Voting while black — it’s not so simple

Jada-Amina, 22, Chicago native.
Photo submitted by Jada Amina

After every election, there is someone to blame for disappointing results, and those who chose not to vote often find fingers being pointed at fault.  

The election season is all about getting people to vote. No matter the political party or candidate, the objective is to get souls to the polls.

People are expected to do their due diligence as American citizens, to exercise their right to vote that is protected by the Fifteenth Amendment.

The framework to a voter turnout is hugely based on hope. Having hope gives people a positive narrative of what society could be like, and that reality is depended upon those who are eligible to vote.

Half of the battle is just getting people registered, the other half is getting those eligible to actually go out and vote. This November’s election season set a new record for voter turnout. It was the highest midterm turnout since 1914.

According to the United States Elections Project, a database about the United States electoral system, 49.3 percent of those eligible to vote, cast their ballot this year, with more than 116 million ballots being counted so far.

Neheemiah Nash
Photo submitted by Nehemiah Nash

But for some, being a part of the voting-eligible population doesn’t mean they totally agree with the American voting system. For some people, the idea of hope isn’t enough for them to cast their ballot.

Meet 22-year-old Chicago native Jada-Amina. This is her first time not voting since she registered at age 18, making her a participant in the 2016 presidential election. She comes from a civically engaged family, a granddaughter of a local activist and politician.

“Coming from a grandfather who ran for office, I was damn near geeked to be voting, it was instilled in me that it was important,” said Jada-Amina.

But it wouldn’t be long until the self-identified indigenous woman began to question her position in the voting system. Over the past two years, she has been on the journey to decolonization, meaning “unpacking all of the stuff I’ve been learning for 20 years.”

Instead of falling into peer pressure this past midterm election, Jada-Amina chose not to vote. Describing her last election experience as “uncomfortable,”she plans to no longer participate in a democracy that has failed her and her loved ones so severely.

“The reason why I’m not voting is because I am invested in the lives that are affected. I resist because of the way my ancestors were stripped from their land,” said Jada-Amina.

Like Jada-Amina, Nehemiah Nash lacked faith in the system of democracy in America. This November’s midterm election was his very first time voting. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, being that his knowledge of the political system is what birthed his belief system.

“I feel like it has historically and systematically not been beneficial for black folks, regardless of who was in office. I place little to no value in that system, and I still don’t,” said Nash.

After watching Malcolm X’s Ballot or The Bullet speech, Nash was inspired to take a new approach to politics as a black person, believing black people should be more assertive in politics.

“I didn’t really care about who gets the governor position, the main reason why I voted this time is because of Amendment  Four,” said Nash. 

Amendment four restores the rights of convicted felons in Florida who have completed all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation. It, along with a slew of other amendments, was approved on Nov. 6.

“I have a lot of people in my family that are politically aware but do not have the right to vote. They are the ones who told me to watch Malcolm X’s Ballot or The Bullet speech,” said Nash.

With an understanding of how America functions on politics, Nash plans to prioritize collective action and community outreach whether he chooses to cast his ballot next election or not.

“We are going to use this right, but this is not our only option. We still have power as a people to organize and collectively gather in order to make the changes we need to make,” said Nash.