My first time voting was in 2008.
I was lucky enough to be sworn into this civic duty during a time filled with Change and Hope, a year where at least one Black life mattered because a Black life took an oath to serve his, my, our country. And that still matters and it will always matter.
Eight years ago, I excitedly x-marked-the-spot of my ballot. 70,000+ bombs later, over predominantly Muslim countries, I regret my decision.
Much of my life has been shaped by the War on Terror that followed September 11, 2001. Much of my young adult life is being shaped by the realization that this conflict will never dissipate. It might evolve, it might expand, it might look differently in the next president’s term, but it will never end. Just as Barack Obama continued George W. Bush’s legacy of violent Islamophobia, I know Hillary Clinton will do the same.
America runs on the myths of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But these idealized words written on idealized documents were never meant for all of us. And unless we somehow rewrite the circumstances in which these ideas materialized, they will never be meant for all of us. Is slavery really over and done with if we are upholding words written by slave-owners? We continue to give bigoted, dead, white men the last say even when some of those adjectives have been switched out. Breaking that chain to include a woman is neither evolutionary nor revolutionary. It’s just a different kind of link in the same shackles. How strange to think that our Declaration of Independence is what ties us down and holds us back from reaching freedom.
None of this is Hillary Clinton’s fault, of course. But her political résumé perpetuates the problem. She supported a crime bill that militarized police and used that force to target black communities. These super predators preyed on Tamir Rices, Laquan Mcdonalds, and Michael Browns long before these boys became hashtags. In Ferguson, Clinton let slip that all lives matter but then, at a fundraiser in Charleston, she brought a young, female BLM activist to heel. You can’t snuff out Black Girl Magic though, Hillary. That’s anti-feminist. Or is feminism only applicable to older, white, privileged women already seated at the table of power? We don’t want your leftover scraps and no amount of hot sauce will help that medicine go down.
My feminist truth revolves around the idea that humans have complicated, fluid, multiple identities. It’s not as black and white as saying women and men are equal. It’s not as easy as raising our wages, providing better childcare services, guaranteeing reproductive rights. These should be quick fixes, starting points for greater change but not the end all be all. Furthermore, we cannot label Hillary a feminist just because she has experienced gender-based prejudice. This type of discrimination unfortunately always comes with the territory of male-dominated spaces. Female intuition will never prevail in such toxic environments. Our voices are neither heard nor understood, and then our bodies are consumed as symbols of progress. If elected in November, Hillary will become to sexists what Obama became to racists; false notions of a bigot-free United States.
When I was a little girl, I would look at Hillary and fail to connect. She doesn’t look like me or feel like me. There won’t be any pictures of young Muslim hijabis asking to touch her headscarf. At best, we are left out of these conversations. At worst, we are seen as threats to these conversations. And then the idea of my being a potential danger becomes tangibly dangerous for me.
I still haven’t figured out whether I’m oppressed or liberated in my own country. Bill Clinton tells me that if I’m a Muslim American who hates terrorism, I can stay if I help his wife win. But I’m not actually voting for Hillary. I’m not voting at all. I’ve made the sound decision to avoid the polling stations so that I can stop carrying the guilt of war on my shoulders. Somehow though, this is considered fundamentally un-American. The land of the free requires me to vote.
But I’m opting into the home of the brave instead. I’ll take that knee.