In order to dismantle racism, we need to go beyond the vote.
In light of new President-elect Joe Biden, I saw plenty of neo-liberals posting on social media about how Biden’s presidency is a huge step for race and saying how they voted on the right side of history. It worries me to see so many people parading their Biden vote as a token to say they are not racist. In fact, it is quite harmful.
I will say it is a relief to see President Donald Trump voted out of office. However, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have some past policies that cast a dark light on the way they engage in systemic racism. Also, voting should not be paraded as a form of activism, especially if that is the only thing you are doing in order to unravel racism.
Harris has passed policies in California that lead to an increase of incarceration rates in the state. Biden also engaged in pushing similar policies. Them talking about systemic racism does not erase their historic hand in promoting mass incarceration. Biden has since apologized for those actions. However, the work needs to continue to dismantle those systems. So far, it seems like he knows that, but only his presidency will give us a perception of how he approaches race relations.
Given the history of our president and vice president-elect, it is clear actions speak louder than words. The same rule should be applied to Biden supporters. Your activism is not just in the way you vote; it is how you engage with your community. When people say they support people of color, my first thought is how.
We need to move beyond the vote and actually work on these structures. We need to protest and help out the people in our community. We need to consistently engage with tearing down racial structures, and not just vote and be done with it. There are always gaps of need in our communities, and we need to focus on going beyond the ballot to do actual groundwork.
What are some ways to get involved? Start a mutual aid fund. Volunteer with organizations aimed at tearing down racial inequities. Protest against state oppression. A common misconception is that activism is only what you do, but I will add that activism is not only what you do but how you personally go about in society. Make an effort to read books by people of color and engage in adjusting your preconceived racial learning.
As we move forward, we must each go beyond the vote and incorporate some sort of activism in our lives. This engagement has the ability to combat the concept of voting and doing nothing afterward. A vote is not going to make racism go away and racial activism for white folks must go beyond the ballot into lifting the voices of the marginalized.
So the next time you post that cute Instagram selfie with your “I voted” sticker saying how you voted for the right side, ask yourself have you really been engaging in dismantling the structural racism internally and externally. Voting does not determine whether or not you are racist, it is instead the actions that one makes a point to engage in.