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Standing, waiting, hoping: Learning the power of my vote

As a military family, I’m used to voting by mail. But this year, I’m not leaving anything up to chance. Instead of dropping my ballot in the mail, I’m picking up and driving it with me from Fayetteville, North Carolina, where my husband is currently stationed, to South Carolina, my home state. Why? Because this election is too important to do anything less. Because this year is a referendum on so many things—but for me and my family, it’s a referendum on racial justice. 

Some people may look at my family and see the classic all-American family. My husband’s in the military. I run my own small business. Together, we take care of our two young boys. All around, we think of ourselves as pretty good people. But I’ve learned that even fitting into these stereotypical boxes of what makes a “good” family isn’t enough to protect us from racism. This realization happened, of all places, on a mini-golf course. Mini-golf is my family’s favorite activity, and we were playing down in Missouri where my husband was stationed at the time. All of a sudden, someone started yelling racist obscenities at us and we were shocked. Even my husband, who’s used to acting quickly, was caught off guard. I stood silently.  

In the years since, I’ve thought about what was taken away from us that day. My two young boys were just trying to play their favorite game. Would they forever have negative associations from that day? Will they ever get to experience the innocence of childhood like their non-Black peers? What does it mean and feel like to live knowing that for some people, your skin color will always be more important than your actions? What more will be taken from my sons as they grow older?

As I think about my drive to South Carolina to drop off my ballot, my mind always drifts back to my two boys. Two Black boys who will soon be Black men (and who will even sooner be seen as Black men by a society that forces Black children to grow up much faster than white children). They’re six and nine now, and I just gave them their first lesson on voting as part of our homeschooling this year. They already know that there was a time when not everybody was allowed to vote, including our family. I showed my boys my absentee ballot and explained how important it was not just for me, but for this country, for me to vote. 

Because at the end of the day, our votes are about hope. The hope that, maybe not today or tomorrow, but maybe the next generation of Black children after my sons will be able to have the innocent childhood my kids deserved. The hope that America will more forcefully reckon with its past and present racism. The hope that boys like mine won’t have anything else taken from them, simply because of their race. 

Hope. That’s what it’s all about, which is why I’m taking part in MoveOn’s Your Vote Is Power campaign to make sure myself and my community get to the polls.

The first time I went to the polls with my grandmother, Emma, I drove to my hometown from college and remember seeing a long line of people that looked just like me. I stood silently, just like I had that day on the mini-golf course. But that day I was silent for a very different reason. I stood in awe of the sight in front of me, of seeing an almost never ending line of Black people—people whose ancestors most likely just one or two generations ago couldn’t vote—standing, waiting, and hoping. I could only think of one thing: I’m so glad I showed up. 

So show up this year. Don’t stop hoping even when it might seem like there’s not much left to be hopeful about. Go vote, and believe that your vote is power. Because it is.  

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People like Ebony are committed to ensuring that injustice is no longer the norm. We must elect officials who won’t stall and who won’t put the lives and livelihoods of millions in danger. Make sure you are registered to vote. Make sure you know how to vote by mail. And make sure you mobilize others to vote as well. Together, we’ll create a better tomorrow.

This post was produced and paid for by MoveOn Political Action.

ebony

Ebony S. Hinton