By Susan D. Peters
The election for president of the United States will take place in 2024. In addition, there will be city, state, and local elections leading up to 2024. As a Baby Boomer, born between 1946 and 1964, I was raised during the Civil Rights movement. I understood that there were areas of the segregated City of Chicago, like Bridgeview, Marquette Park, and Cicero, where Black people were not welcome, particularly after dark. I understood the lyrics of Strange Fruits sung by the legendary Lady Day, Billy Holiday. I felt secondhand her trauma driving through the south and witnessing the bodies of lynched Black people hanging from trees. The knowledge of how hard my people fought and continue to fight voter suppression is why, without question, I will vote.
“If you are a regular voter, this message is not directed to you.”
This conversation is aimed at millions of young people who have not exercised the right to vote and are not persuaded by our emotional recollections of the sacrifices made by our elders for voter’s rights. Our future as a nation lies in the hands of these youth. If we can’t enroll and engage them in the electoral process, “We the People” are screwed.
It is human nature to instinctively prefer to engage with people who look like us, think like us, and share similar social beliefs. Frankly, that is a HUGE part of the problem.
We tune out youth that uses language full of expletives, who don’t think, look, or lean left or right like us. Our disconnection from the youth is yet another reason that the divide in the United States has deepened instead of narrowing. We can’t control, don’t understand, and are often afraid of our youth. We must change that behavior.
Most Black Baby Boomers speak passionately about the fact that we will always vote. We recognize the struggle that our forebearers experienced during Jim Crow racism in the South and North. But, perhaps because we are not the best purveyors of our history, I question whether generations X, the Millennials, or Generation Z, understand the impact of the Voting Rights bill. President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed on August 6, 1965, and the struggle and bloodshed that preceded that bill’s signing. Depending upon the background or ethnicity of today’s youth, the history of the importance of voting rights that we provide them as they may actually interpret FACTS as our OPINIONS. Sit with that for a moment.
Facts: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.
Opinions: What someone thinks, feels or believes.
Can our children tell the difference between opinion and fact? We live in a country where over a hundred thousand citizens, on January 6, 2021, stormed the Capital of the United States of America, attempting to overthrow the government. They confused Donald Trump’s OPINION that he deserved to continue in the presidency despite election returns to the contrary with the FACT that America is governed by a constitution that has a prescribed, orderly way power is transferred in what we have presumed to be a democratic government.
Spending billions on television advertising, stuffing our mailboxes with full-color flyers, and filling our yards with signage will not encourage the youth to vote. This generation of youth consumes their information and news differently from laptops and smartphones. Their news sources are cable, YouTube, and streaming network commercials.
Recently, I posed this question on social media, “What do you think will encourage youth to vote?” Most respondents had no idea. One thoughtful community activist responded that youth require “knowledge of how politics directly impacts their lives, combined with tangible relationships with those running for office.” Another response was, “youth see the hypocrisy in the system, and it will take authenticity to bring them to the polls.”
Civic Influencers https://civicinfluencers.org/ reports that in 2021 four million Americans turned 18. The non-profit focuses on engaging, informing, motivating, and turning out the youth vote. They are employing a methodology that aligns with my responses to my social media post. Politicians interested in harnessing the potential power of the diverse block of youth voters must create systems to teach our youth about electoral politics and how engaging in this civic responsibility impacts their lives and benefits them. The youth will not vote by rote. They need the questions, Who for? What For? And Why? clearly answered.
Part of African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection (864)
Rare Book and Special Collections Division (35,806)
Library of Congress Online Catalog (1,325,632)
(cover) WHAT A COLORED MAN SHOULD DO TO VOTE
To the colored men of voting age in the southern states.
The contents of the Library of Congress African American Perspectives collection have no known copyright restrictions and are free to use and reuse.
Susan D. Peters, aka, Ahnydah (ah-NIE-dah) Rahm, brings a wealth of experience gained as an expatriate living in West Africa. Her memoir Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot, received the Black Excellence Award for Non-Fiction from the African American Alliance of Chicago and the Mate E. Palmer award for Non-Fiction from the Illinois Press Women’s Association. Stolen Rainbow, a short story focused on the post combat recovery of a beautiful marine captain after a devastating combat injury. Broken Dolls, represents Susan’s foray into mystery writing and is the first of a series featuring the flawed Detective Joi Sommers as its heroine. The second Joi Sommers mystery, The Iron Collar is a riveting story with multiple ingenious twists, and Slay the Dragon the third in the series, illuminates the sexual exploitation of children in expected and unexpected ways. Her most recent novella, The Chef’s Choice is a delightful holiday romance. Susan’s work is featured in numerous anthologies. Buy her books online and at www.SusanDPeters.com.