Vote to Make Black Lives Matter!

Vote to Make Black Lives Matter!

Vote to Make Black Lives Matter!

Sunday’s Washington Post interviewed two African American activists about political strategies for black communities: Erika Totten, 33, a co-creator of the District Black Lives Matter group; and Courtland Cox, 75, head of the SNCC Legacy Project, and veteran of violent voter registration campaigns in the South during the sixties.

Because the two-party system is “corrupt,” Totten said, “Thinking about voting the lesser of two evils, there are many people that feel I’m just not going to vote for evil at all.” She favored, instead, working “on the ground level” to change her community.

Cox, on the other hand, quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. to caution that “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”

I understand where Totten is coming from. The concentration of wealth in America in the hands of a very few people, and the related system of white privilege, have skewed the democratic process. National elections have become a contest between PACs, marketing firms, and spin doctors. Democrats and Republicans often seem simply like two sides of the same elitist coin. I get it. Fair enough.

However, imperfect as it is, politics is a process of allocating resources, and resources save lives. Small policy shifts can lower student debt and improve healthcare, education, incarceration, and the distribution of wealth. If just one life is made better, that is worth a single vote. And the healthier and more educated a population is, the better equipped it is to affect larger issues of justice and equity. Change gathers momentum as voices rise in volume.  And the only practical voice in America is the vote.

I used to be a member of Black Lives Matter, although it wasn’t called that back then. I was impatient, disruptive, and ready to tear everything down and start over again. But I learned that even if that were possible, life is not that simple. I watched the Occupy Wall Street movement. It made a good point, but it was not sustainable. I look at Black Lives Matter and wonder what’s next.

Black Lives Matter is a vibrant, attention-getting movement. It has shone a spotlight on the historic and systemic abuse and murder of black people, especially black men. Their lives, and the lives of Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Medgar Evers, and countless others who fought or died so that we could proudly and loudly claim our worth as human beings, without fear of recrimination or death, should not have been in vain. We should honor them and invoke their memory by voting as much and as often as the opportunity arises, to continue to ensure that their lives mattered.

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