First-Time BIPOC Voters On The Issues That Matter Most To Them
Young people in the United States have always been at the forefront of social change. In the last decade, they have significantly contributed to political movements, including advocating for DACA, marching for Black Lives Matter, protesting at Standing Rock, and supporting #MeToo.
A recent Ipsos poll showed that young people between the ages of 18 and 34 agreed on the issues they thought politicians should prioritize, regardless of their party identification; 92% and 91% of everyone polled chose healthcare and education respectively as the main priorities politicians must address.
First-time, young voters, especially those of color, feel that the stakes are high in this election. In the past few months, they have experienced the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color and witnessed and participated in collective actions in response to the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Historically, both young people and people of color have had a lower voter turnout. But if young voters of color cast their ballots in higher numbers this year, they can significantly impact the election.
Five young voters that identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color (BIPOC) between the ages of 18 and 22 told Supermajority News about their thoughts on the current state of the country, the issues about which they are most concerned, and the power of voting.
These responses have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Amanda Maia, 18, Newark, NJ
I am voting this year because I feel it is my duty to contribute in the most powerful way I can as a newly eligible voter. This election is one of the more critical elections in U.S. history; the current state of our country is dire, to say the least. In the last four years, since my sophomore year of high school, I have watched politicians’ racism, bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and flat out incompetence as leaders of this country. We are dealing with politicians who have infiltrated the government with beliefs that reject science and logical sense.
There is a multitude of issues that must be addressed: the COVID-19 pandemic, racism, healthcare, the criminal justice system, the environment, and so much more. If I had to choose out of the many issues in this country, I would choose a candidate based on their views on public health. You can tell a lot by how a politician thinks [about healthcare] — if they believe something as simple as healthcare should be accessible to all or yet another capitalist commodity to fight over.
It is hard to believe that any president will magically solve everything. However, I have faith that this election can be a solid start in the right direction.
Lexi Luckett, 19, Mesa, AZ
I recognize that the American electoral system is far from perfect, but I also think it is important to have politicians in office that are not actively hostile to my existence; I’m a queer, Black woman from a low-income background. I feel like I’m always in a state of anxiety because I am very aware that my existence is politicized. I’m only 19, so I know that my life experience is very limited, but it’s terrifying to come of age at a time when the leader of my country is actively xenophobic and racist and genuinely only cares about his own interests.
Legislation such as the Affordable Care Act, which would let me stay on my parents’ insurance, directly affects me (especially since paying for my daily medications without insurance would cost me hundreds of dollars a month!). I’m also someone who has been working full-time in service-industry jobs since the pandemic started, and I think we need a better plan for combating COVID-19. I’ve had to take time off from school, which has made me realize how vulnerable workers are.
In a perfect world, we would do away with capitalism and recognize that the rich are exploiting us for our labor and that life does not have to be a zero-sum game. But in lieu of a revolution, I’d like to start with real investment in the communities that I come from and for people to live and work with dignity. That means being protected regardless of race or class or sexual orientation or gender identity or citizenship (etc.), and knowing that even if I get sick because of, say, a pandemic, my life won’t be over. I think that a big part of that is breaking up trillion-dollar companies that are choking local businesses because they are able to make huge profits by mistreating their workers and paying them little.
I feel like this election is the culmination of years of business interests having undue influence in government. There are so many barriers to voting, and if you are privileged enough to be able to cast your ballot, I think you have a responsibility to do so. I know that voting isn’t the be-all-end-all because of how corrupted our electoral machine is, and I am trying to focus on bettering my community, even in small ways. I am reading more works by Black feminists and hope to reconcile a hyper-capitalist America with the world of mutual care and love that feminists like Adrienne Maree Brown envision.
Jackie Centeno, 20, Los Angeles, CA
Although I couldn’t vote four years ago, we all have learned the power that voting has. I feel like it is my duty to share the message that every vote counts. There is so much work that needs to be at the forefront of issues. One is the deep divide that has been exacerbated in the past four years. Systemic racism is real, and climate change is real. I’m not saying that racism or climate change was not a thing before, but now, in 2020, we cannot hide from all these issues anymore. It has come to light, and it needs to be addressed.
I want violence against Black people to stop. I want violence and discrimination against LGBTQ people to stop. I want climate change to be taken seriously. I want kids to be taken out of cages and be reunited with their families. I want the nation to condemn white supremacy. I want those who are privileged, in all aspects, to help those who are not privileged. I want this nation to abolish the police.
This change has to come from the individual, the community, the society, the world. There are many levels [on which] change can occur, and we all need to do our part in making this world a better place. I think that will be up to my generation to make that change. There is much more work to be done, but as my generation gets older and we start holding positions in politics, we can create the change we need.
Sevval Ercin, 22, Boca Raton, FL
My number one issue is universal healthcare, and my second is student loans, as these are the two that have the most direct impact on my life. I have been unable to get medical treatment before when I really needed it due to the prohibitive costs of private insurance. I would also like to see more opportunities for low-income people to go to school and access good health insurance, food, and affordable housing. We are the only industrialized country in the world without some form of single-payer healthcare or maternal leave law. It’s messed up.
My biggest concern is that the country won’t change, and the racist systems [currently in place] will continue or get even worse. I’m concerned because it seems like some politicians will not accept the results of the election, which is classic authoritarian behavior.
I’m honestly beginning to doubt that the electoral system can bring about the kinds of changes we need to see. For example, the legal system has failed people like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, who were killed because of the racist society we live in, and protected their killers. I feel a lot more confident that protests and direct action can lead to more change than voting can, especially as politicians are only interested in protecting their own status, not doing the right thing. But I have already voted by mail. As someone who votes in Florida — a swing state where only hundreds of votes have decided presidential elections — I feel obligated to vote.
Rohanna Antoine, 20, Brooklyn, NY
I will be voting this year! This is actually my first ever presidential election, so that’s exciting, but, honestly, we all need to vote. Now more than ever! My biggest concern is people not voting. I feel like many people would not vote because of the concept of settling. I have seen a few posts on Facebook where people are saying their votes don’t matter. It leads me to think that if this is the mindset broadcasted, imagine how many others might feel the same way.
Also, I would like to see a change in who can vote. Everyone in the United States should have the ability to vote whether they reside permanently or not, whether they are considered an “American” or not. Hopefully, in this election, we will see more young people voting and encouraging their peers to vote! That is the change I am hoping for.