Monday, November 5, 2018

Vote or Be Shamed

"Vote or Die" 
A Rich Millionaire
Photo via Getty Images

It is that time again where people come out of their 2 year/4 year silence to shame people into voting.

These are the same scare tactics/strategies that people did in 2016 which unsurprisingly got folks to the poll (because voter turnout in 2016 was on par with voter turnout in previous decades) Yet there is this inclination to continue blaming 3rd party/non-voters for the predicament we are in. It is old, boring, tired, and un-motivating.

Stop using your guilt of inactivity to shame others into consolidating their power and their strategies into one largely symbolic day. Our primary strategy cannot be voting especially when the ballot initiatives and candidates are underwhelming and not reflective of what people need or want. The illusion of the two-party system has people excited for this ambiguous "blue wave" when Black people live in largely democratic leadership and have continuously been failed.

I am not here to tell people not to vote or vote because I believe in self determination and community education. AND because so many millions of people have been left out of the voting sphere. My parents did not and could not vote for 30 years of living in this country due to false/violent ideas of "citizenship" and "documentation". The state has no moral authority over who is and who is not worthy or value in this country and in this world. The state does not "grant" people rights. Most "rights" have come after decades of people organizing in the streets. And what is a "right" on paper, if there is no people power on the ground to ensure people's basic needs are being met? What good is a right to vote if people cannot eat? What good is a right to education if people don't have a place to sleep? What good is a right to sit next to a White person if a White person has the ability to gun me down at anytime?

I don't vote for people just because they are Black, queer, woman, immigrant, or whatever identity they have. I also don't rock with the #trustBlackwoman wave because my local governance has Black woman who align themselves with profits over people like me everyday. I care about issues and what types of issues people and organizations will move. Sometimes that aligns with an identity sometimes it does not.

So if you are going to vote, do you research.

Questions to ask yourself :
1) What do I care about and why? What issues do I care about? What issues impact my communities and my friends? What world do I want to live in?

2) What candidates (on every level city council/board of education; not just governor or presidential races) has power over the pockets of money that you care about? Which candidates are easier to hold accountable and organize under (that could very well be NO ONE cuz duh politicians are overwhelmingly corrupt) ? Which candidates will harm your communities and need to get THE FUCK out of office?

3) What ballot initiatives are up and how will they improve the material conditions of people who live in your communities( could be that there are ZERO)? What initiatives will harm your communities?

4) Is your voting tied to a longer term organizing strategy to build power? Are you shaming people into voting "blue" (which means absolutely nothing since Dems have no coherent platform or any sense of moral spine or vision) or are you using this as a strategy to educate people and bring them into your organizations or politicizing them to move their own work?

5) What alliances are you building in order to hold these corrupt/trash politicians accountable once they are in office? Have you done the research and power mapping to know how the elections can shift your organizing?

6) What else do you do besides vote? What does your week to week community and civic engagement look like?

Here are some places to start:
1) READ. READ. Read about the U.S.'s corrupt political system. Read about how people have historically organizing to make changes. Read about alternatives to capitalism and alternatives to the current political system we currently have.

2) Read with other people. Reading in isolation es no bueno. Read and discuss what is happening in the world with other people.

3) Find out what you care about. Are there other organizations working on this issue or do you need to start your own?

4) Create spaces for people to engage in political education and discourse and carve out collective solutions.

5) Research your city budget. Does it reflect your values? Can you pop up at the elected person's house, favorite restaurant, office hours and turn up on them to start prioritizing $$ in ways that meet the material needs of others?

6) Don't have time for organizing or reading? Donate your money to mutual aid projects and organizations. not BIG organizations like Planned Parenthood or ACLU but your local volunteer org that is trying to build power in your city. Because if you can't, they are willing to and need as much as support.

7) Attend your local city or council council meetings. Figure out what is happening and how you can interrupt that, educate the masses, and bring more people into your orgs/movements.

8) Build your own alternatives. People are farming and teaching others how to farm, people are creating child care cooperatives, people are creating doula, people are creating underground economies to meet their basic needs. Folks are teaching each other how to have abortions in the home, giving out free testing, etc. Create or join a collective that is doing this work to reimagine a new world.

9) Run for local office ( if you are so ecstatic about the electoral process; do something more than just voting and run for office if thats your theory of change)

10) Show out for calls of action. When people say pack the court, show up. When people need a ride to their jobs, show up. When people need you to jam the phone lines, show up. When people need you to occupy a school building, show up. The Women's March is dandy and all but are you showing up for lower asks when people are trying to hold police accountable? when people are stopping the closure of a maternity health center? when people are trying to close down a youth jail?

I can make a longer list and I am at a space in my organizing where I am able to engage people who have questions.

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