“Vote your heart … unless it’s evil,” my homegirl laughs, taking a sip of her drink.
I can’t help but laugh, too, despite the loaded conversation. After all, my friend, a steadfast supporter of the “other blue meat,” is right: This election cycle—more than most in recent history—has the potential to move our country forward or back at least a half-century. Attention must be paid.
But while black voting rates have steadily increased (pdf) during the last two voting cycles in the U.S., we are still voting at embarrassingly low rates proportionate to our populace—and potential voting power. Perhaps because there seems to be no singularly motivating candidate (damn, I already miss Bam), many of us are sadly apathetic this campaign season.
For me as a single woman exploring her options both politically and personally, this has become a newfound concern in my dating life. In years past, the phrase “I don’t really read” was the one most bound to give me pause (because … how, Sway?). Today it’s “I don’t really pay attention to politics.”
In a political climate that is more polarizing and potentially devastating than it has been in over 40 years, that kind of ambivalence is downright dangerous. I mean, if you stand for nothing, how in the hell will you be motivated to stand up for me, if or when necessary?
I firmly believe in voting your values, whatever they may be. Granted, if Dr. Ben Carson is your homeboy, we won’t go together, but at least you’ve chosen a side and a candidate and are exercising your rights in the voting booth. We both know where we stand, even if it’s on opposite sides of the issues.
But if you consider participating in the democratic process optional or beneath you, understand that your choice to muffle your political voice also speaks volumes about your partnership potential. Here’s why:
1. Voting Is Your Right—and Responsibility
Let’s just get this out of the way: If you are a black person eligible to cast a ballot in 2016 and you choose not to, you’re just plain disrespectful. It’s offensive, both to our predecessors who fought (and often died fighting) for your right to vote and to those of us who exercise that right. It demonstrates that you don’t value the contributions of others, even when they benefit you.
2. Apathy Isn’t Sexy
“I really love how he/she really doesn’t give a damn about me, or any thought to our future,” said no self-respecting adult, ever.
Yeah, sure, most of us have fallen for the too-cool-for-school girl or guy at some point, and many of us still prefer our prospects to play a little bit hard to get. But ambivalence about the future of the country in which you live doesn’t make you mysterious or above it all; it makes you immature and/or clueless. If you won’t invest any energy into considering how the electoral process may determine the course of your personal destiny, it’s safe to assume that a potential mate might find you less than invested in his or her destiny.
3. Petty Isn’t Pretty
OK, so maybe you’re a registered and passionate voter who rides hard for your chosen candidate. Good for you; way to commit. But if you plan to pack up your toys and unceremoniously leave the playground if you’re not winning the game (read: Your candidate doesn’t score the nomination), you’re doing it wrong.
Get this: You don’t have the luxury of not voting just because you don’t get your way. Life—and adulthood—is not about getting your way. Yes, let’s fight the good fight. But in the face of disappointment, most of us begrudgingly accept that compromise is better than losing completely.
Furthermore, what you’ll stand against is just as important as what you stand for. If you can’t be trusted to make the next-best rational choice if or when plan A falls through, what you’re really saying is that you’re a brat, one who’d likely stomp off and leave your partner vulnerable and alone in a very dangerous place because you couldn’t agree on which route to take home. Grow up.
4. If You Don’t Vote, You Don’t Get a Voice
Now, maybe you’re the type who likes your partners passive, in which case, do you, boo (preferably in the privacy of your own home). I personally prefer my main dishes with a side of backbone. Potential mates are likely to question whether you have one if you’re neither politically aware nor participating in the political process.
There are few things weaker than relinquishing your free of charge right to voice your opinion on a decision that can affect everything from reproductive rights, to the lives of immigrants, to the training and conduct of police forces, to the school-to-prison pipeline that continues to decimate black communities. Failure to participate not only indicates a lack of passion about pertinent issues but also effectively disqualifies you from commenting or complaining later … or choosing where we’re going out to eat. Ever.
5. You’re Not a Team Player
Anyone who has picked up a paper or turned on the news in the past six months knows that there is little to no middle ground this election cycle. America has revealed itself to be as polarized as ever. Teams have assembled, and now is no time to sit on the sidelines and wait to see who gets hit with the foul ball next.
Refusing to participate in a process that can affect so many people’s lives isn’t just selfish; it’s irresponsible. It indicates that when the chips are inevitably down, your support can’t be counted on—which means you can’t be trusted. By anyone.
6. Who Are Your People?
Seriously, though: If you don’t vote, I question your entire value system, and the people who gave it to you. You may not come from a long line of political activists—most don’t—but if you were somehow raised to believe that elections don’t affect you, you are likely either completely delusional, woefully uninformed or irrationally entitled.
Regardless, it’s a gene pool that few will desire to tap into … or spend time with on major holidays.
7. Show Up, and Stand Up
One of the simplest and most attractive things a potential partner can do is simply show up and engage. No, we may not always agree; but it is through engagement that trust is built, bonds are formed and values are shared.
Likewise, voting is one of the simplest things everyone can do to build a hopefully better union. You hope to build a union with someone? Helping to create a safe world in which to do it is a good start.
Ready to register to vote? Want to know more about the issues this campaign season? Check out “Vote for Your America,” our Digital Election Guide, at YourAmerica.com. Join the movement and vote in 2016.
Maiysha Kai is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, fashion model, devoted auntie and Brooklyn, N.Y.-based, single black bombshell who recently strutted into her 40s. She is also an expert at oversharing who chronicles her attempts at dating—and adulting—on 40onFleek.