Political activism is very new to me. I have written about it before.
Up until recently, I did not care enough to learn about how the democratic process works in this country I call home now. The words caucus(es), primary(ies), Super Tuesday, Gerrymandering are new to my lexicon. I am still trying to understand why this process is so complicated, why we have to jump through hoops to be able to exercise our franchise.
Mostly, I have been silently reading, observing, outraging and feeling frustrated about my armchair activism. While our current administration has caused me anxiety and problems that are manifesting itself physically, I have started looking at the bigger picture, beyond this election, beyond the next four years.
The thoughts in my head today have to do with representation.
I was at the kickoff meeting for our local chapter of They See Blue, an organization committed to getting the desi vote out for Democrats. As we stood around talking about issues that affect us, a niche community with considerable financial means, one person said something that resonated with me. Paraphrasing here;
“You gotta show up at those town halls, at your local elected representative’s office. You show up. You show up in your brown skin, you are there. You are not going anywhere. This is a person you elected. They should know you. That you are there, a brown person who voted them into power…”
In the almost twenty years I have lived in this country, I have been the quiet bystander watching people around me take their seat at the table. A seat I was glad to give up for fear of responsibility, for fear that I might not know what to say, for fear that politics is dirty. An inherent fear that comes from where I grew up and what went on around me.
That is the thing, this seat at the table thing. Unless you show up, demand a seat at the table, how do you know what is going on, what decisions are being made for you, what happens to the money you pay as taxes…
The list is endless. Starting from the community HOA, the school HSA, the school board, the township supervisor board, the county elected officials and on upward until the white house, we brown folk has stood down, watched, encouraged enough as others took their places at the table. We stood in groups muttering under our breaths about the inequities without putting in sweat equity.
Of course, when I say we, I am totally meaning me. So, yesterday I committed to doing a few things personally to get to the point where I have a seat at the table. I promised myself that I will learn Politics USA 101. I will read, research and understand how the political process works and what I as a constituent can demand of the people I elect. I will find out who my local elected(s) are and show up consistently to remind them that I am here and that I am not going anywhere. I will also have those uncomfortable political conversations with the people around me not about political affiliations but to know what are our concerns, as ultra-local as they get.
Then, someday I will run for office, for that seat at the local table, to represent those like me, so that someday at the highest levels in this country we see a pool of representatives that reflect the diverse nation we are, not the monolith that we see today.