel that their voice is muted in this oft-confusing political game of red and blue elephants and donkeys that seem to care more about colors, than actual human lives.
But engaging in this democratic system, regardless of how unfair it appears to be, gives us a stake in being an actual participant versus a bystander; using the tools that are afforded to us to influence how we exist in this country, as opposed to sitting idly by watching chaos unfurl, but doing nothing. Having the tools to make change and the autonomy to do so, is empowering. It reinforces your importance, your worth, your value. Sacrificing your vote, is in essence silencing yourself. Giving away your option to show this system that you matter, regardless of the outcome.
I know that this Black woman in her 40s, is the best advocate for herself. Which is why, in the moment, when I sealed my ballot and mailed it away, I trusted that this is the best start at an effort to make my needs heard and to show the powers that be, that I, and all the people with skin and hair like mine, are valuable and worth it.
Evangeline Lawson is a California-based educator and writer who promotes literacy through content creation for Instagram @vangieluvs_books.