In less than 46 days, we have an opportunity to make history once again. Whether you mask-up and head to the polls, drop off your ballot, or vote by mail, we each have the power to change our country's direction and reset our path. It’s hard to forget that feeling - casting your vote and watching it make history. Let’s do it again on November 3rd.
This year has laid bare the reality of Donald Trump’s America. Almost daily we’re waking up to news of civil unrest and outrage caused by mounting frustrations of patterns of police brutality and systemic racism. Meanwhile, we continue living through a global pandemic that has taken the lives of more than 200,000 Americans, devastating our communities of color.
As a country, we have not seen the moral — and frankly — competent leadership from this White House necessary to address the challenges we face. If there’s ever been a time to come up with a plan to vote — it’s now.
Senator Kamala Harris made history as the first Black woman to be nominated vice president. Her extraordinary experiences and record of fighting to protect those most vulnerable in our society should give us all confidence that she and Vice President Joe Biden will focus on ways of healing our country and bringing us together, rather than adding fuel to the fire of an increasingly polarized country. We know they will be powerful and effective partners for the Black community from day one.
Today, as millions reclaim their vote as part of BET’s National Black Voter Day, we cannot forget what is at stake in this election and those who gave everything to ensure we as Black people can vote.
Champions for the cause of justice and freedom like Diane Nash, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, and many others endured the unimaginable so that there could be a Barack Obama and Kamala Harris. Congressman John Lewis, a man who fought for equal rights, left us with a clarion call to use the power of the vote to be the “change agent” our democracy needs. He said, “The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society” and that “our democracy is not a state. It is an act.” As we reclaim our rightful place in this democracy, we must exercise our full citizenship like never before.
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If we want change, voting is how we make it a reality. It is not enough to say we want to see change; we have to be the change we seek. If we want accountability in our policing, we must vote. If we want better schools, we must vote. If we're going to tackle inequity in pay, housing, health care or all of the other challenges facing our community, we must vote. If we want leaders that care about our community and will put our interests first, we must vote.
There will be some who may question whether their vote will make a difference. Consider this - in 2016 Donald Trump won Wisconsin by 23,000 votes, yet in Milwaukee 93,000 Blacks did not vote. In Florida, Donald Trump won by 177,000 votes, but in Miami alone, 379,000 eligible Black voters did not vote. The story is the same in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia; the margins by which Donald Trump was able to win are dwarfed by the number of Black voters who could have made a difference in our democracy if they voted. Too much is on the line for us to sit this election out.
Voting is the only way to ensure that your concerns matter. When you don’t vote, you’re letting somebody else take power over your own life. Make a plan to vote today and help organize your families, friends, community and co-workers to ensure that they are registered and ready to vote too.
When Black people vote we have the power to change the outcome of an election. Our moment to change history is now and if you believe as I believe that Black Lives Matter, sitting out this election season is not an option.
Valerie Jarrett is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir "Finding My Voice: When the Perfect Plan Crumbles, the Adventure Begins." She was the longest serving senior adviser to President Barack Obama and oversaw the White House Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. She chaired the White House Council on Women and Girls. She is currently a senior distinguished fellow at the University of Chicago Law School, and a senior adviser to the Obama Foundation and ATTN: She also serves on the boards of Lyft, Ariel Investments, 2U, the Innocence Project, Time’s Up, the Economic Club of Chicago and the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.