Voting rights comes first in my ongoing efforts to fight racism against Black People, Latinx People, and Indigenous People, because without voting you cannot elect people into power who can then enact policy changes that you care about.
These BIPOC communities (for whom voting is especially challenging this year due to COVID-19) are disproportionately removed from voter registration rolls or prevented from registering to vote and voting. They also face significant bureaucratic and economic hurdles to register, stay registered, and cast their vote. The problems themselves are old, but the treacherous means continues to reinvent themselves with increased sophistication and technological finesse.
Here’s some solutions I’m fighting for:
- Federal funding to ensure full and safe voter participation.
- Full restoration of the Voting Rights Act.
- Expanding voter access.
- Ensuring votes of all black people count.
- Ending voter intimidation and suppression policies, such as Voter ID laws.
- Boosting civic engagement before and after elections.
- Eliminating foreign interference in U.S. elections.
- Ensuring full and fair representation in 2020 Census.
More specifically, I embrace and recommend these five action steps to drive the aforementioned solutions.
- Research and Learning (Including Data Gathering): Make an ongoing effort to educate yourself on the facts, history, complexities, and nuances of issues that you care about. Keep links, notes, and data handy so that you can be informed when you interact with others or on social media.
- Equitable Relationships with Members of Historically Underrepresented Groups (HUGs): There’s no substitute for getting to know and spending time with people who are different from you, especially those with less privilege than you enjoy. It’s crucial that these relationships are built on equal footing, without the person with more privilege positioning themselves as the “helper” or, worse, “savior.” The person with more privilege should also do most of the listening and a lot less of the talking.
- Speaking Against Injustices: When you hear or see injustice taking place, whether it’s right in front of you, explained to you by others, or observed through media, take a stand and speak out against it in a compassionate, skillful manner. These engagements can often be awkward, uncomfortable, or downright scary. Sometimes speaking out costs you a relationship or changes how people perceive you.
- Communication With Elected Officials and Signing Petitions: Regularly comment on posts from elected officials or others in positions of power, and create and share posts that address the actions of these individuals. Sign well-organized petitions that can influence policy changes by such elected or appointed individuals. And do so, again, with compassion, skill, and non-violence.
- Contributions of Time, Money, and Resources: Being an effective activist who helps to influence meaningful, sustainable change will cost you something. Contribute as much as you’re able to, depending on your individual circumstances and interests. This includes supporting non-profits that are doing effective work on issues that matter to you.
Regarding non-profits, here’s four organizations doing great work to drive policy changes to increase voting rights and access for BIPOC communities (and, by extension, all Americans).
- Fair Fight 2020: Created and run by Stacey Abrams (pictured here), Fair Fight 2020 is building voter protection teams with Democratic state parties or local allies across the country. Its efforts are particularly targeting foreign interference and sophisticated voter suppression.
- Fair Count: Another non-profit created by Ms. Abrams, Fair Count is dedicated to partnering with Hard to Count (HTC) communities to achieve a fair and accurate count of all people in Georgia and the nation in the 2020 Census, and to strengthening the pathways to greater civic participation.
- Color of Change: Color of Change leads campaigns that build power for Black communities, challenging injustice, holding corporate and political leaders accountable, commissioning game-changing research on systems of inequality, and advancing solutions for racial justice that can transform our world. In addition to advocating for voting freedom and democracy, Color of Change fights for criminal justice and culture change; media, economic, and tech justice; and opposing right wing politics and white nationalism.
- Black Voters Matter: Black Voters Matter advocates for policies to expand voting rights and access, including expanded early voting, resisting voter ID, re-entry restoration of rights, and strengthening the Voting Rights Act. The group also advocates for policies that intersect with race, gender, economic, and other aspects of equity.
- Rock the Vote: This 30-year-old organization continues to active millions of young people across the country to exercise their rights and represent their interests.
Advocating for full voting rights for people of color is a long game, a marathon that requires a lot of strategy, self-care, and support from others. A key part of my own self-care and ongoing personal growth is practicing the “Five Mindful Trainings,” derived from Buddhist teachings and compiled by Vietnamese Zen monk and activist Thich Nhat Hanh and summarized here by me:
- Reverence for Life: Eliminate all forms of violence against one’s self, other human beings, animals, and nature.
- True Happiness: Practice gratitude and generosity and avoid stealing from or exploiting others.
- True Love: Cherish and celebrate others and practice sexual virtue in romantic relationships.
- Deep Listening and Loving Speech: Practice active listening and kind, helpful speech in order to facilitate equitable and peaceful relationships.
- Nourishment & Healing: Eat and drink in a manner that avoids bringing toxins or diseases into the body, and consume media of all forms in moderation.