By, Nadia Watson
"What's in it for me?"
According to Reverend Al Sharpton, this question will shape the millennial minority voter turnout on November 8, 2016. Thursday morning he spoke to a roomful of journalists - conservative and liberal alike - on the importance of the minority vote at the CAP Action Fund Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
"It's not about who we're gonna support. It's about who's gonna support us," the Reverend continued. "We've reduced the election to personality contests rather than the direction of the country. When you feed into personality politics, you feed into the Donald Trumps."
Without feeling the support of the candidates that are intended to represent them, millennial minorities will not come out en masse to exercise their civic duty. And after having been excluded from the national conversation for so long, it is only natural that millennial minorities are reluctant to shove their way to a voting booth come November.
For many, saying it's hard to be a politically active citizen if you're poor, ignored, or vilified in America would be an understatement. Life is just too stressful to worry about the latest Presidential Debate and public policies when millennial minorities are not only drowning in unemployment and student loan debt, but doing everything to make certain they are not the next victim of police brutality. Needless to say, voting and choosing elected officials just isn't viewed as essential to their lives, which only further widens the gap between the haves and have-nots in our nation.
Thus the biggest challenge with this 2016 Election, however, is not so much about determining which of these candidates millennial minorities are planning to support. The challenge lies in determining which candidate will support them.
Making it to the ballot box is the first step for minorities to amplify their voices. Politics can't fully serve the interests of millennial minorities unless they vote. For instance, if voter turnout among millennials were 75% rather than 25%, the student debt crisis would probably quickly climb to the top of candidates' agendas. Yet, while most young minorities are voting less, they still receive most of the media attention, which is not to be confused with candidates aligning themselves with voter issues.
There has to be some sort of social accountability amongst millennial minorities as a collective whole rather than just assuming the rest of the demographic will do their part so they won't have to. When dealing with the direction of this country, we cannot afford to have short-term memory loss when it comes to something as urgent as our livelihood.
Is youth voter apathy an excuse for politicians to ignore this demographic on days an election isn't at stake? Of course not. Politicians owe it to their constituents be transparent in their desire to smooth out racial tensions in hopes of achieving equality. They can't be fair-weather allies and wonder why they get the same respect, if not less, in return.
The least they can do is keep this demographic engaged and reiterate that voting is an expression of optimism, not false hope. Like any relationship, there has to be trust. Without trust, citizens will doubt anything their candidate says and does to change the world allegedly for their best interest. Candidates must give their voters a reason to pledge their allegiance. Don't just make them believe that what you say or do will make life as they know it better- make it happen... Because contrary to popular belief, non-white millennials do care about the future of their nation.
Fortunately for them, there is more than one way to participate in democracy. They can be seen exercising other rights such as their first amendment right to protest with movements like Black Lives Matter that is currently sweeping the nation, commanding the attention of many. But it's one thing to say you care, and another thing to actually show it. With love, for example, actions speak much louder than words; or thoughts and prayers-- a call to action does not end with a protest. As a matter of fact, it's only the beginning. Think of it as practice for the Gold Medal -- but in this case, the race to The White House.
Election Day is when your voice will be the loudest in the room. No one can silence you once your vote has been placed. For one day out of the year, America has no choice but to listen to the people. Don't risk letting the effort, energy, and message put forth in protesting go to waste by skipping out on voting.
And while some young people feel helpless, these GW Students seemed to still have faith in their contemporaries after speaking with GVH Live.
We don't want to be remembered as the young, passionate, and barely aware . Like Reverend Al Sharpton said, "Let's stand for something before we lose it all."
For more on how the story ends, head to a polling place near you November 8, 2016.