Tonight I will express my greatest right as an American by filling out a ballot with my name on it, my opinions. I will exercise my privilege tomorrow when I turn it in and have it counted without question at my nearest polling location.
I believe this right belongs unequivocally to ALL citizens of the United States. I know that if I exercise my privilege responsibly, that someday, this right will belong to ALL.
Tonight, on Election Eve, I put on some music and started dancing and unpacking from being away from home for the last 18 days, thinking about crawling under a blanket and getting cozy with my thoughts and my ballot, a coveted way I exercise my privilege and freedom.
As I danced around my studio apartment, I felt immense gratitude for my freedom, and my rights. Freedom and rights (systems of the very same government with which I am about to engage) which are being violently and discreetly withheld from others. I recognize my paradox: I must participate in the system to break the system.
Sometimes, when I think about my freedom, I ugly cry. I feel it so deeply and joyously that my face distorts and light beams from every orifice, and I feel so beautiful. I will always exercise my Freedom by voting.
I am so grateful for my freedom and my rights that it makes me dance in joy and laughter.
But I am not satisfied. In so many ways I am such a disappointed woman.
I will never be satisfied until ALL people have the same privileges as I do, the same as every white man and woman in the U.S. Until EVERY person gets to vote. Until every person can freely and safely stand, sit, or kneel wherever they damn well please, and fill out their ballot regardless of their past or address.
I know I am not alone in my anger, disappointment, disgust, and fear about the state of things in the U.S. and around the world. But I also see every single day that I am out there doing this work, that NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE ARE ANGRY. (And just because I am angry doesn’t mean I am going to be violent. I’m not a loser white man.)
I’m sitting here at my table looking at a copy of the speech “A Disappointed Woman” delivered by Lucy Stone at the National Woman’s Rights Convention from 1855.
As grateful I am for early feminists, I also know that the white women fighting for suffrage did not, most of them, have black women in mind. Or at least, if black women were in the white women’s minds, the ideas didn’t cross their lips. But I am not so quiet.
“It shall be the business of my life to deepen this disappointment in every woman’s heart until she bows down to it no longer.” (Stone)
I accept this as my work, also, Stone. I will not bow down. I will always stand up and fight for my fellow People.
I am beyond disappointed in the White Man laws made with “no basis except in the usages and prejudices of the age” (Stone). Beyond disappointed in the remnants of these laws that are still being used today to hinder….restrain….obstruct…..deny……punish…..build walls up around…..rape….destroy….systematically and slowly erode the foundation of…. an entire culture–nope, not just one culture. Cultures—plural! White men-serving laws made by white men cowardly in power and meant to punish black men and strip them of their rights…..THESE LAWS are still being used to OBSTRUCT THE ADVANCEMENT OF ANYONE WHO IS NOT A CIS-WHITE MAN, most especially black people, indigenous people, brown people, and people of color in general. THESE LAWS which have systematically destroyed entire cultures (and the whole time shouting “Freedom” and “Justice for All” )…..THESE LAWS which created and enabled so many fucked up systems are deeply ingrained in our cultural identity and show up in so many terrible, dangerous, and….simply frightening ways.
I can’t do any more tonight except to ask you once more before tomorrow’s election, to look into your heart, and then look out to your neighbors, and do what is required of you to make Democracy work: Vote FOR THE PEOPLE. Vote for the People whose voices are not yet equally and fairly represented in our government seats and in our government’s offices. We do have the power to give the power back to the PEOPLE.
Vote before 7 pm on November, 6th.
I leave you with these parting words:
“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” (Abe Lincoln)
Why do you think white men have allowed black people to have so many guns, but still keep them from voting?
Vote for everyone who still can’t. Vote for every child who lives in fear every day right here in the United States.
This piece is dedicated to the strong young woman who once delivered an essay to me over the phone, who just witnessed my first Live video. To Monica. Power to the People!