Correction: An earlier version of this column misrepresented the results of a Genforward survey. According to the survey of potential young voters of color, 57 percent of Black people, 53 percent of Asian Americans, and 49 percent Latinx have either a “favorable”' or “very favorable” view of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden; 27 percent of Black people, 38 percent of Asian Americans, and 36 percent of Latinx have a "somewhat unfavorable'' or “very unfavorable' view of him. The column has been updated.
Like many young voters, my first time attempting to vote was in the 2016 presidential election. I had become a citizen two months prior and was eager to cast a ballot. During a break from college, I went home to New York City to take a learner’s permit test and register to vote. After receiving my learner’s permit, I realized that they did not register my vote despite the fact that I checked the box. Being away from home, I opted for an absentee ballot that never arrived. This doesn’t surprise people like me who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC).
In 2016, the message was that we were voting for the lesser of two evils. It didn’t matter whether we supported Hillary Clinton or her politics; it mattered only that Donald Trump not win. It was an all-or-nothing scenario. Four years later, the message is the same. It’s our duty to save our democracy, and that means voting for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris. When Biden announced Harris as his pick for the vice presidency, not everyone celebrated because this was not a victory for all of us. Coming of age in the Obama era, it’s clear racial representation matters but only to the extent that political power is rooted in representation of the masses. Representation in high office alone will not guarantee our liberation, because presidents are only a Band-Aid for a 400-year-old wound that at every turn is exposed and suppressed.
It comes as no surprise that young voters, especially those who identify as Black and Latinx, are not enthusiastic about supporting Biden. From his claim that we aren’t Black if we don’t vote for him, or that there is more diversity in the Latinx community than the Black American community, he is not someone in whom young voters see themselves or their politics reflected.
According to a Genforward survey of potential young voters of color, 57 percent of Black people, 53 percent of Asian Americans, and 49 percent Latinx have either a “favorable”' or “very favorable” view of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden; 27 percent of Black people, 38 percent of Asian Americans, and 36 percent of Latinx have a “somewhat unfavorable'' or “very unfavorable” view of him. Many of us do not want a return to the “old” America because that America was also insufficient for us.
Young voters of color do not see themselves in this country, nor do we have faith in its white supremacist institutions. This year alone, we have witnessed the government’s inadequate care of people living through the coronavirus pandemic that has disproportionately killed people of color, multiple environmental catastrophes, and the glimpse of a new world with the Black Lives Matter protests and the shallow cries of solidarity that followed. Shortly after Kenosha, Wis., police shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back, his sister Letetra Widman described how so many of us are feeling at this moment. A historical exhaustion. She said, “This has been happening to my family for a long time. . . . It happened to Emmett Till. Emmett Till is my family. Philando. Mike Brown. Sandra... this is nothing new. I am not sad, I’m not sorry. I am angry. And I am tired.”
We are tired and we are angry because our families have been used and abused by this system. We want change, and we understand that we must be cautious about rallying around any candidate. What we should be rallying around is ourselves.
In 1964, Fannie Lou Hamer stood in front of the Democratic National Convention and declared, “I didn’t try to register for him. I tried to register for myself.” In 2020, Angela Davis mirrored a similar message that “when we vote, we’re either voting for ourselves or against ourselves.” While neither of these figures believed that representation in this two-party system will be the last fruit of our labor, their approach to elections is that voting is one tool in the toolbox. Voting alone is not the answer. We vote so that we can continue to fight for our liberation.
I am not looking for the perfect candidate. Waiting for the perfect one will lead us astray and into Trump’s authoritarian society. Instead, let’s organize around a shared political, social, and economic future. Let’s create a common vision of our society that is rooted in collectivism. The American political system has failed us since its inception, and it is time for a rebirth — a rebirth of our collective imagination. A world where Black lives matter. A world where mass incarceration does not exist. A world where safety is defined by community members. A world where we move from elections to community-led governance.
I do not have faith in this current government, but I do have faith in ourselves and in our communities. I have faith that the challenges we are currently experiencing will not last, and that we are the reason that they won’t. Because when we choose ourselves and we choose our communities, we are insurmountable.
Adeline Gutierrez Nuñez, an Afro-Dominican writer, is pursuing a master’s degree in philosophy and social policy. She works at the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research.