Today I took my son to our local polling place and into the voting booth with me. He is 7 years old. We are black and decedents of slaves. My son's great-grandfather was killed by white men in Mississippi in the early 1900s, while my grandfather stood by helplessly.
I was raised by my grand aunt and my grandmother. Each year on Election Day I'd wake to our home being filled with neighbors in line to vote in our basement. It was a ritual in my family to talk politics at the dinner table. It was also a part of the fabric of my family to vote for people and issues that advanced the progress of blacks and women.
When I was 18 and deeply religious, I voted for George Bush senior. When my grand aunt learned of this she subtly threatened my family status and insisted for the next decade that she fill out my sample ballot, to be taken in the voting booth with me. She said she needed assurance that I was not canceling out her votes. Being from Louisiana and having participated in the civil rights movement, she thought her votes deserved to count at least twice!
Still I vote because our ancestors laid down their lives for me to be able to walk over to my local park with no harassment or thought for my life and cast my vote.
Today I took my 7-year-old into the voting booth with me. He interacted kindly with the people helping us, mostly because he wanted to make sense of this experience. I explained how voting works, showed him the ballot and let him use the pen to punch my ballot.
While we were in the booth my son was very curious about what we were doing. Although I know he can't really place it just yet, I know that doing it year after year and while explaining various aspects of how voting impacts our daily lives, it will become a part of his consciousness the way it did mine.
After we cast our vote, my son smiled and clapped happily like he had done something really great.
Voting can be a hassle with all I have to do as a single mom and co-parent. It's even more frustrating with our current gridlocked political climate. And still I vote because our ancestors laid down their lives for me to be able to walk over to my local park with no harassment or thought for my life and cast my vote. For me voting is a civic duty and an act of humanity for all Americans past, present and future.