How much have times changed? A lot. I missed segregated Alabama schools by just a few years & thankfully was too small to see many disturbing moments of the Civil Rights Movement. So my “normal” is far different than that of those just a decade or two older.
And this divide was made incredibly clear to me in 2004. We were at Democratic HQ, desperately rushing for the finish line, and cautiously optimistic about Kerry's chances. It was so close and so important that I let myself be dragooned into making phone calls – an activity that, like Roboticcats, I generally avoid like the plague.
This one phone call made it all worthwhile.
We were working off call sheets that gave us the voter's name, age, sex, race, date they registered, and how often they'd voted during the past 2-3 cycles. I dialed a very nice, 80+ year old black lady. She answered, and I began my spiel, which went something like this:
“I'm a volunteer at Democratic headquarters and just wanted to remind you that Tuesday is election day and your vote is important! Do you have any questions or do you need a ride to the polls?”
She had no questions and her granddaughter was driving her, but she didn't want to hang up right away. I was used to this: older voters often liked to chat with a friendly voice. She asked if she could tell me a little story…. well, of course you can, ma'am!
“Now I don't know if you know it, but I'm getting on in years. (yes, I did know that, but didn't share) And when I was younger, we had some bad times in this country – really bad for the colored folks…… (her voice trailed off for a few seconds) And hon, I just want you to know that it does my old heart good to have a sweet young white girl call me up and tell my that my vote's important!”
I hooted with laughter at that and replied. “Mrs. ____, you don't know how great it is to have somebody call me young! I'm over 40 years old!”
It was her turn to laugh. “Is that all? You're just a young 'un!”
I think about this lady when I get so discouraged at the state of politics in this state and in the country. It's really easy to get cynical and just want to disengage from the whole sorry spectacle.
But the reason we've come this far is because of the efforts of the generations who came before us. They didn't give up. They fought for justice & equality and moved us forward. We owe the same commitment to our children and grandchildren.
Think your voice doesn't matter and your single vote doesn't mean much? People fought and died to ensure your right to both. Honor their memories tomorrow and show up at the polls.
And take a couple of people with you. This not-so-sweet & not-so-young white girl is reminding you that your vote's important!