by Adele Thomas
I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat. If you wanted to suggest a label you could say that I am an African Socialist, but even that isn’t adhesive. I stand for African liberation and a dismantlement of White Supremacist Colonialism. It’s a mouthful, and unfortunately such a political position can pit you against those feeling “The Bern” and those ass-patting the philanthropic Hillary Clinton—candidates who ain’t touching these topics with a ten foot pole.
As we approach my third election, I follow a path towards becoming a jaded voter. Every generation has such a journey at some point in this country, so I know that my awakening to certain undeniable truths of the world is a tradition of sorts. I am, nonetheless, curious about the future of the black American vote.
I have an eclectic squad of friends and family ranging from Independents, Liberal Democrats and a few radical Anarchists, and something we all agree on is that you can’t vote for revolution because revolution isn’t granted by a power structure like that of this government. Relief from oppression is not given to those who ask politely. Dismantling a system of oppression is not an orderly task and it involves pushing against the tide of the entire political system. So when you are conscious of this, how does voting stack up against not voting at all? Is voting for an oppressor really a freedom or is it an obligation to maintain the social construct of government?
Among radical people of color, there is divide between camps who denounce the vote as a scheme and dramatic ceremony to pick a figurehead for a country that is occupying land that isn’t theirs and those that will see the occupation of the country to be an unforgivable but forgettable truth. Rather than focusing on dissolving the country’s occupation and imbalanced distribution of wealth, the latter chooses to work within the system used to occupy.
By maneuvering the system, they are removing what they believe to be unnecessary red tape in place, the tape being the oppressive confines we find ourselves. But it can be argued that removing this tape inadvertently creates the demand for new tape to uphold the network unchanged by national regulation (white supremacy colonization being worldwide and ongoing).
In short, well meaning people think they can destroy white supremacy, racism and state terrorism by making it illegal… according to the white supremacist, racist state’s own laws. Welp.
For so many black Americans, voting has been an integrally vital plotline in our history for independence. As children, my generation was told by our grandparents and great grandparents how hard fought civil liberties like voting rights and its protection were. But is the black vote protected at all? In modern times, when districts are re-zoned and redlining paves the way for broken black and brown communities just before election cycles, can we say that our vote is equal to White America’s?
Is fighting and maintaining votes within often corroded and corrupt elections that are bought and paid for before a ballot is even cast worth such blind faith? Within my soul the dissolution tea is brewing strong. And yet I vote. I vote with nationalist pride that is as real as a Twinkie. I vote in hopes that it does count in the interest of my views. I vote begrudgingly for people that don’t represent me.
I vote hesitantly for that lesser of evils. I vote with the understanding that a capitalist democratic two party system is the biggest oxymoron—with sprinkles—ever. Besides Making America Great Again.
In watching the Democratic Town Hall in New Hampshire earlier this month, I found myself endlessly perplexed. For left, liberal and progressive camps, Bernie seems to be the lesser of evils, but what does that mean? I see Bernie mentioning criminal justice at every opportunity he is given to talk about black lives. When Sanders is asked about black and brown lives, he talks about how they matter within criminal justice systems. Bernie Sanders does not mention non white citizens unless he is discussing poverty, crime, violence or legal corruption.
A young black African woman asks Bernie what he will do to combat unjust policing in communities of color specifically, and the question is written on screen as “How will you work to combat the unjust policing that exists in our nation?” Well, that isn’t what she asked! She was speaking on behalf of her people—in communities that are either occupied by militarized police or dissolving in gentrification, and they #notalled and #alllives it.
Sanders’ response was even worse for wear. A less harsh prison industrial complex, demilitarization of the police and having more diverse police forces doesn’t stop the fact that police are used to protect members of society from other members deemed to be socially unwanted or dangerous. It doesn’t change that this “protection” they provide has the direct risk of disproportionate executions of black and brown people. It doesn’t change that every tier of this country’s economy acts as a predator to nonwhite citizens on the assumption that they aren’t worth as much in terms of humanity and dignity.
As long as these mindsets are backed by economic, educational and social power—as long as the nation declares black and brown people as those members unwanted or considered dangerous disproportionately—it doesn’t matter what you do about these systems unless you are dismantling them all together.
However, what Bernie is calling for is still radical, if not revolutionary. Millions of people are standing together against the status quo. I believe Bernie Sanders is a marvelous politician, but that doesn’t make him a beacon of the change our communities need.
Bernie’s Revolution Will Be Televised and it isn’t as radical as he thinks it is, but it is different than Hillary Clinton’s vision. But when a politician wins your vote, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are representing your interests. It means they know your concerns and how to pander to your interests, for better or for worse.
But I would still urge a vote—not for revolution, but for a small step in that direction. I would urge a vote so we don’t get a President Trump. I would urge a vote even as I speak to my people in this moment and I say: I see you. I see how fucked this election is for us. You are not alone.
Adele Thomas is contributing editor of Consciously Decolonizing on Facebook, Tweets too much @Whogivesabibble and can be found @Decolonizing_Harddrive on Instagram. She is a human and birth rights activist and social media content creator. She is a Black African Femme Geek by day… revolutionary mother by night.