In this season of Thanksgiving, let us be mindful of those less fortunate, those who are without an advocate, and those whose voices cry out, but most often are never heard.
As I stood outside the White House last Wednesday I could not help but think to myself, “Why should I have to do this?” “Why should we have to do this?” It was unbelievable to me that we had to take part in what the Honorable John Lewis called “good trouble” in order to protect the most basic of American rights, the right to vote. Our mission for coming: to push President Biden to personally call for and apply more pressure on Senators to end the filibuster so we can combat voter suppression laws.
While there, I noticed a gentleman — who had to be in his 70s and wearing a hearing aid — who was willing to brave the cold just to fight for voting rights. He wasn’t the only one either, men and women who I knew fought for their right to vote during the civil rights battles of the 50s and 60s had to take time out of their day to fight a battle that had already been settled 6 decades ago. As I thought about that, sympathy turned to anger as there is no greater disservice to the sacrifices of our ancestors, than to have them stand in the discomfort of 40-degree weather, during a pandemic to fight for a reward that should’ve been their birthright. This is an undue harvest, an injustice for a people who have built this nation and still have to fight for representation.
To add to the shame, I, alongside those very same people were soon given a citation and required to go to the police station in order to pay our fines. At the police station protestors were made to go in only one at a time. My heart broke seeing mostly elderly people having to again wait in the cold with no access to the bathroom or heat. The wait was so long, I had to leave and come back at a later date. Again the same question popped in my head “Why should we still have to do this?”.
I didn’t write this to dissuade anyone from supporting President Biden’s administration or the Democratic Party, because I still do and will in 2022 and 2024. We can no longer sugar coat the fact that the other party is trying to take us back to Jim Crow and is actively trying to destroy democracy. That is all the more reason for our party and President to care more, say more, and do more. The filibuster must be ended to secure the liberty and the call must come from the very top, from the occupier of the Oval Office himself. My point is — unless it’s protected, voter suppression laws will continue to silence marginalized voices and in the most serious scenarios our votes won’t even be counted.
Even in this, I do believe President Biden is a just and caring man, which makes the half-hearted defense of democracy that more egregious. The man I worked for during the campaign was about empathy, compassion, and always doing the right thing. When I don’t see the same energy applied here it both infuriates and saddens me, but it unfortunately doesn’t surprise me. America is littered with examples of Black citizens being left in the cold in exchange for political gain. Black voters were promised because we had President Biden’s back, he would have ours. A part of that responsibility is protecting our access to the ballot. While many in media and Washington are so concerned about the “white working class”, they are not the ones whose representation is being threatened daily. Our party and the media need to wholeheartedly turn their attention to the suppression of voting rights.
Even from a political stance, it would make more sense to ensure that your base is both protected and satisfied. I’m under the assumption that there will be no amount of organizing that can overcome voter suppression. I can’t imagine the prospect of a Republican Congress, but in reality, there is an almost certain possibility it will happen if we don’t quickly turn an about-face. If the GOP were to gain control of both (or even one) of the chambers, that could spell the end of democracy, not for just a political cycle, but for the foreseeable future. I believe that we are in an even more unstable moment for democracy than we were a year ago. Over 300 voter suppression laws across the United States have been created and we will need an opposite and equal political reaction to combat the effort.
I take hope in knowing our commitment to democracy still remains. We will not back down nor become silent. We will take any and every avenue possible to protect our vote. I take heart in knowing that whatever we have to do to secure liberty today, pales in comparison to the sacrifices given and hardships endured by those before (including some still with us). This country is indebted to those emancipators and owes their descendants the liberty denied them. We are in this fight 100%, but we need a commitment from the President that he is too, not only in words… but actions.