A 50-Year Old Lesson We Haven’t Quite Mastered

Selma. The parallels between then and now were so apparent in this movie and I cried at least 6 times, 1. because I overthink and 2. because it was all very overwhelming. I had no intentions of going to see the movie for entertainment value, and I got out of it exactly what I had hoped for.

What I really took away from the movie was the importance of voting rights and our duty in civic participation. Generations before us were literally dying for a right we pay little mind now. These days cities and local governments are the entities really influencing what progress looks like in America, not the federal government—that entity is straight up outdated. We as a community, especially in large urban areas, need to be more aware of who is bringing policies into effect and how they impact us. Problem is, I get borderline bored just writing about it and as the reader, attaining voter knowledge isn’t on your list of things to do.

Unfortunately that’s one of the truths of our society and why the American people, regardless of color, keep losing. It’s why the wealth gap is increasing and areas of concentrated poverty are getting bigger. It’s why women have to fight tooth and nail for ownership of their own bodies and the choices they want to make for it. It’s why today we’re still in denial about the importance of accessible health care and accessible education. The wrong people are in power, and we unintentionally put them there because we don’t have the time or attention span to do our research into these politicians.

But why would we? They all look the same to me: older, white, men and the occasional woman. When I see a person of color I’m automatically rooting for them but even then I still don’t know what they’re about and I know I’m not about to get out and vote. I do know I need to change that for myself this year.

I voted for Obama because he’s Black and a democrat and I took a test in 12th grade in my AP Government class that said I’m pretty leftist, I promise you though I couldn’t tell you what his platform was the first or second time he ran. The media has become such a crutch in how we view our own government; it does have its benefits but more importantly it downplays our ability to read. It downplays our interest in wanting a government that is effective for it’s people.

We need to encourage voting in our communities of color. What sense is it to complain about a system that we do nothing to fix. The less attention communities of color give to our political system, the more the machine is going to get over on us. MLK understood that, and really the issues they fought then are still here. By denying folks of color the right to vote, they would have no say in how America treated them. Even though we have that right today, if we aren’t voting we have no say in how America treats us either.

We don’t think about the day-to-day implications of voting. It’s not like we’re going to the store thinking, “I wish I could have bought more food. Ever since education funding got cut from the federal budget, I had to come more out of pocket for school and I now can’t afford dinner every night.” We don’t think like that because it sounds extreme, but the trickle-down effects of legislative decisions are so real.

Local and state elections count more than we realize, and whether we like it or not policy prioritization comes in the form of dollar signs. If these people in power feel like their constituents care enough about an issue, they prioritize it as long as it fits in what they’ve prioritized for themselves. But we are doing ourselves a disservice if we don’t learn to prioritize our needs and ourselves as well. Voter registration was one of the first actions after the protests that I saw in Ferguson, MO following the death of Mike Brown. You know why, because the organizers got it. They saw incompetence in their city leadership and understood the power behind the vote and what they needed to do to protect their community.

If by the end of this you felt like this wasn’t for you because you’ve voted and are always aware and knowledgeable about local politics that’s great, I hope you also have been talking your friends ears off about local politics and dragging them to the polls. If you’re like me and haven’t been as up to speed as you should be, let me know and we can be down for the cause together. You “don’t have time?”

Tweet me your city [@AGtheGiant] and I will personally use Dr. Google (because it’s that easy) to find you information about local elections.


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