I did not get to vote in an election until 2000. At that time I had the privilege of being in an office respectful of where I stood. Most of my superiors and a majority in my office where not of the same mindset as I was.
In that office, I was given a false sense of security. We didn’t talk much about politics but when we did, it was friendly banter. I respected where they stood and vice-versa. Regardless of how we felt about the candidates, it was clear that we were on the same page where we stood with one another.
So, when I walked away from that office, I was hit hard with the very real feeling that not only did people NOT think like me but, they didn’t much care for my thoughts and opinions. Now, I’m used to being a minority on multiple levels especially as it has related to my professional life: usually the youngest (though sadly, I don’t think this would be the case today), the only female in a team, the only minority (and that last one has always been funny because a great deal of times, people have no idea which box to put me under but, that’s another blog for another day).
What I wasn’t prepared for was the feeling of fear that would grip me when I heard folks talking, using their words violently, about the choices I made. I learned to keep my mouth shut. I would always think about those men and women that came before me. The ones that were beaten, hosed and killed for having similar beliefs as mine and for fighting for their right to vote. I can’t say I know exactly what they felt but I will be very honest, I have been afraid, on more than one occasion, to broach the subject of politics in certain circles. Perhaps it’s because I have had several reminders that I do indeed live in the south & that not everything is well and good as we’d like it to be.
I would politely walk away or share a very neutral opinion. See, I still believe that we can disagree without being distasteful. That just because we don’t see eye to eye doesn’t mean that we have to be disrespectful. But I am keenly aware that again, I’m in the minority with this frame of thinking.
Except that during the last election, I woke up the day after and pulled out my black pencil skirt, my black blazer and black pumps. And then, I pulled out my pink and green Obama shirt. I didn’t speak much that day. I didn’t gloat or fist-pump. I went about my business as I did every single day. Put in my 9+ hours of work all the while very aware of the eyes on me.
It was the very first time my entire family had voted. Both of my parents US Citizens by then. Both studying their ballots and asking questions. I loved that and was so proud of them because they took their jobs so seriously. It hurt me to think of what someone might say to them if they ever voiced their opinions.
So, I wore my shirt and it was my silent tribute to those who came before me. But since then, I haven’t gotten much better about speaking out, up until about a month ago. I was afraid I would lose some of you, afraid that I would encounter some of the hateful comments I have read on other blogs or on my Twitter stream. This time it was different though. See, I have a little girl now. I don’t want her to feel the need to hide her thoughts and ideas.
That’s when I decided to do the interview with Café Moms and begin this series. As a dialogue but also as a haven. I meant it when I said that I didn’t care how you voted so long as you did. I can respect your thoughts and opinions because it is my hope that you do the same for me.
Is it possible to start a dialogue in this very charged and polarized nation? Once again, I think it’s up to us Mamis to do the work. Here’s what’s important to me:
- That we respect one another
- That we REGISTER to vote and if we are that we
- Confirm that we are REGISTERED to vote & know what you have to bring to the polls
- That we drive an elderly friend or neighbor to the polls (and take a chair so they can sit and wait while the line is moving)
- That on November 7th we can still talk because it’s going to take each and every one of us to get the country moving forward. No matter who your candidate is
What’s important to you?