On November 4, 2014, I went to a local university to speak to an organization my youngest brother was involved in. It was election night and while it was a mid-term election that not too many people were focused on, I found myself exhilarated by the opportunity to spend the evening talking to young people about the law and politics. No one showed for the event.
Not a problem. I took the opportunity to talk to some of the students walking around the student center, hoping to take a small sip from the fountain of youth and re-live my own college days for a moment. My go-to question: Did you vote? It wasn’t really a question, but more of a statement or a conversation starter. Obviously, they would have voted and more obvious than that, they’d have an opinion about the current political climate. I was wrong. The students hadn’t shown up to hear me speak, nor did they show up to vote at their on-campus polling place.
One-by-one, they informed me that, not only did they not vote, but they hadn’t cared to vote. What did it matter anyway? Their votes didn’t count for much and who cared what happened anyway. Classic cases of college apathy, still I was surprised by the casual dismissal in their voices and how quickly they became disinterested in me once I’d posed the question.
Their responses may have been surprising to hear in person, but were hardly unique. Today, articles, news stories, and political pundits often discuss poor turn out in marginalized communities. While Millennials aren’t traditionally thought of as being included within that population, the reality is that Millennials and young people are discriminated against every day– a topic I’ll dive into more deeply in a follow-up post. The long and short of it – Millennials don’tvote and they aren’t expected to vote.
In fact, it seems Millennials themselves are expecting poor voter turn out, generally, and within the generation for the 2016 Presidential Election. Why? Apparently because both candidates are bad options and, yet again, it doesn’t matter which one wins. While I wholeheartedly disagree, I don’t write this to suggest that one candidate is better than the other. I write it to encourage Millennials to reconsider the impact of their vote.
Voting isn’t just about one candidate winning or losing. Rather, this election provides an opportunity for the Millennials to stand out in a presidential election year and be largely responsible for determining the trajectory of America’s future in standing together behind one candidate, showing the world that young people have a voice, can operate as a collective to advance their common interests, and demand new policies that cater to their specific needs. Otherwise, we’re simply relying on our parents and our parents’ parents to choose for us. And haven’t we all grown a little tired of that dynamic by now.
This election, reconsider leaving the decision of who will be your next president to whomever cares enough to show up to the polls other than you. After-all, if its anyone’s time right now, its ours — more to the point — its yours! Own it.
In 2014, I had an opportunity to sit front and center at the celebration of the Anniversary of the March on Washington. The following day, the article shown here appeared in the Black Voices Section of the Huffington Post (that beautiful brown woman is me, in case you didn’t know). I was excited – probably more in reaction to the brief celebrity than the underlying meaning, but the strength of the moment wasn’t lost on my boyfriend. Smiling, he labeled me the New Face of the Civil Rights Movement and promptly kissed me on the cheek. The idea was warming until I experienced it in real life. When I showed my employers, they glossed over it as if it was something to be ashamed of. There was no fanfare, they didn’t publicize it on the website, or the firm Facebook page as a way to show their commitment to diversity. Instead, they hushed the moment and never discussed it at all.
I was troubled, but I moved forward thinking that perhaps it wasn’t an appropriate thing to have shared professionally. I didn’t much think about it until a few weeks ago when I took a long walk around my neighborhood. A bit out of character, I pumped my arms to build some momentum. People stared as they drove by. Some people yelled obscenities out the window and I realized that they were offended by what they perceived to be my own personal March on the neighborhood, even though it was just a workout. It wasn’t the first time race relations had smacked me in the face near home, but it was the most enlightening. Moreover, it was timely.
Three days ago, James Fitzgerald, the former Chief of Police of Howard County resigned his post after he was accused of being racist, sexist, anti-sematic, and crass. A 48-page report announced that Mr. Fitzgerald faced the following abbreviated list of accusations:
My walk around the neighborhood wasn’t an intentional protest, but it ended up reminding me that I not only have a voice in the fight against the systematic oppression of disenfranchised and marginalized persons, I also have a face in. In light of the our too-hectic, capitalist-driven, hyper-opinionated lives, it isn’t easy to become a vital part of a movement by organizing. Perhaps, a personal stance taken by many persons all over the country would have the necessary impact that we need, so I encourage each of you who feels compelled to take a stance to personally get to marching. March on! Who knows, you may turn around to find people following in your footsteps.