Vote like your life depends on it. For many, this isn’t just a rousing call to action—it’s real life. In this series, people from different jobs, backgrounds, and viewpoints share the impact this election will have on them, and the exact reason they’re voting in 2020. Because politics and wellness can’t be separated, especially this year.
As a Black, queer woman living in the former capital of the Confederacy, aka Richmond, Virginia, this election has stoked a flame in me, and an urgency that I couldn’t have imagined. Growing up, I heard stories of how my ancestors fought and died for our right to have a say in elections. Because of this I’m a staunch advocate for civil engagement, but this election season goes past simply exercising my rights as an American—it is literally about life or death for me, and for so many.
My Black Body Warrants Both Arrest and Death
The current administration exemplifies what most marginalized communities fear most from a white man of the political far-right: unchecked and uneducated, ego-fueled power. There are countless examples of Trump’s historical lack of ethics. A familiar example is Trump’s active role in the unlawful arrest and detainment of the Exonerated Five (formerly known as the Central Park Five), a group of Black and brown teenage boys arrested in 1989, and found guilty of the sexual assault and beating of a white woman in New York. The men had all charges vacated in 2002, but not before their lives were changed irrevocably. This serves as just one documented example of Trump’s long history of racial motivated bigotry impacting the lives of Black and brown people.
We only need to look to the endless accounts of wrongfully accused individuals to see that again and again being a person of color is all that is needed for you to “fit the description” of someone that has committed a crime. When you add in systemic inequality resulting in pay gaps and financial instability for communities of color, you get jails and prisons filled with Black and brown people, despite being minority populations.
The consistency of documented police brutality is an additional example that goes unchecked. We often discuss the ways in which policing in America is inherently racist, but just as important are the ways in which perpetrators of this violence are not held accountable and instead are patted on the back. Trump has time and time again encouraged violence against people of color in our communities, saying that protestors should be “roughed up”, and blew the familiar dog whistle of law-and-order after the murder of George Floyd during a press conference and has continued the same on social media.
Marginalized Bodies are Barred From Creating Families
Living in this country as a queer person who wants to start a family, the policies surrounding my bodily autonomy are consistent considerations of mine. The fight for reproductive rights has been recurrent and will undoubtedly increase in difficulty due to the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who often stood in the way of anti-choice legislation that passed through the Supreme Court. Amy Coney Barrett, a staunch conservative, tilts the Supreme Court to the right, putting many policies that include bodily autonomy and civil rights in jeopardy.
When it comes to contraception and abortion, there are a myriad of anti-choice politicians, including the current President, who have tried to undermine a person’s right to determine what is best for them and their body.
Statewide acceptance of “gay adoption” is a relatively new concept, and not everyone is on board quite yet. Even with the majority of the U.S. removing the rules around sexuality and adoption, we still have the inherent issue of finances to overcome, which effectively keeps the rules in place if you cannot conceive traditionally.
Trump has recurrently othered non-white folks in large and long-term ways—see: Trump’s administration has barred immigration from countries that he has deemed “shitholes”, which just happen to be full of Black and brown folks—alongside supporting efforts of banning our options of reproductive choice. Just when we thought that this year couldn’t get any more Orwellian, he has combined these two arms of bigotry, resulting in a new, frightening report of involuntary hysterectomies of people being held in ICE detention centers.
In an ideal world, we would have complete faith in our presidential candidate. We could push for our legislators to have our best interests at heart, vote for those who reflected our communities fully, and hold them to task without putting our lives at risk.
In addition to Joe Biden continuing the long history of old, white men governing the country, he leans into altering the systems that we currently have in place rather than acknowledging that we need new ones. A great example is the promise of programming that would eliminate or lessen student loan debt for particular people. This is a promising start, but still leaves many in the lurch, and doesn’t address the fact that higher education should have never been this inaccessible in the first place. Kamala Harris has a prosecutorial background, and because of my work against mass incarceration, she wasn’t my top choice during the Democratic primaries.
But even with these things at play, we cannot ignore the fact that Harris is a Black woman who graduated from an HBCU and cares about the Black community in ways our current administration couldn’t even fathom. Biden acknowledges the ways our country needs improvement, and though not in the way I would have chosen—he plans to address them.
This election goes beyond our individual political affiliations, and we are unable to have our complete checklist of what we want out of a public servant fulfilled right now. Ultimately, for me, it comes down to safety, autonomy, and livelihood. If Trump continues to steadily endanger the lives of those he doesn’t deem valuable or doesn’t agree with, hopping over checks and balances as he does so—how can we not see the downward trajectory of this country? How can any of us feel safe?
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