Super Tuesday is finally here! The day I get to vote for the first time. I am super, super, super excited. I think I am ready to vote. I woke up this morning and confirmed my polling station in my town. Turns out it is a walk from my house.I also checked out the ballot to see who the options are. Oh! I am actually off work as well so I have no pressure on me. I can take my time voting and enjoying the moment. takes a deep breathe
Let me tell you why I am so excited to vote. I grew in Nigeria, in the days of Abacha. I grew in a military dictatorship. Even though Nigeria was not voting, my mother always talked about elections and voting. I remember the day Sani Abacha died. I remember when Abdul-Salami Abubakar gave that first speech on NTA. We were still in FESTAC. My mother was literally jumping and screaming at the TV in excitement.
I don’t take the right to vote for granted. I have been a US resident for about 13 years. I have lived through the George Bush re-election. I was in California during the recall year when Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected. I was here through the beginning of Obama game-changing ascension from the unknown to the Presidency. I remember so wanting to vote in that election. I was unable because I was only a resident. Now I am a citizen.
Being an American citizen has been one of the most unexpected stories of my life. It has also been one of the most defining status of my adulthood. Being American gave me the freedom to discover who I wanted to be and believe I could be that person.
I am excited to do my duty as a citizen. I am excited to make a choice. It is not an easy choice. No matter how certain I am about the candidate I am voting for, I have come to realize that as a voter I have to be prepare for heartache. I am keeping my eyes on the bigger picture. Do my bit and hope that other do theirs as well.
It is funny that when I first started thinking of voting, I never imagined I would even be interested in the primaries. Since I have immersed myself in this election cycle, I have come to realize that voting counts at every stage. As such Super Tuesday would be my first vote. Seems like less of a bit deal since it isn’t the big November election but I know this is important.
*If you live in the state of Massachusetts and you are not sure if you are registered to vote, check out your status here. It will give your voter status. You can also see your polling station as well as a sample of the ballot.
I went to see Kung Panda 3 this weekend. It is not like I go to see movies regularly. The whole movie thing was an accident of an ill-timed desire to bowl and being met with a 3 hour waiting time. Instead of going back home, my friend and I decided to go watch a movie. It just happened that the next starting movie was Kung Fu Panda 3.
The big theme of this movie was identity. It was simple enough for kids and complex enough for adults who chose to pay attention. What do you do when your identity is not as simple as white bread? What is Po to do as the adopted son of a goose and the biological son of a Panda? Where does he draw his strength? What makes him him?
These are complicated questions for an animated movie. These questions though are the ones I have to wrestle with as a voter. Who am I? What are my priorities? What will tip my vote?
My identity is layered in both the physical and the psychological. I am woman. Born and raised as a Muslim in Nigeria. Moved to America at 16. Became an American in 2009. Highly educated but struggling to achieve a solidly middle class status. Struggling to figure out the student loan game. Gaining a consciousness of my own blackness in American society. Worried about the lives of my future children in a society that does not value black lives.
All of these things and more influence the way I see the world. The layers of identity and world view color the ideal world I see. This ideal world inevitably colors the way I see myself casting my vote.
Any suggestions that my vote should be as simple as being a woman or being black or being Muslim is a shortcut to diminishing my experience as human being. One of the struggles I initially had before deciding of Bernie Sanders was the idea of the first female president. Am I traitor to womanhood if I choose a man over Hilary Clinton? Is this another case of betrayal of sisterhood and feminism of I feel that a man better represents my ideals that Hilary?
When Madeline Albright and Gloria Steinem start “scolding” young women for not voting for Hilary Clinton because she is a woman, they do so from the position of white feminism. The much stated quote about going to hell for not supporting other women is one that is based on the assumption that other women are accepting of all women. No if, but or maybe. That assumption is a privilege. White Feminist have the privilege of being able to see challenges to their life from the position of their gender. The glass ceiling for them is one layer thick. As long as they can overcome the barrier of having a vagina instead of penis, then they are good to go.
The fact is I don’t have the luxury of being just a woman. The inability to understand that gender is not the only barrier that young women are dealing is perhaps why feminism and Hilary Clinton’s campaign don’t appeal to a lot of young women. I’m not saying that I don’t connect to any part of Hilary Clinton’s platform. I’m saying I connect more to Bernie Sanders’ platform. I have too many questions and concerns about the future of the country under Hilary’s leadership.
And just in case there is a temptation to drag out Barack Obama’s implicit or explicit endorsement to boost Hilary’s campaign, I shall still be voting for Bernie.
I feel like I have been having a coming out party. I moved to the United States in the post 9/11 as a young black Muslim woman. My parents in their love for their child advised me to pray privately and keep my religion to myself. For much of my college years, until I move to England for graduate school, almost no one knew that I was Muslim.
I feel like in the few years I have grown to learn that is not important to be accepted by others if they don’t accept me fully. The things that make up my identity are not some dirty little secret. I have moved closer to my Nigerian accent, reclaimed my stories and spoken the truth about my food. Sometimes that means having uncomfortable conversations that highlight something that may considered a deal breaker by others. It usually comes about in the discussion of food. Since I don’t eat pork or drink alcohol for religious reasons, I often out myself at communal dinning tables.
As I watch the political climate of fear-mongering, I realize that unless I keep outing myself, I am a part of the problem. There are bits of me that wants to hide again because I don’t want the experience of dealing with people’s prejudicial self. But the thing is a larger part of me realizes that it is important to fight back. I speak my truth now because it is mine to speak and no other person’s.
For the longest time, I wasn’t sure that my truth mattered. In my insecurities about the usefulness of my own voice, I chose to be quiet. But no more. No more biting my tongue because I am afraid to hurt feelings. No more letting people put me down, personally or as part of a larger discourse. My truth matters, therefore I will be part of the discussion.
My dad asked me why I was volunteering for Bernie Sanders’ Campaign. I hadn’t really thought much about it because I just wanted to do something different at first.Then I realized that I am doing it to be part of the discussion. I firmly believe that in order for voters to make the best decision there has to be a healthy discourse. A healthy discourse only happens why there are more than one viable candidates at the table. I am making calls to ensure that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton can have a healthy discourse with occasional input from Martin O’Malley.
I guess the Democractic primaries are also low stake for me because of the craziness on the Republican side of the aisle. At the end of the primaries, either Clinton or Sanders will have the ticket. Then the real battle begins. And I intend to use my voice until the end.
Tell me in the comments in what ways you are making your experiences count.
I have always been intrigued by politics. Maybe this is the heritage of growing up in a country that was not quite a democracy. A country that see-sawed between regimes of brutality and corruption. As a child I watched power come and go. I heard about elections and coups. Somewhere between the whispered voices of the populace and the crackdown of the henchmen, I became intrigued with politics and the political process.
The thing that happens when you immigrate though is that you lose one home without quite being at home. I was not in Nigeria to vote but I was not American to vote even as I attained my majority. So a few weeks after my 30th birthday next year, I will be casting my first vote in a nationwide election. I am still debating if I should vote in the primaries since I am a registered democrat.
Now that I am a voter, I find that I am afraid to exercise my power. Back in the days of green card, it was easy to give money. I gave money to Barack Obama in those days. I talked off my mother’s ears about the American politics. That was easy. Being a voter, for me, is hard. To cast my one vote is to say, “I trust you to represent me, to make choices that represent my best chances.”
Maybe my anxiety as a first time voter is more reflective of the current political environment. I see one side with crazy voices. Another side with sensible voices but bland stories. I find that I want to be inspired. Not by the thoughts of the first female president or the first socialist government. I want to look at the candidates and see America’s hope. If I am honest, I am not much inspired by the candidates. But as a voter, I am forced to choose from a set of imperfect options.