By Jessica Carpenter
We have seen them more often now leading up to November 3rd. Billboard signs, social media posts, celebrity endorsements, commercials all pointing to one similar message: Vote.
I cannot tell you how many captions I’ve had to come up with detailing the importance of making your voice heard.
“Vote because it is essential.”
“Vote because you can make a difference.”
“Vote because it is your civic duty as an American.”
Even though all of these statements are true, for me, the message seemed to lose its weight after the hundredth post. Outside of this single worded call to action, I found questions that carried far more weight.
Such as, will my vote matter? Will my friends still speak to me if we do not vote the same? What if I don’t like my voting choices? What if I don’t like the solutions candidates are offering? After a few thought spirals and a bit of research, I found myself mailing off my ballot.
Days later, while scrolling through Twitter, I saw a news article discussing a series of new proposals to help the Black community in the United States. Following the reignition of the Black Lives Matter movement in May, the only solutions I had heard were between defunding and defending the police. This article was not a content analysis of the proposals, just a description of how the creator, rapper Ice Cube, had faced backlash for his association with President Trump.
Tempted by the offer of new solutions to aid in facing systemic racism in America, I decided to read the thirteen proposals making up the Contract for Black Americans.
The contract, I thought, made a lot of sense. It discussed new standards for policing and police funding. It introduced investments in lower-income families, Black youth, and Black-owned businesses. It addressed the mass incarceration numbers that disproportionately affected Black men. To my surprise, I discovered that the contract was reviewed by both presidential candidates, who, in turn, agreed to move forward with Ice Cube, developing plans in close association with the contract.
I left the article with two thoughts: one, that it was well thought out. And two, Ice Cube isn’t a politician, but he is offering a solution. While we aren’t on the same playing field, Ice Cube–being a renowned rapper–and me–being an introverted college student–the plan he and so many others put together caught political leaders’ attention and could very well find itself implemented.
This spurred the thought that we, as regular civilians, might have more power in politics than we think.
As if that needed any more relevant explanation, look at the Black Lives Matter movement’s overall impact this year. In the months following George Floyd’s death and the initial eruption of protests, officials have offered different means to accommodate the voices found within the chaos. Imagine if we could create tangible solutions that produced actual change instead of a hodgepodge of statements formed out of anger and fear—applying it further to issues like climate change and gun rights.
The Contract for Black Americans was created by the people affected by the lack of resolutions to the issues targeted within said proposals. Instead of fiery words, this group of people came forward with a list of initiatives and objectifiable numbers. Hundreds of voices across the country absorbed it. Learning this, I finally understood the statement “the pen is mightier than the sword.”
Lawmakers don’t have to worry about making the masses happy when it’s the masses who are proposing the solutions.
We can do all the protesting, all the Twitter posts, and all the finger-pointing and complaining we want. We can do all the voting we want and hope one candidate’s solutions are closest to our ideal, but I think there is actual power in crafting an answer yourself.
We forget that we, as Americans, have this power.
This post is not to say, don’t vote. Go vote. Make your voice heard. It is your civic duty as an American. But know that there are things you can do outside of just voting. Let that motivate you enough to see what else can be solved by some creative thinking and initiative.
About the Author
I am an undergrad student at Arizona State University studying journalism, business, and political science. I have worked on PR strategy, event planning, graphic design, and building media connections at the Bridge Arizona State chapter.