One of my favorite quotes is that “democracy is not a spectator sport”. It is not. We all need to do our part from voting, to volunteering, and running for office. During these times, there is so much on the line, especially for women of color.
While watching CSPAN, it was very obvious from a young age that I was watching a chamber full of people that was supposed to represent me and my family, yet I did not see a lot of people that exactly looked like me. Where was the representative democracy that was talked about in my school text books? Where were the women that were increasingly become a majority of the population? Where the women of color, like the ones I saw in my community, that were making a difference every day?
It was not until I got to high school that I truly began to embrace politics. Mrs. King was my Government teacher when I was a high school student growing up in Nevada. At a time when we were not old enough to vote she allowed us to be active participants by encouraging us to learn about our local races, meet and question the candidates running to represent us, register to vote in advance of our 18th birthday and to volunteer on campaigns.
Mrs. King was well-connected in our state and for one lesson invited two candidates running for statewide election to come and address the class on separate days. She asked us to read their platforms and prepare questions to ask these candidates to ensure that we were just not talked at, but actively listened to.
After reading their positions on issues I knew which candidate I would support if I could vote and which one I wouldn’t. I prepared questions for the candidates and when they came to our class I was read. While I had a nice discussion with Candidate # 1 I couldn’t say the same for the latter candidate. Unfortunately, he was not ready to answer questions from an astute government student who had read up on his stances on issues and had concerns about how he had voted on a bill. When I asked his rational for voting against that bill he tried to play it off as if I had my facts wrong and inferred that I was a silly high school student. I knew I had my fact rights and did not appreciate being dismissed. I was mad. I grew angrier when he called Mrs. King after the class and admitted that I was correct, and he voted against the bill. After that, I went from mad, to infuriated.
I kept asking myself, “Why did he lie to me?” Was it because I was young? Was it because I was a girl? Was it because I couldn’t vote? He was right about one thing, I was a young girl and I couldn’t vote. However, I could volunteer my time and energy and I was going to, for his opponent. And that is how I came to volunteer on my first campaign.
Every single free minute I had was spent volunteering for the candidate in the race I liked, and who spoke to me (and not at me) even though I wouldn’t be able to return the favor with a vote on Election Day. I would talk to everybody I came in contact with about my candidate. I spoke to my family and friends and friends of the while volunteering I learned how to phone bank and canvass sharing my excitement about the candidate with people I didn’t know. I did everything I could to channel that anger from Candidate #2 into positive energy to benefit Candidate #1.
The general election came, and that night, there was no clear winner. Why? The vote count was too close. They had to do a recount. As if I wasn’t anxious enough, I had to wait on a recount! Fast forward a few weeks later, the recount happened and my candidate won. He won by less than 460 votes. Yep, you read that right. 460 votes.
I was young, I was a girl, I could not vote, but, I could volunteer.
The BGG has compiled a list of resources to help you volunteer ahead of Election Day. You can find it here.
Don’t let anybody tell you that volunteering won’t make a difference. Don’t let anybody tell you that their vote does not matter. Don’t tell yourself that volunteering and voting does not matter.