Alright, Black people—let’s push past Ice Cube’s meeting with Trump and 50 Cent’s declaration supporting his reelection. Yes we love hot tea and messiness from the celebrity world but we ain’t got time to be distracted or led in the wrong direction.
We’re all focused on the upcoming presidential election but y’all, we gotta to remember to #VoteLocal, too.
Every couple of years we have the opportunity to retain or replace judges, participate in school board elections and senate and state representative races. Those down-ballot contests matter just as much as national ones because they affect us at the local level. But sadly, they don’t receive as much attention or engagement and that’s how we end up stuck in the status quo.
So first, everybody has to #GetEducated. Because ignorant voting is just as bad as not voting.
I know our internet is stretched thin because most of our kids are doing distance learning and most of us adults are on endless Zoom calls but, we still have enough bandwidth to do a Google search on a candidate or ballot measure. And I cannot tell y’all how much it grinds my gears when people ask me who to vote for while standing there on their phones researching the foolery from the latest “Real Housewives” of whatever episode or vote for a specific party across the board because it supposedly represents their needs.
I mean, you can think a politician with the word “progressive” attached to their name will take care of you but brightbeam’s The Secret Shame: How America’s Most Progressive Cities Betray Their Commitment to Educational Opportunity report determined that’s a lie. So think again.
Because what happens when you don’t do your research? You keep judges on the bench that criminalize students—particularly Black students. Like Judge Mary Ellen Brennan who sentenced a 15-year-old Black girl to detention for skipping her schoolwork during distance learning.
Or put someone in office whose record clearly shows bias or indifference towards young Black people—like Patrick O’Brien, who’s running for Cook County State Attorney here in Illinois. Years ago he oversaw the prosecution that wrongfully put four Black teenaged boys—known as the Roscetti Four—in prison for kidnapping and raping a 23-year-old medical student.
One of the exonerated men said O’Brien told him, “We know you all ain’t do this crime. But it’s a white woman from Springfield. Somebody’s got to pay for this crime.” This was in 1988 and now in 2020, O’Brien still won’t admit he made a mistake.
These kids and so many more lost their education and more importantly, their innocence to the injustice system. The judges we retain or remove can be the difference between breaking the school-to-prison pipeline or inflating it and, all in all, stop the criminalization of Black boys and girls.
When we don’t vote in school board, municipal and state elections, we’re abandoning things like the opportunity to determine how our schools and students are invested in and which superintendent or CEO is best to lead our district. We walk away from the chance to appoint kinfolk that represent our needs and reflect the demographics of most urban public school districts, as research shows school board elections are largely determined by white voters.
To make it make sense even more and fit the times we’re living in, the school board member you elect could be the tie-breaking vote to remove SROs from schools or redirect funding from the police budget to much needed extracurriculars and student supports.
And if you think all school board members are do-gooders who want to see our kids succeed so we don’t have to worry about them, think again on that one, too. School board races have political influence tied to larger agendas so you should essentially look at the candidates as politicians, too.
So if you skimmed through everything else just to get to the end, here’s what I need y’all to take away from what I said:
- The presidential election ain’t the only thing we have to worry about. We MUST #VoteLocal, too.
- When voting, it’s critically important that we get the tea ourselves. If we have time to research and learn the latest TikTok dances, we can put that same energy into checking candidates’ records and resumes so we aren’t retaining or putting trash people in office. #GetEducated
- Judicial, school board, local and state elections matter—those are really where your voice is heard, needs are met and justice is served.
- I didn’t mention this above but, some of our ancestors died for us to be able to cast a ballot. Honor their fight and claim your right as a citizen of this country.
- Finally, vote—just do it!