Now that the euphoric wave of “Get out the vote!” followed by the flash of “I voted” stickers has died down, we are face to face with ourselves again.
I attribute this voting cycle to the glee a bride feels leading up to her wedding day. So filled with hope and excitement for the future and the prospect of a lifetime with the person she loves the most.
But then the wedding is over. There’s no more gifts or fanfare. It’s just you and the partner you’ve chosen to do eternity with, capsized from the adrenaline of celebration.
To me, that is what the recent midterm cycle felt like and I’m concerned that America has become so obsessed with the idea of voting, that we’ve forgotten about a crucial piece of the puzzle: accountability.
“Voters should begin by scheduling meetings with the candidates who won in their local election,” said Zahra Billoo, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. With the historic elections of two Muslim women, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the work of the council cannot be understated.
“Make sure these new representatives know who they work for and what our priorities are and will continue to be,” said Billoo.
It’s also time for Americans to realize that for hundreds of years, large segments of the population have been barred from participating in government. In return, our political system has continuously failed those who have been historically disenfranchised. Because please believe that the same people committed to voting against your best interests were galvanized to head to the polls too. And in some cases, those voices proved louder than what was good for the larger collective.
But on Tuesday we saw that the barrier held up by centuries of systemic blocking is finally beginning to break down.
While a few key races from last night have yet to be called, it was made evident that the future will be led by women. Black women, indigenous women, LGBTQ women, Muslim women and young women. Every single woman who has historically and emphatically been told, “no.”
“We invest in women at the local and state level not only because they have the power to create policy change that matters, but also because we need to fill the political pipeline to congress and the White House,” said Andrea Dew Steele, the President and Founder of Emerge America.
The organization recruits and provides on the ground training for progressive Democratic candidates. Some of their most notable alumni this election are Ayanna Pressley, who just made history by becoming the first Black woman to win a congressional seat in Massachusetts, and Lucy McBath, who was propelled to act after her son, Jordan Davis. was fatally shot by a white man in a senseless act of violence. McBath’s congressional election in Georgia has yet to be called.
“We all win when women have a seat a the table and our democracy reflects the diversity of this country,” Steele continued.
Voter suppression and voting access are two critical components that continue to stain America’s voting system. Across the country, progressive policies were placed on the ballot on Tuesday. As a result, over 1 million felons in Florida will have the access to the ballot, a measure which will significantly affect voters of color and reverse archaic Jim Crow tactics of voter suppression.
We as voters also need to hold our local election boards accountable for their piss poor management of the voting system. If my vote is crucial to the framework of the country, resources to participate in the voting process should be seamless and accessible. As we know this is not the case for many, especially if you are poor and Black.
“Prioritizing Secretary of State and City/County Clerk races will ensure the best people for the job are running the election,” Billoo said. “In addition to that, know your rights information is critical. Seamlessness will develop as a next step to accountability, and voters need to know their rights to hold the people and process accountable.”
But most of all, don’t let your eyes glaze over when it comes to what needs to be done in your communities. Stay engaged. Attend community board meetings and city council meetings. Keep track of how your elected officials vote on issues while they are in office, and call them out when you see they’re voting against the platforms they ran on. Join grassroots organizations that are on the ground, doing the work. It is not enough to simply pay attention when the ship is sinking, as we saw in 2016.
Those who have laid the groundwork for our freedoms are often blocked from enjoying the fruit of their labor due to fatigue, the premise of death, or emotional instability from the physical work of constantly placing their bodies on the line. If you feel tired or disengaged give yourself enough care to acknowledge it, but remain connected. Somehow, someway, you will feel energized to do the good work again.
This is where real change occurs. Nothing in this country trickles down. It has always trickled up.
Article originally featured on MadameNoire.com.