I am a Bangladeshi-American college student who has been studying restorative justice since middle school. I also have been organizing around local communities in New York City for around two and half years. Most of the communities I have organized around are my local communities of Hispanic, Latino, South Asian, and Arab youth in South Brooklyn. The politics that inform my ideas and work are largely influenced by the fact that I first learned about Mariame Kaba’s abolitionist work at the age of 12. To this day, I am still learning and in awe of her incredible, expansive ideas about what our future should look like.
You would think the conventional first-time voter is excited about voting, especially for an election cycle that is as messy as this upcoming one. However, as anticlimactic as it sounds, the election to me is just as disappointing to me as realizing that the solutions I look for won’t be found through electoral politics. Because I am a student of abolition who organizes and has seen the impact of community-driven practices, work, and ideas firsthand, voting for the first time seems almost negligible. I will still be voting, but I genuinely do not believe the change that youth of color want can be even slightly achieved through casting a ballot. It’s the after-school high school club meetings, weekend organizing sessions, community gatherings in neighborhoods’ places of worship, and protests held around hyperlocal issues where I see the change I wish to see. Community-driven education, activism, aid efforts, and organizing is what I return to and is exactly what I think a lot of youth of color seek haven in.
I do not believe politicians ultimately serve the best interests of the everyday people. However, the one issue I use to gauge whether a politician’s views agree with my own, is their stance on foreign policy. From what I have seen, if a politician holds and proposes anti-imperialist views, all the other voter issues, such as race relations, prisons, health care, economy, and environmental policies all coincide with my own views.
I will be casting my vote through a mail-in absentee ballot. The counting of votes that are being casted through mail-in absentee ballots will be interesting to see throughout this election cycle, especially with the voter suppression tactics of the current administration. Given these voter suppression tactics the United States has always enforced (whether directly or indirectly), I am aware that voting in the U.S. only has an insignificant impact. People, for some reason, think America is truly a democratic country, when many know this is not true. I have no reservations that the obsession of voting in America comes from the superficial idea that America is built on the ground of moral perfection and that it cannot do anything wrong. However, we know that this country continues and will continue to fail most people, especially marginalized people. Whether it’s the hours of waiting on long lines, the deliberate incompletion of voter registration applications, not having the right to cast a vote, or not having accessible facilities to cast a ballot, voting day will always ensure a mess — a mess that I hope will push people to understand voting in America is nowhere near close to being a solution to the problems we face. The systemic issues many of us young people of color face and care for won’t be solved by politicians and/or electoral politics, but by the relationships we build through community efforts, aid, and organizing.
If you are a young person and you care enough to vote, I would urge you to understand the marginal extent of the vote in America. It is okay to realize that electoral politics cannot create the solutions we long to have, however one’s concern to finding solutions shouldn’t stop at that realization. Understand that the solutions we want and need will come through communal efforts. Attend a meeting of a grassroots organization based in your neighborhood! Look up any social groups that align with your own social views through social media! Talk to any politically oriented people in your neighborhood and ask how you can get engaged with local issues with or without them! Look to your own local community and see what the hyperlocal level of political and social work looks like! Try to find ways to get involved at the local level and continually inform yourself of what sense of politics makes up you! Our sense of politics comes down to relationships we have with other people, so we must make sure those politics are held when it comes to any interpersonal encounters and relationships we have.
Everything I know of when it comes to the ideas of abolition, especially prison abolition, comes from the works of Angela Davis, Dr. [Ruth Wilson] Gilmore, and Mariame Kaba. So, if you are also interested in abolitionist ideas and alternatives to justice and conflict resolution, please read their works.