In just seven days, tens of millions of Americans will join the more than 50 million Americans who have already cast their early and absentee ballots in the 2020 presidential election.
They will stand, faces covered, in lines that stretch around the block, each of them waiting for his or her chance to cast a ballot and have a voice in who we are as a nation, who we will be and where we go from here.
But, for many of us, Election Day will be about more than political philosophy or preference. It isn’t about winning a contest or owning the opposition. It isn’t about exercising their civil rights or civic duty or even making history.
You see, echoing the words of Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman, Rep. Karen Bass, seven days from now Black men and women across this country will cast “a survival vote” in this election.
That may be difficult for some folks to believe. It may be hard to imagine that kind of gravity or admit that, in 2020, Black Americans are still fighting for their survival.
But we know that, despite false claims to the contrary, the political tectonic plates have shifted significantly since 2016 and this election will mean life or death for many people who look like me and communities that look like mine.
The facts paint an undeniable picture particularly with the pandemic exposing deep racial disparity in this country.
OPINION: Black Men Must Cast Their Votes, The Stakes Are Just Too High
COVID-19 infection rates in the Black community are roughly 260% higher than in white communities.
And it’s not just the healthcare ramifications. The economic consequences of COVID-19 have hit black and brown families the hardest with 60% of Black and 72% of Latino families facing “serious financial problems” compared to just 36% of white households.
Of course, the pandemic is just part of the equation because we’re still facing a nation where Black women are paid 62 cents for every dollar paid to white men. Black children still face a school-to-prison pipeline that condemns them to a lifetime of poverty and servitude. Latinos and African-Americans still make up less than a third of our total population but more than two thirds of our prison population.
Black parents still have to teach their children how to survive a traffic stop and the families of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and countless others across the nation still call out for justice while our President refuses to condemn police violence or extremist groups like the Proud Boys who gleefully fan the flames of racial violence.
And in the midst of all this - the largest social movement since the 1960s, the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression and a pandemic unlike anything we’ve seen in more than a century - we have an election.
So we’re voting for our very lives. That’s why they’re doing everything they can to distract us, dismiss the threats we face and keep us from casting the ballot upon which our very survival depends.
But as much as they try, as much as they threaten, intimidate, suppress and oppress, we refuse to give in.
In seven days, we will face them down to vote for our survival. So while the obstacles before us are great...we shall overcome.