Black or African American

Beyond The Ballot, We Cannot Rest

by Lauren Footman

Daily, we have borne witness to the divisive language and tactics that have been employed during the 2016 Election.

I have often had to remind myself: God is still in control and all things happen according to His plan.

The 2016 election has reminded me how much further we actually have to go as a nation in order to build a more just and equitable society. For instance, we must face the fact that our urban cties are facing the harsh realities of deep poverty, subpar education, lack of socioeconomic opportunity and high rates of violence.

As I reflect on these harsh realities, I am often disheartened because I know all of these issues and more are at stake in this election cycle. Unfortunately these issues are not the focus of all candidates, pundits, or even some voters. This election, which has become a spectable,  has shifted focus on some of the biggest issues of structuctural oppression that affects our communities. This is problematic, because young black men are 14 times more likely to be killed than their white counterparts.

It is disheartening that in 2016 I cannot merely discuss primary  electoralissues such as economic and employment opportunities and access to quality education for all. I find also, I must continuously defend my humanity as a woman, and my rights to say no to sexual advances, to choose what happens to my body, and to be respected without objectification or reduced to a sexual being. We have heard so many disrespectful statements and witnessed actions that are not aligned with the values we pride ourselves on as Americans. These words and actions have not been loving, accepting, and celebrating of our differences.

Currently, we are at crossroads in our country, and we have a very important choice to make on Tuesday.

As voters we will make history one way or another. We will decide who leads our country for the next 8 years; who will appoint new judges to the Supreme Court. Whomever wins this election, it will have lasting impacts on the lives of people around the world for generations to come, and that is why this election is so crucial.

Even families have to be cautious about engaging their children in current events because of the dehumanizing and unacceptalbe conversations between the media and our candidates.

This election does make us think “What would Jesus do?”

This summer, Representative Lewis organized a sit in on the House floor to hold his colleagues accountable around issues of gun control. Lewis, who is no stranger to protest, helped illustrate how important it is to ensure all of our elected officials are voting for our interest, and why we as voters need to be educated about our Representatives and Senators. Congress on the other hand, chose to stand against necessary gun legislation. Even when we asked for the means to protect our communities from countless mass shootings and gun violence, necessary and comprehensice legislation was not passed. This is why it is so imperative to have well informed voters.

Beyond navigating inappropriate language in this presidential election we are also tasked with electing a Congress body to represent our communities. It is without question that the next President needs the support of Congress to make the meaningful impact our country desperately needs. And yet, we have seen how party affiliation as well as racist, misogynist attitudes from our elected officials have impacted our country negatively. This demonstrates just how much progress we still have left to make as a country.

It is very easy to be swept along into the media circus and sensationalism of elections. But there are serious questions that should be addressed by all levels of government. Our country is plagued with grave issues of mass shootings, lack of health and child care, school to prison pipeline, racist immigration policies, and high cost of higher education. What other information is needed for Congress to act? What other information is needed for voters to ensure that they will arrive at the polls, ready to vote? America is very often a beacon of hope for people navigating difficult government in other countries. Yet, our own problems of inequality have gone unaddressed for far too long.

There is too much at stake to be swept along by headlines.

Our communities are fighting to survive every day, and lthough the road ahead is harsh, there is no doubt that with resilience we can provide each other the support we need to achieve our versions of the American dream. As a person of faith, I am hopeful that this election cycle has helped us come to terms with the volume and as well as the nature of the work still left to do. For this reason, I cannot help but reflect on Sweet Honey In The Rock’s Ella’s Song: “We Who Believe In Freedom Cannot Rest Until It Comes.”

Photo via flickr user KOMUnews