Whenever there is a change of power in the U.S. government, it signals a major shift in the trajectory of policies and ethics across the country. Midterm elections have shaped the scope of many presidencies and their ultimate legacy in our country's history. They allow citizens to make their voices heard on the efficiency of those in seats held by local and federally elected public officials. While the importance of midterm elections to the structure of American democracy is up for debate to some, there are a lot of crucial issues at stake that will negatively impact the Black community if our community remains silent about them this year.
Often, political terminology gets lost in the cultural zeitgeist of what has been deemed societally necessary without taking the time to break down why it is actually significant for our community to pay attention to. But at the end of the day, when we know better, we do better, so it's paramount that we learn as much as we can about our country's elective and decision-making process as it affects our livelihoods daily.
It is important to note that Black folks, in particular, have always had a challenging relationship with voting in this country. From being deprived the right to vote to political parties not adequately representing our causes or needs, our community has often been treated like we do not matter but we must show them that we do. Even prior to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the inception of discriminatory voting practices set a treacherous paradigm for Black voters and discouraged their participation. State Representative Liz Miranda of the 5th Suffolk District in Massachusetts summarized this struggle in a 2021 interview with WGBH's Basic Black as she reflected on her own campaign efforts. "When you're told that you are nothing and told you don't matter and that your votes don't count, you start to internalize that...That's something we should talk about. It's both a burden, a privilege, and a responsibility..."
There is an innate urgency in educating Black voters at a basic level on the power of voting, the issues at hand, and candidates before seeking out their vote. Fundamentally, voting is not solely about placing popular spearheads and mouthpieces into the branches of government to advocate for our best interests— even if it has been a common trend. In 2022, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for re-election, and 35 seats in the Senate. In addition, there are a total of 39 governor State races, an assortment of local mayorships and offices open, and 129 ballot measures to be decided on in over 30 states. Simply put, there is a bunch to be determined this midterm election season.
Historical and societal precedent aside, voting this year, in particular, carries a lofty weight. At every turn, something consistently encroaches upon this community's freedom and stability—and it's not the boogeyman or some omnipotent being. We are not blind to the threats Black people face at the hands of politicians who don't wish us well, primarily right-wing elected officials. With those individuals controlling power in the House and Senate, the future of the rights to bodily autonomy, safety and overall democracy are in jeopardy now more than ever. In a nutshell, our community will always have to work to ensure our safety and existence in this country and it goes beyond the ballot box and midterm elections. But as a first step, we must become knowledgeable about who and what is on the ballot and show up on November 8th registered to vote. After that, we should continue to our best ability to hold elected officials accountable at all times on both the local and federal levels.