During a teleconference sponsored by the Black Women’s Roundtable (BWR) earlier this week, an observation shared by many of the organization’s millennial-aged partners brought home one of the primary reasons they believe that their friends, other Black youth, often fail to vote.
One might summarize their recommendation in rectifying our failed attempts to encourage greater voter participation among this crucial demographic of eligible U.S. voters in the following manner: At all costs, do not attempt to get youth to register and vote by employing guilt. Their suggestion makes a lot of sense.
We are now several generations away from the days when Blacks marched, faced police dogs and batons, and were beaten, jailed or worse in order to secure legislation, protection of the government and the right to vote without risking the “unrighteous” response of white Americans. For today’s youth, telling them that they have to vote because their grandparents and great-grandparents risked life and limb, often feels like a threat – perhaps a means of making them feel guilty for not exercising their right as citizens who can legally exercise that right.
They have grown weary, we’re told, of being force-fed Black history vignettes. A more effective way of getting today’s youth to vote – one their peers share as how they speak with their colleagues – is to simply state the facts. People tend to vote when they have, as the saying goes, “skin in the game.” So, while the candidates may be older, even all-white and therefore on the surface uninterested in what happens to young Black men and women, voting can influence candidates to incorporate specific needs and demands into their platforms and eventual legislative decisions and proposals – particularly if they value either winning or maintaining their seats.
Guilt is not the way but maybe by sharing the facts about how our vote matters and influences politicians, more youth will become more involved in the political process. Instead of preaching, let’s start teaching.
By the way, if you want to access the Black Women’s Roundtable’s (BWR) Non-Partisan Voter Guide featuring responses from the current Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, visit https://bwrvoterguide2020.info. It’s been released as part of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s launch of its “Unity 2020 Black Vote and Be Counted” national campaign.