With one week left until the next U.S. President is chosen, one would think everybody would be excited to cast their vote: not so.
To my dismay, I've seen several black millennials post or profess in conversation they are not voting. After my initial, "how dare you!" inner commentary, I begin to wonder why they feel the need to share that information with the world. I'm embarrassed for them. I'm disappointed in them. I'm frustrated with them. I take it personal.
As we stand on the cusp of an active battle to keep the Voting Rights Act intact, not just nationally but at the state level, black people should be galvanizing to go the polls. Our vote is one of the few things we can call our own. Amid systematic racism, unjust judicial practices, substandard school systems, food desserts in impoverished neighborhoods and the disproportionate number of black men in prison, our vote is not a choice, it's a necessity!
Granted, this has been arguably the most controversial, tense and outlandish election season in modern U.S. history. But here are the facts, there are two major candidates: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and regardless of public opinion, one of them will win. But this goes beyond Secretary Clinton and "The Donald," and I'm certainly not asking you to vote for either of them (although "I'm with her" ). I'm simply asking you to vote.
For those who don't know, there are actually four presidential candidates on the ballot: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Libertarian Party Presidential Nominee, Gary Johnson, and Green Party Presidential Nominee, Jill Stein. Voting for Johnson or Stein is still a "vote," and that's what's most important. In addition to the presidential candidates on the ballot, there are also other national and state legislative slots to be filled.
Furthermore, the excuse, "they all are liars" just doesn't cut it.
All politicians lie, all politicians have made bad choices; and yes, even our beloved President Barack Obama isn't perfect. But neither are any of us. Your vote shouldn't be contingent upon a human's imperfections, but if what the whole of what they represent politically falls in line with the best interests of you and your family. Sometimes it will feel like you have to choose the lesser of the evils, but at least you exercised your power to make that choice.
If you still aren't convinced to either vote or keep your "non-vote" to yourself, I want you to let this sink in.
Blood was shed, people were lynched (both black and white lives, just so we're clear), people were humiliated, spit on, lied on and ridiculed so black people they would never know could go to the polls and exercise their right to vote. Our ancestors paid a ransom for your right to go to the ballot box. When you don't vote, you are killing their legacy, spitting on their dreams, making a mockery out of their visions and stomping on their hopes for this generation.
So, the next time you feel the need to tell everyone you aren't voting, remember you are telling these people too:
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - Assassinated
Congressman John Lewis- Civil rights activist nearly killed on 'Bloody Sunday' in Selma, AL
Annie Lee Cooper - Civil rights activist who fought on the front lines for voting rights in Selma, AL
Amelia Boynton Robinson - Civil rights activist beaten unconscious on 'Bloody Sunday'
Jimmie Lee Jackson- Murdered by Alabama State trooper following a peaceful voting rights protest.
Rev. James Reeb- Murdered
Viola Liuzzo- Murdered
Jonathan Daniels - Murdered
James Chaney - Lynched
Andrew Goodman - Lynched
Michael Schwerner - Lynched
James Bevel- Civil rights activist who was heavily involved in the voting rights fight in Selma, AL.
Diane Nash - Civil rights activist, Freedom Rider and founding member of SNCC who was heavily involved in the voting rights fight in Selma, AL.
Harry Belafonte- Longtime civil rights activist and entertainer who fought heavily for voting rights.
Ambassador Andrew Young - Civil rights activist who fought for voting rights alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hosea Williams - Civil rights activist who was a top aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and who marched alongside John Lewis on 'Bloody Sunday.'
There are thousands of others who didn't make this list, and to them we also owe the utmost gratitude. Our ancestors gave us a beautiful gift. They gave us the power to be leaders and the power to choose who we will follow.
So, my beautiful black brothers and sisters who aren't exercising their right to vote on November 8th, please keep your "non-vote" to yourself. Don't allow your inaction to poison the minds and hearts of those around you, and I'll consider your "silent" apathy your sign of respect to those who gave their lives so we could enjoy freedoms many of them never got to experience.
"Bloody Sunday" Selma, AL (March 7, 1965)
On March 7, 1965 nearly 600 people crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge to begin a march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights for African-Americans. They were met by baton totting, horse riding, gas carrying State troopers who violently attacked them. The day of terror was captured on camera, where it was witnessed by countless viewers across the country.