Philadelphia, Pa. – I have been a Temple student for two years. In those two years my classes have discussed all the big-picture problems facing America, including ones as politically charged as race relations, criminal justice and LGBT discrimination. As college students, we’re all taught to question policies, look deeper at systemic issues and envision the difference we want to make in the world. These are all very big-picture discussions, but living in a presidential election year, it’s hard not to think what concrete things I can do today, right now, to shape the future I want for my country. Systemic change is great, but how can we get there?
The stakes of this election could not be higher. America has made great progress in areas like fighting for marriage equality, beginning to address climate change and recovering from the economic recession. There is no doubt that President Obama’s administration has given students more opportunities than any time in the last ten years, but there is so much work to do. The progress we’ve made is fragile and I wholeheartedly agree with Bernie Sanders: the next four years and this election will shape the next 40 years of our lives.
One issue that will forever affect me is race relations in America. I am a proud black woman and I know what that means when interacting in society. People who don’t know me have preconceived notions about who I am and how I should act. This implicit bias is something Hillary Clinton spoke about in the first presidential debate. She acknowledged these struggles and spoke passionately about racial equality and the need for criminal justice reform. In past events, she’s fervently defended the basic truth that Black Lives Matter. The color of my skin affects my life every day. We need a president who understands the challenges black America faces and will work to solve these problems.
The other stark contrast in this election is the treatment of women. One candidate has a long history of demeaning, harassing and publicly shaming women. His comments in the last month alone should disqualify him from ever holding public office. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton has fought her entire life for equality and blazed a trail for women to enter public service. She’s advocated for women and girls across the globe as secretary of state and was raising hell in China saying “women’s rights are human rights” before many of us were born. Do you think women should be treated equally and with respect? November 8th will decide the answer.
Next Tuesday, November 8th, is Election Day. If you’re like me, and care deeply about the massive change our society needs, but struggle with how we can actually make it happen, the best way to make your voice heard is to vote. Years from now, students will still be changing the face of this nation. The classes we take and discussions we have will shape the future we all bring into existence. But every long journey starts will a small step. Voting is one of the most important things you’ll do all year. The good news is that it’s so easy.
I guarantee that every issue you care about is on the ballot this November. For me, two big ones are Black Lives Matter and the treatment of women, but there are many, many more. I encourage you to find those issues that get you fired up and vote on them.