Voting Alone Is Not Enough
Voting in and of itself will not accomplish the political objectives needed to end our shared and continued social marginalization. It is viewed by too many of us–incorrectly–as being the panacea to our political and economic disenfranchisement, and is the reason why so many of us no longer vote; we feel it has not yielded constructive results. But voting in and of itself is not the problem; the problem is our ineptitude at effective, political engagement. The paragraphs below highlight what we need to do to effectively engage in politics so that our votes are effective at enacting legislation and policies that support our political objectives.
Develop A Political Identity
Political identity is important because it sets standards of judgement and parameters for public use of power. Do you recognize that you come from a lineage of people who were victims of the Atlantic Slave Trade, and do you recognize the trade’s lingering effects: lynchings, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, police violence, poverty? A Black person whose identity is shaped by these experiences will more than likely have a different standard of judgement as to what constitutes racial violence by law enforcement officials, than a Black person who refuses to acknowledge slavery and its lingering effects on society. A Black person who acknowledges the opportunity cost of slavery to their ancestors on wealth building, and the government’s facilitation of this inhumane trade, recognizes the validity in the political goal of reparations. This person judges two things; first, they judge that a debt is due because the government facilitated and illegally benefited from slavery; and secondly, they judge that it is within the parameters of government power to authorize payments to victims.
Develop A Political Agenda
A political agenda does not currently exist for Black people that is known and accepted in great number. There are agendas that include some of our interests to varying degrees, but these are not the same as an agenda exclusively tailored to Black people’s interests.
These are the political objectives that must be met in order to eliminate our political, social, and economic disenfranchisement: $20 trillion plus worth of reparations, the criminalization and prosecution of all racist speech/writings and actions, and a K-12 anti-racist curriculum.
Racists must be rooted out with disregard for however they may feel about it. For instance, a publisher should be charged when he or she changes the narrative in a history book so that racists are not held accountable; a White supremacist posing as an author should be charged for writing a novel glorifying racial violence; and lastly, parents should be treated as criminals when they perpetuate racist ideology by guiding their children towards thinking they are of higher value because of their skin color; these people should be charged and persecuted for hate speech.
Learn The Officials Who Affect You Most
We have to know the political players in our communities: their roles and their records. We have to also know the leverage we collectively have over them: can they be removed directly or by proxy vote?
Here is a list of the officials we should be familiar with: senators, congresspersons, judges, governors, secretary of states, labor and agriculture commissioners, public service commissioners, state legislators, county executives and board of commissioners, mayors, city councilors, police chiefs, superintendents and board members. In each of these positions there is someone who affects your life; it is your responsibility as an informed voter to know who these people are.
Organize Four Tiers Of Meeting Groups
You have to organize. You can not assume that others will do this; you have to do it. Your network should have four tiers of organization: national, state, county, and local; and, should be divided into units of five.
Units should have set times and locations where they meet, names and logos (nothing official), and a centralized process for decision making—regardless of whether a decision is needed for something as routine as “what political candidate to vote for,” or something as potentially dangerous as “should we deploy in the thousands to the downtown area and stop freeway traffic for eight hours,” these decisions should be made using a centralized process.
Unit activities should include but are not limited to: legislative/policy research and debates, courtroom observations, book readings/discussions, cookouts, movie nights, content creation, and fundraising. Again, this list is not all inclusive as it focuses heavily on fellowship building, and leaves out activities requiring coordination of political action amongst the three tiers.
Politics is not a sideline sport; it is not a “once every election cycle” type of activity neither. Politics is an activity that requires continuous effort at effective engagement, and the ideas above provide the foundation for what is needed to effectively engage. The more effective we are at political engagement, the more meaningful our votes will be, and the more successful we will be at accomplishing our political objectives.