In our home everyone proudly walks in on election day with their “I Voted” sticker. That’s just the way I grew up. Every election, local or national, my family voted. When I was little, my parents typically would go to a polling location near my elementary school or somewhere near our house. I remember going with them and feeling the excitement build as my parents filled in the bubbles.
Photo Credit: Sophia Arredondo Stringer
This year, I will be voting for the first time. My mom and I recently had a conversation about why it’s so important to vote in this election. She told me that voting was significant for her because her family immigrated from Mexico to the United States and had to work hard to become naturalized citizens in order to exercise their right to vote. She herself was born on this side of the border so the right was automatically granted to her. She also reminded me that it was only 100 years ago that women gained the right to vote and just over 50 years since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. She told me we should never take our right to vote for granted. With that conversation, it hit me. I am a young Black and Latinx voter. I come from two beautiful cultures that worked immensely hard for their right to vote in this country–for the right to be represented.
The Black side of my family, my paternal side, has never been able to fully track our family history because of slavery. What I do know is that I am a descendent of enslaved people from the South. Strong people. Resilient people. The elders in my family grew up during the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, at a time when thousands of Black men were drafted to fight in the war but faced intimidation and racism when trying to vote in the country they fought for. Even today, I know that voter suppression is still very real in many parts of the country.
I think about my family today and the world around me. With this pandemic, we had to celebrate my high school graduation with family driving through with signs. There have been a number of family members who have contracted COVID-19 and we worry for their lives. Amidst it all we have protests fighting for racial equality and justice. Between the new stories of innocent lives lost, police abusing their power, families in distress, and loved ones becoming sick, I am considering it all as I approach this election.
When the election happens, I will be away at college, or at least I think I will be. With the pandemic, nothing is certain. I’m trying to balance staying informed about the presidential election, COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement on top of getting ready to leave for a school 1,000 miles away. I’m just 18 years old and to put it simply, I’m already exhausted.
While there is a lot I don’t know about the near future, what I do know is that now it’s my turn to vote and I won’t take this opportunity for granted. When I reflect on what I want in a president, I know that not all my criteria can be met. However, I’ll vote for who can advance issues that matter to me such as women’s rights: eliminating the gender pay gap, protecting women’s rights to their own body without government control, the right to have birth control covered by our health insurance. I also care about affordable housing, universal health care, racial justice, and equity and access to higher education. I believe a president should be a leader to all, not just the wealthy or elite. And although I don’t know who will win the 2020 presidential election, I know that the issues that matter to me don’t matter to our current President. This is why I will be voting for Biden.
Now as I approach my first election, I want to make sure other young people vote too.
My generation is often quick to take to social media with our opinions but we must also take action with our votes. I hope that we all wear our “I Voted” stickers on November 3, 2020 and reflect on those who struggled before us to earn the right to have their voices heard.