I admit to finding it quite interesting when white men blog about white privilege. Why? Because my experience is clearly that of a young urban female professional from Caribbean American roots flavored and influenced strongly by the African American and hip hop cultures. So I am always curious to people’s reaction to the concept of white privilege, particularly when authored by white males.
If you are like me, you have a diverse group of friends who run the gamet from being conservative christians to liberal earth mama pagans. From being straight laced heterosexuals to outrageous drama queens. From living check to check to support a family with husband wife and baby to being of means or living as a same sex couple rasing one or two children. They are a Gen Xers like me, have parents who marched on Washington for civil rights, some were hippies promoting love not war. And through all the diversity and differeces and similarities, I hear the same moaning and groaning with respect to American politics. All politicians are corrupt, they don’t care about the people, they aren’t community focused.
Having spent my life in politics (the daughter of a Puerto Rican activist and Bajan educator/workforce developer) and working for state Assembly on and off since 1997, I can say I have spent nearly all of my life working in and around government and politics. I don’t always agree with all elected officials, I have at times questioned their decision making, but I can name at least two or three who I know are deeply committed to their communities, Eric Adams, Hakeem Jeffries, and Kevin Parker come to mind. Again, I don’t necessarily agree with everything they do, but I do know they are committed to public service and their respective communities. I also am accutely aware of the work it takes to be a public servant.
I say all of this to say, simply… it’s important to vote and it’s more important to be an informed voter. We, the people, directly impact politics and policy on a local and state level. So why vote in the presidential campaign? I mean, the arguments are pretty well known why we should not. Electoral colleges, “stolen elections”, popular vote vs electoral vote… we could go on. The fact is, it’s still pretty important to get out to every election (primary and general) and vote. My mother took me with her, I take my six year old inside the booth with me…
While factually, there is more overt democracy in local and state races, federal (ergo presidential elections) races are pretty important as well. Again, one may ask why it is important to vote in a presidential election when the electoral college may vote differently than the popular vote? Because in spite of the two historic occasions where the vote was split between the popular vote and the electoral vote (in the case where the electoral college voted in contast to the popular vote such as in 2000), in general, the electoral college votes in the same vain as the American public because the American public votes for the electoral college.
First, a lesson in history… let’s go back to what the electoral college is. The electoral college is made up of elected offcials, 538 elected representatives who vote on behalf of the public for the next president. Voting for electoral reps is not consistent state to state but it is written in the Constitution that every state must have electoral reps. Simply put, “Only 538 persons, representing the slates of electors chosen by voters in the fifty states and the District of Columbia, actually vote directly for president. The person receiving a majority of the votes of electors becomes the president. In the event that no candidate receives a majority of electoral votes, the decision falls, under the 12th Amendment, to the House of Representatives.” (http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/electoralcoll.htm)
Many times, these electoral reps are pledge delegates, which is why we saw a discrepency in 2000. Often times, we can argue the question of accountability to the public. For example, here in Brooklyn, there were many elected officials who supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. In fact, quite a number of Black elected officials who supported Clinton found that many of their constituents supported and voted overwhelmingly for Obama. So I do agree that there is something very wrong in a system where the elected officials who are supposed to represent the people are not representing the interest of the people. I stronly believe that people should hold their elected officials accountable and more importantly they should informed and organized before going into the voting booth.
Ultimately, this presidential race is not about McCain, its not about Obama. It is about the people, the “us”, the American populace. We are the movement of voters who make up a diverse population of people who must take back ownership of government and put pressure to reform government and institute accountability in government on all levels.
Some of my readers have heard of Dan Charnas, who is an awesome blogger that provides a fresh and different perspective of society, politics, etc. Some of my friends know that I just absolutely love this man’s mind. He said it best, I think when he quoted Gore Vidal in his most recent video blog, “American’s get the government they deserve.”
On Tuesday, September 9th, which was a primary day, I stood at the train station in front of the Brooklyn Museum of Art for 6 1/2 hours as a volunteer passing out literature and urging my fellow community residents to vote. Those two or three invested ones stopped to ask questions about my candidate, his views, ask questions about state and local politics. But most had no idea that we had a district leader/state committeman race, between a new guy and an incumbent (Walter T. Mosley vs William “Bill” Saunders). Walter won 60% to 40% but no one I’ve spoken to knows the role of the District Leader, a role Saunders had for almost 20 years! No one knew that there were a ton of County Democratic Committee seats open (roughly 6000 seats representing various election districts here in Brooklyn.) And we heard too many times from people, “There is a primary today?”
While I am happy with the outcome, having worked on Walter’s campaign and petitioning to obtain a County Committee seat, I am deeply troubled that most people had no idea that it was a primary day. More still did not want to be bothered and I found myself saying, more often than not, “If you don’t vote, don’t complain, if you don’t seek the information to be an informed citizen, then you do yourself a huge diservice.” And America, when you don’t vote, you will get the government you deserve.