Plato once famously said ‘One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.’
True…but let’s see if I can update it.
You don’t mess with politics? That’s a shame because politics sure is messing with you.
Of course, it isn’t a coincidence that I say this in the midst of a pandemic unlike anything we’ve known in our history, a pandemic that is disproportionately infecting and killing Black folks.
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It’s no coincidence that I say this while we face the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression thrusting Black and brown families even further into poverty. It’s no coincidence that I say this as protesters fill the streets raising their voices and facing brutality to bring down a criminal injustice system that puts one in every three Black men behind bars if it doesn’t kill you outright.
And it’s no coincidence that I say this as we drive toward the most important election of our generation where a liar and bigot who has repeatedly used his position to incite further division and violence isn’t just on the ballot. He’s the incumbent.
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I say it with all this in mind and with the firm realization that Black communities across this nation have a very simple decision before us – vote or die and that’s not hyperbole. It’s reality.
It’s also the natural progression of a system that has too often put us on the menu instead of at the table.
Look, we have always made more deposits than withdrawals in this little experiment we call America. It’s no secret that we’ve paid our dues while others have cashed the checks, but, you see, we’ve also been building something.
From Freedom Summer and Fannie Lou Hamer speaking out at the 1964 Democratic Convention to Black Lives Matter and the election of Barack Obama, history teaches us that we have not only been political architects attempting to build that more perfect and inclusive union but also civil engineers that have built bridges to help us get over and, most of the time, through the obstacles placed before us to keep us from our natural rights as citizens.
From AME Church mobilising former slaves for over two centuries to Black workers organizing in the Deep South through the 1930s and 1940s to the multitude of Black leaders and organizations joining hands and joining forces so your voice is heard today – we’ve been building something together and pointing it towards this moment.
It’s an engine of change, but it only works if we do.
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It’s all counting on us…and that’s as it should be. Because this isn’t Superman promising to save us. It’s an opportunity for us to save ourselves.
So, I ask again, you don’t mess with politics? Well, politics is messing with you. On this day, this National Black Voter Day, it’s time we messed back .
Let’s get in the way. Let’s stir up some trouble…good and necessary trouble…with our votes.
Antjuan Seawright is a Democratic political strategist, founder and CEO of Blueprint Strategy LLC, and a CBS News political contributor. Follow him onTwitter @antjuansea.