Previous to the year 2000 I had imagined I’d be riding on a hoverboard with automatic lacing shoes but here I was, a year removed from my senior year in high school, a new college student fresh from Marine Corps bootcamp waiting in line to vote at a polling station somewhere in Kenosha, Wi. This would be my first time being eligible to vote and at the time that I was standing in line to vote I felt very strongly about it. I felt the feels of every time I had heard about my ancestors sacrificing their lives so that I could vote. Images of the brutality they faced while attempting to vote raced through my mind. I thought about all of those who had to walk miles to vote to only get turned around. I felt that now, with my vote, was the time to change the world.
As me and some fellow students talked amongst ourselves in line I looked up to notice a group of seemingly angry white male and female individuals protesting and shouting directly at us. I didn’t pay them much mind though. Probably just some old motherfuckers who were voting for Bush I thought to myself. Deep down I knew they were about to be hurt after the election because that day we decided we were going to show up to the polls and be the generation to make a difference! After waiting in line for some time we had our opportunity to cast our votes and we were excited! We had the polling station jumping like a college party! I mean everyone had pulled up and we were about to be heard! We did it! We were coming together to exercise our civic duty! We were making our ancestors proud! We were voting for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman! We didn’t know much about either of the two but all we knew was we had to BEAT BUSH and Bush was a Republican and black folks just don’t vote Republican. Period. We walked out of that polling station with a sense of pride so thick that you could cut it with a knife. We looked at all the angry people shouting at us who didn’t want us there as if they didn’t exist. We came for the win tonight baby! We knew it was OUR time. Or so we thought.
Later that evening we assembled to watch the election results. The naivety of our youth shined bright as our hopes and ambitions to change the world. As we watched the results we grew more excited because it had seemed that our candidate was going to win. Unfortunately things got all screwed up in Florida and it was unclear who won the election that night. Votes would soon be counted, George Bush Jr would win by a slight margin and there we were left looking stupid. There was a recount announced on the Florida votes but after a month of legal battles the recount was overturned by a controversial Supreme Court vote of 5-4.
After standing in line and waiting to vote while being picketed against. After having envisioned what those who have came before me had to go through to vote. After being filled with pride and excitement of making a difference. I felt sincerely let down. I felt as left out of the political process as those who had come before me except this time I was made to believe. I felt like a fool. Like a puppet. I felt used. I felt as if I had put on my best suit on and got laughed at by the pretty light skinned girl in class because it had a stain on it. Less than twenty four hours after my first political engaging experience I felt disengaged and disenfranchised.
This initial experience helped to craft my own political ideology. My political ideology is based upon years of going out to “Rock the Vote” and or “Vote or Die” for politicians who don’t hold my best interest at hand. My political ideology is one which is aligned with my everyday existence. My political ideology is rooted deeply in the reality that Black men in America deserve to be respected and treated as first class citizens of this land. Yet to this day I have not had the opportunity to vote for such a politician whom so passionately feels the way that I do about the elevation and preservation of the lives of Black men in America. Which makes me think. If I am supposed to be voting for someone who is willing to make changes to benefit my life? Why am I voting for any old white man as If he would value my life as equally as he does his own?