I know the election is driving you just as crazy as it is the rest of us. I know we are all frustrated, disgusted, and disappointed in our country for a number of reasons. I know so many of us are concerned for our country and feel like nothing we do, say, or vote matters.
I know. I do.
But I also know that because of all that it has never been more important for us to vote. You must vote. I must vote. No matter how we feel. We. Must. Vote. Especially women and people of color.
Why? Because it was just a short time ago that we did not have the right to vote.
We forget history. We forget all the women and people of color who came before us and sacrificed so much for this right we take for granted. We must not take it lightly.
Let’s take a moment to remember our history…
· The 15th Amendment:
The 15th Amendment granted African American men the right to vote and was formally adopted into the U.S. Constitution on March 30, 1870. Despite the amendment, by the late 1870s, various discriminatory practices were used to prevent African Americans from exercising their right to vote, especially in the South. After decades of discrimination, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed by Lyndon B. Johnson, aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that denied blacks their right to vote under the 15th Amendment. (Source: History.com and U.S. News & World Report article Voting Rights Still a Hot Button Issue)
Believe it or not, Presidents of the United States still have to sign extensions to the act signed by Johnson in 1965.
· The 19th Amendment:
Ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted American women the right to vote—a right known as woman suffrage. At the time the U.S. was founded, its female citizens did not share all of the same rights as men, including the right to vote. It was not until 1848 that the movement for women’s rights launched on a national level with a convention in Seneca Falls, New York, organized by abolitionists Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) and Lucretia Mott (1793-1880). Following the convention, the demand for the vote became a centerpiece of the women’s rights movement. Stanton and Mott, along with Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) and other activists, formed organizations that raised public awareness and lobbied the government to grant voting rights to women. After a 70-year battle, these groups finally emerged victorious with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. (Source: History.com)
Women and people of color must embrace their responsibility to let their voice be heard through voting. We must step into the light and make ourselves visible to the vast majority, some of whom would be happy if we could not vote.
America has changed and will continue to change. We can’t remain a global leader unless we learn to value what every American brings to the table. We must take all of the tension, stress, pressure and anxiety that we have felt over the last few years and reframe it in exercising our right to vote.
Oprah and others have a saying that I love which is, “You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you handle what happens to you.” Voting is a demonstration of control – of power – of choice.
Since becoming of-age to vote I have voted in every presidential election spanning five decades, and I will continue to vote even when I am too old to stand and have to be pushed in the line (the state of my mother-in-law, Norma). I will vote by absentee ballot if I have to. It’s that important. It means that much.
If you need motivation to vote, all you need to do is to think about your relatives (mothers, sisters, grandparents, brothers, uncles, fathers, etc.) who lived during a time when they could not make the choice because they didn’t have the choice. I know their hearts bled to be counted. I believe that they wanted to be heard. So much so that many of them died in the process.
Let’s honor them for their sacrifices and dreams. Let’s remember history. And let’s get out and make our vote count!
"It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people — women as well as men." - Susan B. Anthony