I stopped believing in democracy when I was ten years old. Growing up Black in Amerikkka one quickly learns that the majority doesn’t think or live like you, so the outcome of elections will not ever represent your wishes and desires. Some may think, that ten years old is a little young to lose faith in representative democracy, so let me start from the beginning.
The election of 1992 was the second election of my lifetime that I was cognizant of, the first being the election of 1988 between George H. Bush and Michael Dukakis. For both elections I was very interested in the process and the outomes, for both elections never ever rooting for Bush, ever. The first election, I am unsure why I liked Dukakis, I just did. He appealed to my 5 year old self on some level, and I ran with it. The second election, ummm, Bush started a war. I may have only been eight years old during the Gulf War, but eight year olds know that war is bad. So by the time I was ten I had five years to experience national electoral politics and to understand the ways that the process worked, etc. Now if I never rooted for Bush, and he didn’t win the last time, why did I stop believing in democracy?
I was not rooting for Clinton either. Growing up in a Black Nationalist household one always looks for the Black candidate. The election of 1992 my candidate was Ron Daniels. If you asked me today what his platform was, I would walk away without as much as an “ummmm.” I don’t remember his platform, but I do remember he had a Black woman running mate who had my mother’s name. Clinton won and I began to see that voting for someone other than the two main candidates was very similar to not voting at all; the difference being that voting for the underdog you literally exercise your right to vote, while the other plays no part in the entire process. That year, I came to understand that in a society as large as ours everyone’s opinions were not represented, the majority’s were and that didn’t include me.
I had grown to accept that no matter who was president or mayor my life was not going to change much whether a republican or a democrat was in office. The state would still be the state. Those in power would still be white men who were never going to understand the concerns of a young Black girl from Brooklyn. Now I did not completely turn a blind eye on the national political scene, because whether I was represented or not, policy always influenced some facet of my life; I mean I did go to public school. I just didn’t believe that the change that I needed to come was going to come via the electoral process.
Fast forward twelve years and the turn out for the election of 2004 was historic. It was the first presidential election that I voted in, and even though my mail in ballot never made it, I was still able to vote in Connecticut. I voted, and was glad to have been apart of the electoral process, the fruition of the struggles of my people were realized in me. A friend of mine had a party to watch the results on CNN and I went to eat their goodies, because a lil’ birdy told me that nothing was really going to change. Three hours later and white girls are bawling on the phone to parents because their candidate lost. I wondered why they took the turn out of the election so personally; didn’t they know that democracy works like that?
The next day, I was all smiles; I had no reason to be sad. I mean I knew that President Bush was going to be reelected, and there wasn’t really much that I could do. I mean 2000 was a giant mess, and without putting myself into a sticky situation, let’s just say that I didn’t actually believe he was going to lose the second time again. I believe he has Al Qaeda to thank for that. So I was prepared for November 3, 2004, way in advance, I didn’t even pay any attention to the arguments, I knew I would be making a vote against someone who thinks my womb to be state property.
My acceptance of the democratic process demands that I accept what the majority votes for, so goes tyranny of the majority. However, my mood was in direct opposition to that of all of my fellow WesHeads. Everyone was walking around as if Armageddon was definitely coming in like the next second. I knew that Wes was overwhelmingly liberal, whatever that means, but I didn’t expect “educated” people to react in such a manner to an election. Afterall, I stopped believing in democracy when I was ten, they were acting a bit remedial.
It was at this moment when I realized that finally what I had sensed all of my life, all of my feelings of not truly being included in the political scope of Amerikkka as a Black person, descendant of enslaved Africans considered to be 3/5 human, where a Black man is killed by the state and it is alright because the state has a monopoly on violence. In this Amerikkka, it finally reached a point where rich white kids from Palo Alto, CA and Newton, MA and Upper Manhattan, and other locales where liberals commune and hoard clean streets and good schools amidst poorer, Brown populaces, realized what I realized at ten. Democracy is the rule of the majority. What the majority determines to be, is how it is. What the losers, I mean minority wanted DOES NOT MATTER. As a citizen of a representative democracy, one has to accept that, and sometimes that means accepting that what you want doesn’t matter.
In a country where we identify with political parties as if it says something about who we truly are, your side losing the election comes to mean that you do not matter. Tough stuff to deal with for the rich who have always mattered. Not so hard for the marginal Black girl from Brooklyn who figured it all out twelve years before them. I stopped identifying with political parties and never sought to find parts of myself within this fabric that is Amerikkka. I know where I am, and I know the limits of that space. I don’t have fantastical images of the people taking back what is theirs, or that I am actually playing a part in the running of the country of my birth because I vote. I know why I vote.
I vote because as a descendant of those who built this country; this country who established its economic prowess with its sale in my people, I know that voting is a tribute to them and all they went through just so I could go to school, go to college, get a job and vote in elections. I participate because it took so much just for me to place a check in the box on a ballot. People were assassinated, hung, dogs biting brown flesh of children, all for me to place a vote, with the hope that it would be counted. Not voting is a slap in the face to my ancestors who survived much much worse than I, and whose shoulders I stand on. I do not vote for some false idea that I am considered an American, anywhere but within the confines of my immigrant families, or when I travel abroad. I know that the struggle continues, that voting is only one piece of the struggle to be treated like a human being in this society.
And while I lost faith in elections at the age of ten, I believe that we have all lost some faith in some piece of this myth we know to be America at some point. At some point we each felt that who we are was misrepresented or completely erased from the memory of this nation. The election turned out the way it did because people were standing up for what they know their Amerikkka to be. They didn’t recognize it, so they stood for a return to their comfort zones; where men are men who can control their wives, and gay folks aren’t married and evolution doesn’t exist. The difference between me and them, my reasons for why I stopped believing in elections is because unlike they, I have always known that the majority will never stand for or with me, as it did for them.
I stopped believing in democracy when I was ten years old, 8 years after I stopped believing in Rashid. But that is a tale for another time.