Stop blaming Black people and not voter suppression

A student describes the voter shame directed at Black people who do not vote, despite the fact that they’ve been disenfranchised the most.

The Black voter population holds the largest stake in the game this election. 

Why? Because we have the most to lose. 

We have reasons to vote, with nationwide protests against police brutality, the COVID-19 pandemic and the possibility of losing health benefits if the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act, issues which all disproportionately affect Black people.

But 150 years after the 15th Amendment, which gave Black men the right to vote, 100 years after the 19th Amendment, which extended that right to Black women  — albeit only somewhat, as Black women still encountered discrimination at the polls and were largely unable to vote until later in the century — and 55 years after the 24th Amendment, which banned many racially discriminatory and oppressive voting practices, we still face systemic obstacles to voting, Business Insider reported

In 2020, we are disenfranchised due to felony conviction, widespread closures of government offices, lack of access to online voter registration, new laws requiring government identification to vote, longer wait times and higher voter purge rates, Business Insider reported. 

Despite these barriers imposed on us, we are still the scapegoat for low voter turnout, even when research suggests otherwise. 

In a keynote address, former President Barack Obama said that without restrictions, Black voters would have the lowest rates of voter turnout, a stereotype that isn’t true, as Black voters are consistently one of the most stable voting blocs in the U.S, the Guardian reported. 

Additionally, Black women have turned up at the polls more than their male counterparts for 30 years, according to an August report by the Pew Research Center.  

Even Oprah Winfrey condemned Black people, claiming they are dishonoring their family and disregarding their ancestors’ legacy by not voting. Yet, she is ignoring the fact that voting has historically not been a matter of choice among Black populations, the Atlantic reported. 

This voter shaming simply does not sit well with me as a Black woman. I am beyond frustrated by the blame being cast on the Black community, especially by other Black people, instead of being targeted toward the system that perpetuates racial inequity.  

No matter who wins the election this year, our voices will continue to be stifled. If we overcome the systemic hurdles placed before us and cast our vote for either candidate, we will still be blamed for voter apathy because of racial stereotypes and implicit bias. 

Unfortunately, I feel as if my vote means absolutely nothing, which is especially disheartening because this is my first time voting. Despite my hesitation, I casted my vote, more so out of obligation than personal choice.

I am sick of having to settle for less than what Black people deserve.

I am tired of voting being shoved down my throat when we are not given the proper resources or education, nor are we presented with a candidate who cares about people who look like us. 

I am done being disrespected by the government and then being pressured into giving away my vote to a candidate who does not even respect me. 

I can’t open Instagram without being bombarded with narratives implying no vote is a vote for Trump. These judgemental posts cry voter apathy rather than voter suppression. 

I hope I never receive a text from a random volunteer, see a “Go Vote” T-shirt at Forever 21 or have to sit through a campaign advertisement online ever again.

The outcome of this election will not end voter suppression or scapegoating. Despite the fact that we turn out the most to vote, Black people are regarded as the most difficult group of people to win over. 

The candidates are desperately attempting to appeal to Black people, like former Vice President Joe Biden participating in a “Souls to the Polls” event aimed at Black churchgoers and President Donald Trump holding “Black Voices for Trump” events

In reality, they are exploiting and manipulating us into choosing a side for their own political gain, even though neither will be advantageous to us.

I am not a statistic or a pawn in a politician’s game. I am a woman of color whose voice matters, and I want to use my vote to reflect my ideals and morals, especially since Black peoples’ votes have been suppressed for so long.  

I’m not sure which I’m looking forward to less: the night of the election or the weeks following it, up until Jan. 20. But I’m hopeful that in 2024 I will actually be able to believe others when they tell me my vote counts, and Black people will not be scorned for something that is the result of institutional racism. 

While the odds may be against me, I will beat them, as I already have by voting this year. 

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