By Ruby McAuliffe
The nation will always remember May 25, 2020. The cries for justice couldn’t be ignored, and echoes for reform filled every corner. If you opened Instagram, you saw petitions, hashtags and lists of Black-owned businesses. If you jumped on Netflix, you saw a section labeled “More Than A Moment” aimed at drawing attention to the Black experience. If you researched local protests, you found some within driving distance.
The chants against racism were loud because George Floyd served as another example as to why our nation needs to do better. However, reflecting on the past few months, the loud uproar of awareness has settled into a whisper.
What happened to the feverous passion aimed for change?
The drive for justice cannot end with black squares, marches and films if the nation desires reworking. This is a movement, meaning those invested must continue to seek development through tangible action.
This is where voting comes in.
How Voting Keeps The Movement Alive
Former President Obama published an essay in support of the peaceful protests. He emphasized the need to vote by saying, “… Aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.”
When we vote, we have a say in who we want our leaders to be. This is important because we give these leaders the power to determine the trajectory of our country through policy-making.
This isn’t only true for general elections, but for local elections as well. How we vote in local elections impacts our lives right where we are.
But how do we know if our votes even have an impact? We can look at the 2016 election for reference. Kevin Drakulich, Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, said the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement affected the 2016 election on both sides. Those for and against the movement showed up to the polls with specific agendas: many voters looked to the candidates’ views on civil rights to determine their votes.
The 2020 election will not be all that different. With the BLM movement raising the issue of racial equality, we will see the same matters from 2016 garnering importance yet again.
Democratic and Republican voters now have a heightened awareness of the candidates’ records on social justice, and each voter will have to decide if racial change supersedes personal political preference. Because of this, it should be understood that each vote will sway the pendulum one way or the other.
Voting By The Numbers
America’s youth is another large part of the conversation. Many young people have taken on the responsibilities of the BLM movement by marching onto the streets and by posting on social media. But these young people are the same individuals that need to show up to the polls if they want to see improvement.
Looking at the numbers from the 2016 election, there was about a 50 percent voter turnout for those ages 18-29. This is not something to cheer about — especially when the young people are the ones paving the way for the current social justice initiative. While half of them showed up for the last election, the other half sat back and watched.
This reality is not just reserved for America’s youth. It also pertains to those who don’t vote in general. Looking at the 2016 statistics for the overall population, a total of 138 million Americans voted in 2016. That only makes up 58.1% of our voting-eligible population — and we are talking about the biggest election in the nation. Imagine the voter turnout for local elections.
Perhaps people don’t feel educated on the issues and candidates. Maybe individuals don’t think their votes will have an impact. But we can’t make noise, not vote and expect a problem to fix itself. We must show up. Showing up is voting, and voting is more than checking a box. It requires time, learning and determination.
Don’t let your efforts end with eager emotion. Don’t let your ardour have been for nothing.
Unleash your voter power.
Below are some resources to maximize your voice: