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George is Tired…Of Voting

The politics around voting, our right to vote, and our obligations as voters is likely a more accurate description of what I am tired of. But voting in this day and age isn’t as easy as it once used to be — for me, and for millions of others who can’t see the impact of our vote in a daily life filled with anti-Blackness which in turn equals anti-queerness.

Growing up in Black household in the north, it was always “vote Democrat.” That always made sense to me. Even as a child I could see the Republican party was primarily leaning towards the rich, with subtle and overt hints of racism. Democrats always seemed to be for the marginalized. I remember Black folks saying Bill Clinton was the “first Black president,” even though many of us know now how detrimental his policies were to Black family life.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that party lines are just that — lines drawn that seemingly feed half the nation based on who is in power, while the other half waits for the pendulum to swing the other way. But this country ain’t no clock, and I ain’t no damn tick or tock. My life matters more than who is in power, and it’s becoming harder to trust a politician of any race to help the most marginalized as I do in my work.

Trump being elected has brought out the “get out and vote” battle cry in full force. Oddly, though, I think we often forget that Obama being elected twice sent the same message— only it was to white folks filled with a pride to Make America Great Again. They acknowledged that this nation’s racist, xenophobic past was a much better existence for them — and they continue to show it daily. I feel like the 2016 election flipped the country from the covert racist to the overt — but still a bunch of racists in power.

And I get it. This country would be a much more “comfortable” place if Hillary Clinton was President…but for who? For me, the college graduate who has many privileges that people within my own queer community don’t have. Yes? But what about the people I yell so much that I care about. Would the murders of Black trans people be any less if she were in power? I don’t know. Unarmed Black men were being killed at an all-time high when we had a Black face on the white empire. And that’s not to say it’s his fault, but to say that when we “vote” hoping for this change, what is our avenue when the change doesn’t come?

We all know that our voting system in this country is flawed as fuck. It is anti-Black, anti-queer, anti-woman and a lot of other things. It is based on an electoral college that should have been abolished but won’t be, since it continues to help whites stay in power.

The 2016 election brought a lot of hatred towards non-voters. I want to be clear when I say that non-voters aren’t the issue. 53 percent of white women and 63 percent of white men voted that orange man in office. Nonvoters have very valid reasons for their disenfranchisement — primarily that they don’t see their vote as a way out of their circumstances. Voting doesn’t seem like a pathway to anything greater. When you fear survival in your community, you can’t see anything past making it home every night. And for some, even home isn’t a safe place. And that’s real shit for marginalized people.

But the real issue I take is that people pretend that “not voting” is the issue when it’s really “not voting the way that would make my life easier.” Because a lot of people voted for Jill Stein (even though she wasn’t that girl) and folks were made at them, too. But if the real issue is “non-voting,” why could one be mad when they did exercise that right? It’s because we are often too afraid of envisioning a world outside of the constraints of what voting has done in this country.

We have been conditioned to think we live in a democracy. A country where the person with the most votes loses and the election is really 50 state elections that seemingly comes down to 100,000 votes in four states that really make the determination. When you really understand that, how could one ever continue to feel power in their ballot?

This is what I will say to that: I do think that I will vote again. And I encourage others to keep voting.  I’m just not here for the rule that has made those less marginalized (Black, Queer, etc.) having to choose the lesser of two evils; the person who may be anti-Black but LESS anti-black than the other candidate. The person who may not support gay marriage but will make sure I have health care. That’s not voting me. That’s just another system of oppression. I live for the day when candidates mirror communities and the issues in them. I can see it coming, but it’s not there yet and a vote should still be one earned.

I often think about how hard our ancestors fought for the right to vote. I never wondered, though, what they thought that right would afford them. Hope, I’m assuming. Hope that fed into a faith that has kept us going since our enslavement here began in 1619. Hope that their vote would put people in place that looked like them to ensure they would be seen, heard, and given equity and equality. I wonder if they could see what was happening now, if they would still feel that right was as important as it was then.

One thing I do know is, I’m born of the blood of the enslaved and that regardless of who is in power, it is my duty to fight for us, All of us. That is a vote you can count on.


George M. Johnson

George M. Johnson is a black queer journalist and activist located in the Nyc area. He has written for TheRoot, ET, HIVequal, TheGrio, TeenVogue, NBC News and several other major publications.

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