Dear Campus Community,
The challenges of this generation will be to understand our collective power and the responsibility to move our society towards justice and peace. Each generation is faced with decisions that will have implications for the next. Those who have walked before us have passed down the opportunity to use the power we hold in our actions, voices and votes. Our spring and summer have exemplified the racial and social injustices that have also been passed down with the state-sanctioned lynchings in our Black community, specifically Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and most recently Walter Wallace, Jr.; the politicization of COVID-19 that continues to exacerbate and expose the social inequities in our society; policies impacting our international student community; and attempts to limit and constrain Title IX and social justice education. Beyond these actions, the summer has also provided us with more insight into the policies and politics impacting our right to vote. As many of us have voted early, absentee, or plan to participate in person at the polls tomorrow, we must acknowledge the history of exclusion in these polling spaces and continued systemic segregation of participation in our democracy.
Our right to participate in this democracy with our vote has a long history. Many have sacrificed, fought and died for our right not only to vote but also be fully counted and represented at the ballot box. Our democracy relies on participation, not partial, but collective participation by all members of our society. Our elders understood the power of our voices through elections because we understand as a community the power of the collective. Participation has not been equally afforded to all – some are on the journey to citizenship, some are residents without all the rights of citizenship, but regardless of your status, we are all a part of this society. Our collective voices also represent those of us who are unable to participate because of the institutional and systemic racism that has created barriers and disenfranchised members of our community, preventing their voices from being a part of our society.
“When I liberate myself, I liberate others. If you don’t speak out ain’t nobody going to speak out for you.” – Fannie Lou Hammer
Regardless of your position, remember that your vote means something and your voice matters, because your choices and decisions impact all of us, not just some of us. Your voice sends a message that we will not stand for systemic racism and sexism. Choosing not to vote is still a choice, but one where your voice is absent. Whether you can or cannot vote, I encourage you to engage with the election and embrace the opportunity given to you by our elders, your power of voice.
Your vote is your voice! Your actions are your voice!
Mark Kamimura-Jiménez, Ph.D.