Voting is not enough to invoke change
In recent discourse on racial injustice, there have been many calls to action that consist of telling people to vote.
While voting can invoke change, most of the racial injustice in the past was not solved on the ballot but with other direct actions. While you can still vote, it’s important to realize that some other methods of political action are more direct.
If you actually want to help human rights in this country, you need to go beyond voting.
While encouraging voting is OK, we should recognize that even voting for the “best” people isn’t a solution to the problems in the U.S.
Our electoral system is full of negotiations and compromises between representatives that can often hurt us. Right or left, we should not fully rely on politicians for change.
Voting also doesn’t take very long and that leaves a person with so much more time to take action in a more direct manner.
One direct action people can take is protesting. Not all protests are effective though; many can be vague and unfocused such as the Women’s March.
But take the recent Black Lives Matter protests for example. It was not long after the protests started that the Minneapolis, Minnesota City Council decided to vote to defund and disband their police department.
The public sent a signal that they were not going to tolerate police anymore and so the politicians listened.
After Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, riots took place across America and then the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which banned housing discrimination, was signed.
Protests scare politicians into taking action and that is good. But if someone can’t protest for whatever reason, they can donate.
However, they need to be strategic about where they donate. They should contribute to organizations that are run by the people the organization serves, such as Black Lives Matter, bail funds and other minority run organizations that serve their community directly.
Also, don’t be afraid to just give money directly to people in need through apps like Venmo and Cash App.
Another great way to make change is through mutual aid, a system where communities take care of each other. This is different from charity in which it is structured in a way where one is dependent on another.
Mutual aid is a symbiotic relationship where people in the community help each other based on their immediate needs. Many people have used mutual aid during this pandemic. People buy groceries for neighbors who can’t leave their homes, buy medicine, walk dogs and other services.
Mutual aid becomes political by aiming to change political conditions by strengthening community relations and drawing attention to the root causes of issues.
The Black Panther Party’s Breakfast Program provided free meals to impoverished children; they took care of their community while also mobilizing their political platform.
They built solidarity by taking care of immediate needs but then organized to fight the system that made them impoverished in the first place.
There are many mutual aid funds to donate to, or you can participate more directly. It can be as simple as buying a neighbor some milk if they need some.
It is a great way to enact change, because it directly involves helping your own community, big or small, while creating conditions where political change can happen.
Voting may be a tactic for political change but our electoral system can only do so much in the time between elections. If you want to help drive change, you have to do more than vote. Protest, donate, help your neighbor.
Do your part.
Anna Baker is an English sophomore who can be reached at [email protected]