"Marissa Johnson, left, and Mara Jacqueline Willaford—co-founders of the Seattle chapter of Black Lives Matter—take over the microphone at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, far right, on Aug. 8, 2015 in downtown Seattle." (via Slate).
I'm a pretty jaded person when it comes to politics. The political climate feels incredibly polarized and inefficient. And while senators are wasting time stopping bills for purely political reasons people are losing their homes, getting their wages our hours cut, losing benefits they need to survive, or cutting their education short. Inequality is increasing and the worse it gets the harder it will be to correct. So being jaded honestly seems like a rational response most days.
So I didn't take much notice when Sanders came along.
His ideas sounded great to me: raising the minimum wage, investing in infrastructure, ending tuition of public universities, expanding Medicare. There's a lot of problems with that plan but the idea seems solid. Of course in the back of my head I was thinking: He'll never get elected, and if he does he won't be able to accomplish those things, or they'll be done but there won't be enough institutional support to back them up... on and on.
And he hadn't yet addressed the issue that was most important to me: Police brutality.
Police presence has been extremely heavy in NYC.
This isn't just my personal experience, but a quantifiable fact. And the results have been awful. Just this past summer the city paid an almost $6 million dollar settlement to the family or Eric Garner- who was killed by NYPD officers in 2014. However not a single person has been held accountable for his death. And this is not an isolated incident. It's an epidemic. And very few people in office are speaking about it, let alone doing anything about it.
Which is why Sanders sitting down with Black Lives Matter caught my attention.
Because unlike some of the other candidates, Sanders respected their constitutional right to convene and protest. Not only that, but he listened. He wanted to know what they felt and what he could do to help. Because of that meeting, he's added an outline for reducing racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. Addressing racial inequality will of course take a long time, and racism won't go away with a few good economic policies. But what he's suggesting would mean greater opportunities for all of us- which would mean more empowerment for the people fighting for justice. He's not promising to fix it all because he can't- no one person can. But we can all start the work, and until we all do it's not going to get done.
However you feel about the issues, I encourage you to vote.
A democracy doesn't work if we're not all participating. The thing I took away from this news was that being jaded is fine- but it doesn't get anything done unless it's accompanied by action. It's so tempting to check out because you don't feel like you're being represented, because your needs aren't being addressed, or because you no longer believe in the system. I get that. But not voting doesn't solve any of those problems. Voting, writing to your representatives, working and supporting those whose work aligns with your views will empower you to focus your energy on solutions.