By Stephanie Myers, Ph.D, and Georgia Dunston, Ph.D
During recent informal discussions with Gen Z, the moniker given to Americans in the 18 to 24 age bracket, we have been distressed to learn that many of them and their friends, do not understand the purpose of voting and are not sure if they are going to vote in the 2022 Midterm elections.
While there are excellent GenZ leaders who are pro-voting, other GenZs say that they and their friends are frustrated with confusion about how the political system works, and they are reaching the conclusion that voting is a waste of time. We disagree! It is our belief that all eligible citizens in America must vote because voting is a fundamental responsibility that affects the quality of everyday living for citizens in America.
We wonder whether the anti-voting attitudes among some Gen Zs are the result of the civics classes being eliminated from K-12 schools, or whether parents, churches and the workplace are failing to educate youth that democracy works, only if citizens vote. Some of the Gen Zs we talked to did not seem to understand that individual voting is at the core of democracy, and that the people who are elected to political offices make critical decisions about everyday life in America—and many of those decisions affect them personally.
In today’s fractured world many people do not understand how the election of certain individuals to public office gives them power over important decisions. For example, elected officials decide daily whether or not violence is prevented or promoted by police, and law enforcement. They also decide if, how, and where affordable housing is provided, the quality of education, and access to affordable health services. Clearly much more is needed in civic education to help citizens understand the role of elected officials, and how to hold them accountable for their decisions.
Black Women for Positive Change is a multi-cultural, interfaith, intergenerational organization of predominantly African American women and powerful Black brothers, and we believe individuals must understand their vote is important in the 2022 midterm elections, and in all elections.
We must find ways to help people understand that voting is personal—it is like paying taxes—you don’t have a choice. All eligible voters need to understand that the candidates they vote for will affect their lives in various ways. Below are four examples of how elected officials use everyone’s tax dollars to either help to stop violence, or to promote violence:
Governors: The person elected to be the next governor will control billion-dollar budgets from tax dollars that fund prisons to police departments, court systems, and foster-care homes. Governors appoint judges who will be fair, or who will employ systemic racism in courtrooms across the land.
Mayors: Using local tax dollars, mayors hire or fire police chiefs and city attorneys who handle the criminal justice system. Mayors also fund local non-profit programs that can be either helpful or detrimental to Black communities that suffer from violence. On the other hand, biased and racially motivated mayors can appoint racist police chiefs who allow members of their department to kill Black men with little or no consequences.
District Attorneys: Voters elect District Attorneys who oversee court systems and prosecutors who bring charges against individuals arrested by police and determine what crimes they will be charged with and how long they will spend in prison.
Judges: People elect judges who make decisions in the courts regarding who is innocent or guilty, and the punishment they will receive or if they get sent to rehabilitation programs.
All of the people listed above are put into office by the vote, and that is why Black Women for Positive Change urges everyone to vote! We ask all readers to support the “John Lewis Good Trouble Voting Rights Pledge,” and to vote in the 2022 midterm elections. Please help GenZs, Millennials and all voters lead the movement to get one million individuals or more to sign the pledge and promise to vote!
Everyone can sign the pledge to vote at www.blackwomenforpositivechange.org
Dr. Georgia Dunston is chair of the Science Committee and co-chair of Voting Rights for Black Women for Positive Change. She is professor emerita, Howard University College of Medicine; and founding and former director of the National Human Genome Center, Howard University.
Dr. Stephanie Myers, is national co-chair of Black Women for Positive Change, and co-chair of the Voting Rights Committee. Dr. Myers is vice president of R.J. Myers Publishing Company and author of the book, “Invisible Queen: Mixed Ancestry Revealed.”