We Won the Fight to be Heard. But We Still Have to Fight to Win Racial Justice

Illustration for article titled We Won the Fight to be Heard. But We Still Have to Fight to Win Racial Justice
Photo: Made360 (AP)

Today, we should celebrate. When I think about how our community pulled together—and what we achieved in terms of making our voices heard, despite everything stacked against us—I am joyful. I feel deep love for Black people, families and communities all across this country who showed up in record numbers to make their voices heard. And love for the Black organizers who motivated and mobilized voters who wouldn’t have otherwise turned out.

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But as voter suppression turns to ballot suppression, we need to keep fighting to make sure no Black vote is canceled. It will take all of us raising our voices to make sure our votes are safe.

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As Black people living in America, we don’t have the privilege of seeing just one side of the story. We can’t look at people waiting in line for five hours and call that a victory. We can’t look at the Black voter purges and so many other tactics that have targeted us, and the online hate that has made politics so unsafe for us, and call that a victory.

But, I know we can protect Black votes now because, look what we were able to do during the election! We saw how the levels of voter suppression in Georgia, which suppressed so many Black votes two years ago, sparked a movement to change the rules. That resulted in historic participation this year.

Today, we can celebrate the force of our numbers—how Black people showed up. It’s not only our sheer numbers, but also the power of our leadership. We are leading America—kicking and screaming—into a future that is better for everyone. We were the inventors of some of the most creative ways of getting people out to vote. We used our cultural power and savvy across the media landscape to inspire people. We worked the polls to help people vote. We were the postal workers who carried everyone’s ballots. We were the drivers who got people to the polls, and the health care workers they knew they could count on if they got sick. We were everywhere. And we still are, as the fight over the vote count heats up. All of us can be proud of the role we played.

We may not be the majority in this country, but for the first time in history, we have made racial justice a majority voting issue in this country. We get to celebrate today with the majority of Americans who believe in racial justice and showed up to prove it. The exit polls show that racial justice was one of the most motivating issues to voters. We never would have seen the greatest voter turnout in American history without giving people something meaningful to fight for.

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Our movement did that! That wasn’t about any candidate who was going to save us. That was about our movement being the hero and our vision for racial justice being the goal.

That’s how to think like a movement. That’s how we make sure that our votes will always count and that we use the opportunity of an election to accelerate the dismantling of structural racism, rather than trusting the election to do that on its own. We won the fight to be heard, but we still have to keep fighting to protect what we won from being stolen. You can join us in making sure that no Black vote is canceled and every Black vote is counted.

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Our real victory will be within what comes next. We have the chance to take our movement to the next level, building even more momentum and power for Black communities. That means making sure no Black vote is canceled, but also that no Black voter is ever suppressed: building a movement to change the voting laws that discriminate against us, end misinformation and attacks online, and make sure that Black people get the economic support and community investments that other communities get.

No one celebrates with greater joy and hope than we do. But on the flip side, no one is less shielded from the pain this country causes than we are. We feel the pain of how much was taken from us before we could get here: this government’s reckless and racist decisions about the pandemic, which killed us, stole our wealth and denied us the same help that all people needed—whether denying Black small businesses the loans that other businesses got, or denying our cities the help that other disaster-stricken communities get. We know the pain of all the attacks on our communities and protests over the summer, and all the attempts to steal our votes. We will also see, before others will admit it, how quickly corporate executives, white nationalists and so many others will get organized and try to undermine our progress.

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But the more we keep building our movement from the place of our power—from everything we’ve done that we can celebrate—the more we are going to create a world in which there is far less pain.

We know how hard it is to convert presence to power: to take the energy, and all the headlines about racial justice, and convert that into real, tangible government and corporate policies that will transform all of our lives. Yet, that’s what we’re going to do now—together.

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Rashad Robinson is president of Color Of Change, the largest online racial justice organization in the country.

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