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Conscience Magazine

Making a Failed System Work

By Pearl Ricks December 28, 2020

I was originally asked to give my personal analysis on how people of color voted and participated in this past election. I spent a few days considering one of those words most: …“how.”

How—during a global pandemic and the beginning of the American reckoning of racism, transphobia and folks able to focus on anything but survival? How, when voting is sometimes the tool of our oppression, were we able to see voting as one of our many tools of relief?

The answer lies in some of our unspoken heroes, the ones in the community without capes. 2020 brought old and new voices calling for voter engagement to the table. Longtime leaders and those new to organizing, educating, activating and mobilizing worked side by side to defeat candidacies and ballot initiatives across the nation.

I would be remiss if I did not explicitly name the involvement of Black women, Black Trans people and Trans folks of color, and the Indigenous folks of Turtle Island (now the United States) and communities of color.

How did these communities engage in voting? Actively, and by placing trust in a system that typically causes harm. More plainly said, by faith. We must thank the organizers and those who take the time to inform their communities of the power and options at play when we vote.

Make no mistake: Voting for the lesser of any evils does not always, if ever, feel good. However, with a sense of duty—whether taken up or thrust upon us—Black folks, Indigenous folks, and other People of Color (BIPOC) showed up to the polls and helped others to show up, too. From forums explaining what would be on the ballot to opportunities for rides, water and food—we were prepared for the long lines and to push back against measures meant to suppress our voice.

Louisiana again went red in the 2020 presidential elections. It elected and reelected officials who have maintained a status quo, and roughly six out of ten voters voted to support an anti-abortion constitutional amendment that threatens the health of our community. The results of the Louisiana elections shine a light on the challenges that lie ahead for our nation.

In countless conversations across the state and the country in preparation for this election season, one of the continued themes around barriers to voting was information inaccessibility and feeling unsafe at the polls. These circumstances present many challenges and questions for changemakers. What does it mean to have a voting system that feels inaccessible to some and outright dangerous to others? Why do lawmakers continue to use inaccessible language to deceive and confuse voters? The outcome of both these situations is voter and voice suppression of some of our most vulnerable populations.

Ensuring that everyone eligible and able to vote is also fully informed continues to be on the shoulders of changemakers across states and the nation. In the days, months and years to come, we will need to be clear about the track record of seated elected officials and make the connection between these officials, their actions and the quality of life for millions.

I most look forward to the conversations between community members across the state of Louisiana and the South. Organizing with each other is as important as organizing with our respective communities. I look forward to holding those who have been elected and re-elected in 2020 to a caliber of reproductive justice the likes of which they have never seen. Most of all, I look forward to hearing the thoughts and ideas of those around me on how we can continue to charge towards a world that serves us and does not serve the ills of white supremacy.

Black women, I see you. Trans, Nonbinary and Gender Nonconforming folks, I see you. Native and Indigenous folks, and People of Color, I see you. Our collective experiences and voices will continue to usher in a new type of accountability for those who make legislative decisions in our communities and for our communities.

For now and for always, rest. Remember that rest is not a reward for hard work—it is a requirement to complete our work. Continue to lean on and support each other through mutual aid and community—we have always been our own liberation and will continue to be.