Our political atmosphere has grown so toxic in its rhetoric that we are being divided based upon our dissimilarities such as the color of our skin, our country of origin, or who we choose to worship or love. With raw hatred and anger so prevalent, we must remain vigilant gatekeepers of the ideals that we possess. We must digress collectively despite all of our differences in this melting pot. Democracy is an active sport, never a passive sport. It is a present, never absent sport. Democracy forces us to get off the sidelines and participate in order to ensure that our voices are heard, and our stories are told.
While voting is an integral component of being a dutiful citizen, census participation is just as important. And like voting, census results extend far beyond any singular election. Voting is the chess match, but the census is the chessboard on which we play. From financial allocations and resources to the drawing of district lines, the census is the unseen hand that tips the pendulum of democracy.
From the arrival of the first documented slaves over 400 years ago, America was built on the subjugation of the Negro people. As time progressed and things changed, the concerted effort to delay and deny the Black vote has persisted. From the purging of voter rolls to the limited placement of polling locations in Black communities, the attempts to turn the clock backward on Black rights are apparent. My grandmother taught me that thieves do not attempt to steal from empty vaults. The attacks on Black voter rights are not because our votes are unworthy; our rights are attacked because our votes are worthy, our votes are powerful, and our Black votes do matter.
Black people must remain vigilant voting warriors who not only participate in the spectacles that we call presidential elections; but rather, must engage, rally, caucus, and mobilize to the polls to participate in the census. Politics is the short-term plan, but the census is a long-term strategy that will move the Black arc of social justice forward.
Landon Coles is a member of the University of Miami NAACP.