How to Become Politically Engaged Even If You Can't Vote (Part II)

Aleksija Vujicic

In a previous version of this post, we spoke about the ways you can become politically engaged surrounding the midterm elections, even if you couldn’t vote in them yourselves. That’s because we know you’re probably dealing with serious FOMOP, also known as the Fear of Missing Out on Politics. With the presidential primaries continuing today against the backdrop of mass protests against the inhumane treatment of the Black community, we know you might be experiencing a resurgence of this emotion. We know you want to make a difference- we hear your voices and we feel your passion. But it can feel disheartening when the world, and social media (and Barack Obama), is telling you that the best way to make a difference is to use your vote, but you’re not yet of the legal age to do so.

There is no doubt that voting is an incredibly powerful method of creating the change you want to see- to apply your vote at a local level helps determine specific laws and institutional practices that affect matters such as the criminal justice system, police departments, or even topics like composting- and we’re sure you’ll use your vote as soon as you’re able. However, it is not the only powerful method. 

As teens awaiting the day we turn 18 and are granted the vote, there are numerous ways we can make our voices heard, make a difference, and sway those very same laws and institutional practices- no voting required. This form of political activism can, and should, take place all year round- regardless of whether it’s election season. In fact, right now, as this country moves to support the Black community as they rise up against recent horrific events but, more importantly, an endless history of systematic oppression, is the time to take political action. We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and we are prepared to make a difference and make our voices heard, legal voting age or not.

Below, find several ways you can make a political difference, specifically tailored to current events with suggestions of organizations, platforms and people you can learn from, donate to, and support. To be clear, we are not claiming nor remotely attempting to lead an anti-racist movement. We are, instead, directing you towards those who are doing so- Black voices, Black authors and Black organizations through which you can learn and do more.

 

BECOME INFORMED

“Becoming informed” holds a double meaning here. Throughout the remainder of the year, this means learning about the many issues, platforms, candidates and terms on a local and national level that you can support and influence. If you are looking for some quick and digestible ways to learn about these important topics, read more here, or check out Ballotpedia.

Right now, however, “becoming informed” truly means learning how to support the Black community, become actively anti-racist, and learn how to dismantle our oppressive economic, political and social systems. The most important thing to remember is that this is a journey. None of us are perfect, but that’s ok. Being anti-racist means continually and actively pursuing this goal every day, in multiple forms. That being said, what is the difference between not being racist, and being anti-racist? According to NAC International Perspectives, “Anti-racism is the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably.”

Learning to be anti-racist requires becoming informed, and in that we have come full circle. Here are some resources you can use to learn more:

BOOKS

  • So You Want to Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo
  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism- Robin DiAngelo, PhD
  • Black Feminist Thought – Patricia Hill Collins
  • The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century
  • Me and White Supremacy – Layla Saad
  • How to Be Antiracist – Ibram X. Kendi

MOVIES

  • 13th – Ava Duvernay
  • When They See Us – Ava Duvernay
  • If Beale Street Could Talk – Barry Jenkins
  • The Hate U Give – George Tillman Jr. W/ Cinemax
  • American Son – Kenny Leon

ARTICLES

 

VOLUNTEER FOR A LOCAL ORGANIZATION AND CAUSE

Posting your thoughts and re-posting important messages on social media is great, but the real change occurs when we get off of our phones and get into our local community. Throughout the rest of the year, research and select organizations that focus on topics you are passionate about, whether that be climate change, feminism, equality, and more. Right now, however, the Black and BIPOC community needs our help. Identify your local Black Lives Matter chapter, your local NAACP Chapter (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People),  your local ACLU affiliate, and other similar organizations that are supporting the legal, civil, economic and human rights of the Black community.

 

SIGN PETITIONS

An effective and easy way you can make a difference right from your own home (which is particularly important as many of us are still #stayinghome), is signing petitions regarding the causes you care about. Right now, there are important petitions to be signed that focus on arresting and charging the police officers involved in George Floyd’s murder, holding your local prosecutors accountable, and more- Color of Change is a great place to start when looking for petitions to support.

 

JOIN A PROTEST

We provide this recommendation with a reminder and a warning: Typically, protests are a great and peaceful manner of physically and actively supporting a cause and ensuring your voice is heard. Yearly marches such as the Women’s March and the Climate March are excellent examples of this. Currently, there are protests occurring across the nation as the Black community and non-Black allies protest against the historically inhumane treatment of the Black community. In many instances, these protests have been entirely peaceful. In many instances, these protests have turned to violence, whether as a result of the police force, or external bodies seeking to create havoc. In any case, the reality is that by joining a protest, you are putting yourself at risk. If you hope to join a protest, seek peaceful, organized gatherings occurring in the daytime, take precautionary measures, go with a parent or friends, be very aware of your surroundings, and leave the moment you feel uncomfortable. If you don’t feel comfortable joining a protest in the first place, look to the rest of the list for several other, equally effective, ways you can join in on this movement.

 

FILL YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA WITH DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES

As much as social media can sometimes feel superficial and arbitrary, it can also be a powerful way to see, hear from and learn from powerful and diverse voices that you may not normally be able to connect with. In all matters, we hope to fill our social media feeds with accounts that make us feel good, and unfollow those that don’t. When you read or see messages that you believe in, share them with your own audience- this is a great way to share and amplify Black voices In that way we can spread influence and positivity and make social media platforms a more meaningful space. Below we have included several Instagram handles of accounts that you can look to as we do at Zenzy:

USE YOUR VOICE IN YOUR OWN LIFE

One of the most important things we can be doing right now is to be using our voices, and the new information we have acquired as we become more informed, to have meaningful conversations with the peoples in our own lives. This can take shape in many different forms, whether it be discussing new and important facts and information you have learned with friends, respectfully correcting loved ones when they make a racist or tone-deaf comment (and initiating conversations about why it was wrong), or talking to people with diverging opinions to learn why they believe the things they do. Each discussion will leave you, and your community, better off.

 

DONATE

If you have the means to donate and support the causes you care about, this is a wonderful way of becoming politically-involved with no age restriction. The amount is not important as any bit helps, and whatever you are able to give (even $5!) is generous. An additional option is to speak with your parents to see if you can give as a family. The options are endless- right now, there are many vital campaigns to donate to, from supporting George Floyd’s family, to assisting in protests (though you don’t have to join!), and helping the efforts of the organizations like Black Lives Matter that we mentioned above. Below we have included a list of organizations that you can begin with:

 

Are you looking for more ways to stay informed? Follow us on IG and DM us with your questions!

 

Main Image Credit: Ksenia Zaynasheva

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