We Are the Future Our Ancestors Fought For

If you didn’t vote, you need to look inside and figure out why; but acting as if you’ve earned the right not to vote is disrespectful to all of those before us who gave their lives for us.

Residents casting their votes Nov. 4, 2014, at a polling place in Ferguson, Mo. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Since Tuesday, I have read countless posts from Facebook friends sharing some of the racist experiences they have endured since Donald Trump was elected president. Many of them express hurt and pure shock at being called the n-word, being told to go back to Africa or Mexico, or being taunted and targeted for how they look and/or for their beliefs.

Take a quick look at Shaun King’s Facebook page, and you will find a plethora of individual accounts describing atrocious interactions and experiences that depict the very worst of our fractured country.

While what is taking place may be new to us or to my peer group, this disrespect and level of boldness isn’t new. These stories are reminiscent of the stories many of our parents, grandparents and heroes have shared when speaking of their experiences growing up and dealing with racism; the same racism that was supported by laws, government and leaders who, through action or inaction, endorsed inequality and the mistreatment of minorities.

This is why they organized. This is why they fought. This is why they died. For us to have the right to vote. To participate in the process by which laws are created and officials are elected. To change the course.

They fought for us to have these rights. I don’t think they thought they would have to fight for us to understand the importance of exercising them. Yet many before the election and afterward took to social media to take pride in not voting.

Can you imagine what life would be like if our heroes thought they could just tweet their way to victory? If the work started and ended with the creation of a hashtag? Or if their goal was to amass likes in order to go viral and proclaim success once they received the validation of a blue checkmark beside their name? If it was about them?

We didn’t wake up like this. Decades ago, people went to sleep with our well-being on their minds. And they woke up each day and went to work to ensure it. It wasn’t about them. It wasn’t about what they felt like doing. They knew it was bigger than them. We were their why.

Identify your why. Organize for your why. Participate for your why. Fight for your why. Work for your why. Show up for your why. Dream again for your why.

And if for some reason this call to action upsets you, I implore you to look deep within and ask yourself why.

Eunique Jones Gibson is the founder of Because of Them We Can, an award-winning movement heaven-bent on helping young people reimagine their possibilities.

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