I remember watching an old clip of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah — Between the Scenes from last year. Trevor addressed a comment about Black voters. He began to talk about Black women and how we approach voting. That’s when I knew that he understood. He said, “Black women don’t mess around with their vote.” He was so right.
While standing in line to vote, I started to think about all the things I consider when I vote, and what that vote really means to me. I contemplated the past four years and the goals I had for myself and my family. Then I began to think about the pandemic and the increasing racial unrest.
The phrase, “Vote Like Your Life Depends on It” is not just a catch phrase for 2020. In my opinion, it is a requirement. Why? Because my life and the lives of my family members depend on so many things.
I thought about Breonna Taylor and thought about the call her mother received the night she was killed. I cannot imagine getting a phone call in the middle of the night and someone saying a family member has been killed. Honestly, it hits really close to home. I think back to my brother being arrested on his way to my house because his car was “too nice” for a black man to drive and we (the family) could not find him for over 24 hours due to “shady” policing. Even I have been followed home by the police; afraid they were going to pull me over for no reason. Instead they just stopped at my driveway and turned around. My prayer every night is that every family member makes it home safely and no one has an encounter with the police. When I voted, I thought about my family.
Statistics show that Black women make approximately 62 cents to every dollar that a white male makes. That is 38% less than white men and 21% less than white women. The gap widens for educated Black women. When I was in corporate America, I felt like I had to fight for every pay increase I received, only to be told that I needed to do more to receive more. Growing up, I was told that I had to work twice as hard to receive half of what a white male has. Unfortunately, that statement still seems to hold true today. When I listen to the candidates, I try to decide which will help me reach my goals. Who will recognize my greatness and who understands that I deserve to be paid the same as a white man for doing the same work? When I voted, I voted for my livelihood.
I have been my mother’s medical advocate for over 20 years and have had to fight for my mother’s health to be taken seriously by doctors many times. I hate to think of what could have happened to her if I did not press the issue on her diabetes and even her heart disease. Would she have been treated properly? Would the doctors have believed her when she said her arm was going numb? Maybe not. As a Black woman, I want to feel heard and protected by a healthcare system I pay for; just as other citizens do. The one thing the pandemic has shown is that access to healthcare is still an issue in the Black community. We are more likely to die from coronavirus than other races, too. Why is that? Access and racism. I understand that my informed vote can drive change in a system that has not fully serviced my community the way it should. When I voted, I voted for my health and the health of my family.
To me, this is not about social media or what others think. It’s about what I think will better my life and my family. No, I don’t think one person or election will, or even can, fix everything. I voted for the best chance for change. It is my absolute privilege to vote and I owe it to those who came before me, who marched and died for me to have this right. I will never take it for granted.
If anyone were to ask me what the big deal is or why I stood in the heat to vote, I would say because there is too much at stake. What’s at stake? Everything.