By Ayisha Elliott
To vote or not to vote is a white person’s problem. Historically, it’s a white person’s privilege, a package deal.
It wasn’t until 1965 when BlPOC people — men and women — were able to practice the exercise of actually voting. The first vote ever cast in the U.S. was in 1788. It wasn’t until 1870 that it was written to allow Black men. Even then, that right wasn’t met with acceptance. There were several barriers in place to ensure Black men couldn’t afford to vote. They were literally charged a tax to do so.
In 1920 white women were included in the right to vote. It was another four and a half decades before Black and Brown women were able to partake in the process of decision making in regards to the well-being of our own families, finances or representation.
The cards have always been stacked against us. Voting was a way to participate with the agency of our own freedom, even when walking miles and miles and waiting hours and hours to cast that vote. It held dignity, a step to sovereignty, It wasn’t given to us. We fought for this. Our perceived freedom wasn’t a package deal with civil rights.
As a matter of fact, our perceived freedom had very specific barriers to civil rights, human rights or recognition of our existence as functioning human beings.
Voting gives “the people” a voice. Our ancestors brought generations of our families through the struggle for the right to be heard. To be considered “the people.” Voting is a calculated choice. It is not a lottery ticket. It’s not the end all be all, we know that.
It is, however, a right. The very least of grievances the Black community can make as a collective voice.
To have the ability to vote is a well deserved, hard earned right passed down from our ancestors to exercise choice as full citizens of these United States. It was never a given.
Even to this day suppression of the Black vote is rampant, and every hour we stand in line is a homage to the dedication of our grandparents and great grandparents who sacrificed everything for us to do so.
If our vote didn’t matter, the systems in place wouldn’t try so hard to stop us. We know that too. Over the years I’ve watched my mother walk, drive and, now in her wheelchair, approach the ballot box with her assertion of power. I proudly follow in her footsteps. As she has passed her conviction to me, I have done the same for my children. The battle continues.
For the wellness of Black people, this war against our existence as whole humans is far from over. VOTE.
Ayisha Elliott’s podcast Black Girl From Eugene is raw and uncensored monologues and conversations about living while Black in the PNW. Listen locally at 11 am Sundays on Facebook Live; simulcast on KEPW 97.3 FM. Audio found on all major podcasting platforms.