One of the most common responses that I get from people when I say that I didn't vote in a local or national election is the argument that I am disrespecting the Black men and women who died so that Black people could have the opportunity to vote. I feel that this argument is misguided. At the historical moment when masses of Black people in the American South were attempting to register to vote, and as a result often persecuted and sometimes killed, there was a belief that the ability to vote would empower our community. By "empower our community" I mean, that the ability to vote was presumed to guarantee us representation in government which would bring an end to the brutally oppressive system of segregation and the systemic violence which sustained it. As a result, many of our ancestors who were attempting to vote, were also attempting to run for office. I don't believe that simply casting a vote on election day for whatever candidates are on the ballet is going to change anything real in the Black community. My ancestors who died attempting to register to vote, didn't die because they wanted to vote, they died because they wanted our community to have the power and self-determination to live a quality life.
If I believed that I could cast a vote for a good candidate and not just the candidate that is the lesser of two (or three or however many) evils, I would vote. I feel guilty some times about not putting political actions with my political ideals, but I will not vote just to ease my conscience. I want to have a real voice in the decisions made about my life and the lives of my people. When a white person votes they are giving their opinion on issues relevant to a country where people that look like them, think like them and want the things that they want have power. When you cast a ballot, your vote is an opinion, it is not a decision - as Black people in America, in 1997, we are powerless and oppressed. Our vote is giving our opinion to a group of people who don't look like us, don't think like us and don't care about us.
I am 27 years old. I have voted only one time in my life. I am an educated, politically conscious Black woman. I am well aware of the struggle that African Americans went through in order to gain the 'right' to vote. And I don't take any of that lightly. I know that people died attempting to register to vote. I don't choose not vote because I don't care. I don't vote because, voting the way it is popularly conceived at this point in African American history , is an empty and impotent act.