By Gabriella Borg Bruchfeld
What are the ramifications of our actions? What if the butterfly effect of a, to you, innocent discussion on difference of opinion would be stripping someone of his or her rights as a citizen? Would that knowledge change peoples’ behaviors?
When this issue comes out, the American election has already occurred. Though what the final result of that election is might not be clear yet. The very core of being a citizen of a democracy is the right to vote. As a citizen you should be able to have a voice in the shaping of your community.
Trevor Noah from The Tonight Show stated that if society does not hold up its side of the contract why should the individuals of that society have to bear that burden? This refers to the critique of how the Black Lives Matter protests were conducted. Although a disproportionate amount of attention was put on the few individuals that were responsible for the damaging of property and so on, I find the motivation of all actions of protest understandable.
Studies show that people’s perceived trust in society and government is highly linked to voter participation. If democracy is the will of the people what happens when people do not vote?
In the Netflix series “Election explained”, former Ohio governor John Kasich discusses the Voting Rights Act. By describing it as not only regulating who has the right to vote but also the practical ability to do so, governmental action or inaction of enforcing this act is put into question. In a democracy, to what lengths should we go to get people to the voting polls?
If leaders say they cherish democracy, one of the highest priorities should be hearing the entire voice of the nation, not just a privileged part. In order to achieve this, reciprocal trust must permeate all parts of society. The action I purpose is shining a light on the real damages of racism to understand the importance of dismantling structural racism.
Other trustbuilding factors could be: to see more representation of your community in government, to be able to fully experience your culture or religion without fear, and having politicians that care enough about your existence that they know what you detest and enjoy. I would argue that the likelihood of this triad of fundamental rights being in your reach decreases if you are part of a marginalized group. If this is the case, racism can be viewed as a form of voter suppression.
For our government to appreciate this aspect and its negative effects on democracy, I think it is important to understand the experience of racism and the prolonged effects it has on the individual. The assigned debate stage for racism is not an even playing field. Your backup crew and hype man as a white person is most people in the highest positions in corporate businesses (especially if you are a white cisgendered male), the majority of government, court judgments in your favor and so on. The other side has a few cultural expressions, many of which depict POC as criminals and slaves. What might be a fun thought experiment on your part might be a fight for life and rights on their part. Fighting is not fun, I know. You can be sad for a while and experience uncomfortable feelings. You might lose a friend or two but that’s the worst-case scenario as the racism provider. The racism receiver on the other hand…
As a Jewish woman a part of the community-bond is the recurring pain of antisemitism that every generation experiences. Fun tradition, I know, but it is more than a tradition. Studies show that traumatic events actually change genes to make people more susceptible to stress. This can be seen in the children and grandchildren of, for example, holocaust survivors. Racism can also cause PTSD symptoms that require medical care. With this knowledge in mind, I hope that we stop resonating with the owner of racism, start taking ownership of that racism and start focusing on the person being objectified to that same racism. This by making this knowledge a prerequisite on a personal, but also a governmental level.
By Gabriella Borg Bruchfeld
Illustration: Cornelia Christiansson