Dissing the Franchise
For weeks I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not to say what I’m about to. There are several reasons for this. First, I didn’t want to be repetitive, and what I’m going to say is in some ways an updated version of a couple of blogs I wrote on my old personal site four years ago. Second, what I’m about to express is in some ways antithetical to the aims of this site. Finally, paroxysms of righteous indignation on Facebook and in private emails and texts aside, I’ve shown great restraint, and like my friend Ashon said to me, “I refuse to be called a hater everyday.” But whatever. It’s the Monday before the national election, and not mentioning it on a blog about pop and American culture would just seem odd. As much as I’d like to wax poetic about the cognitive dissonance of watching Black Girls Rock! on BET with a #RHOA season premiere chaser, I should say a word or two about tomorrow.
Well, here are three: I’m not voting.
Let me be clear. This is a purely personal choice. I’m not advocating not voting. I’m simply articulating my decision given the circumstances as I understand them. Millions of people look at the same situation and choose to vote anyway. And that’s cool. Do you. Go vote. Rock your “I voted” sticker. Have an election night party. Cry if Obama wins again; threaten to move to Canada if he doesn’t. Brush up on the Electoral College. Do whatever legally makes you feel good #BillyBobThornton. As for me, however, I will be casting absolutely zero ballots tomorrow.
I will not be shamed for this decision. If my Grandma Charlotte can’t compel me to vote, no one can. I know my people marched and died for the right to vote. I used to go with my great-grandparents when they voted. At this point, I’m pretty sure that whatever excitement I had about witnessing them exercise the franchise had more to do with the fact that they were in my school than the fact that they knew a time when they couldn’t politically engage in such ways. Maybe the magic of Eyes on the Prize wore off back in ’08, but there is an incredible difference between not being allowed to vote and choosing not to. I choose the latter. And this does not disrespect my ancestors or the fight many of them waged for the right to vote. I won’t make present day decisions based upon guilt or some sort of debt that black pundits think I owe. And I also will not assume that being denied something means that the thing is good for me. Such ideas would require me to attach more meaning to the thought process of those doing the denying. And from what I can tell, those folks don’t necessarily know what’s good for themselves, so why would I assume that their mere act of denial means that I should have it? I take a similar approach to same-sex marriage: although the denial of the right to marry is wrong, it does not mean that marriage is, inherently, a good thing.
I’m not voting because on both a political and personal level, I do not unequivocally support the aims of the Obama administration. From Race to the Top to drone strikes to mass deportation to the deliberate denial of the needs of the black voters who got him into the White House, put simply, iCANT. I can’t vote for the continued execution of those policies. And I refuse to vote for a symbol of assimilative black respectability that is so disgustingly palpable every time Twitter goes bananas about Michelle’s press ‘n’ curl or how much BHO loves his daughters. That kind of thought process is not simply unhealthy but further marginalizes and justifies the vehement disrespect of swaths of folks–black and otherwise.
Moreover, I am not voting because the lesser of two evils is just too evil for me. If I walked into a restaurant and was offered two distasteful entree options, I would refuse to eat at the restaurant. If I can demand more of Applebee’s, I surely should expect more of the political process. There is other food in the kitchen, but we have collectively accepted the idea that there is not. As such, every four years we participate in the illusion of the democratic process without demanding more: more accountability, more responsibility, more systemic change. Instead, we distract ourselves by thinking that the possibilities of vague abstractions of things like “Hope” and “Forward” are miles better than whatever bullshit Mitt Romney is serving. Well, I don’t agree. If we continue to accept a lesser evil we agree to forget the possibility of good.
I cannot help but return to the Marcuse line that I’ve not been able to forget since I read it years ago, “Free election of masters does not abolish the masters or the slaves.” I conclude by coupling the line with something my dear homie Moya said to me last week, “If you believe the United States is something to be preserved, we already have a problem.” Well, I don’t think the status quo is something to be preserved, voted on, or celebrated, not even if the face looks like mine. For me, voting is the silent, symbolic support of wars on black and brown bodies domestically and internationally. It is support of the continuation of a neo-imperialist agenda that would ensure that moving to Canada wouldn’t save you. And it would be a vigorous head nod for a situation that is becoming increasingly unbearable. And if you’re with all that, it’s cool. Cast your ballot. It’s just not for me.
May all the states turn the color you want them to tomorrow.