Confession: ‘Woke’ Black people who want change but REFUSE to vote are wearing me out

TheGrio's senior writer Blue Telusma quickly address the most prevalent excuses and justifications Black folks give to sit out of the voting process.

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

It would probably surprise most of our readers to know how much effort I put into not judging people. Even though I share my opinions for a living, my philosophy on criticizing other people’s business is usually, “Eh, to each their own.”

And for the most part, this approach has served me well.

But given the current political climate and all the life altering, damaging foolishness that Donald Trump and his minions have been spoon feeding us the last two years – I’m starting to have a REALLY hard time listening to Black people who constantly complain about wanting change and then wax poetic about how they refuse to vote.

Those two truths can no longer peacefully co-exist for me.

READ MORE: TheGrio’s 2018 Midterm Election Blog: What Black America Needs to Know

If you are part of the adamant non-voting crowd, your knee jerk reaction to this confession is to either dismiss me as a hater or start spitting out cookie cutter, pre-baked arguments about how the system, “ain’t built for us anyways.”

However, before your blood pressure spikes with righteous indignation, let me stop you right there, and respectfully point out that this specific argument is oversimplified and not even remotely new. In fact, most of the justifications I’ve heard to “sit out” elections are pretty predictable.

And in the interest of turning this into a teaching moment, I’m gonna quickly address why the most prevalent of those excuses never seem to pass the smell test.

The ‘System is broken’ excuse

Whenever a person from a marginalized group attempts to infiltrate the “mainstream” the first thing their counterparts will say is that it’s pointless because the odds just aren’t in their favor. Even when this is said with love, the sentiment is usually steeped in frustration, fear, anger and/or a lack of faith in unprecedented progress.

During the Harlem Renaissance, people told Black creatives, “Why you wanna be dancing in those clubs Josephine? Those places ain’t built for us.”

Then their kids grew up to be sideline critics too, and repeated that sentiment in the 60s with, “Take off that Black leather jacket and put your fists down, Jerome! Those white folks ain’t scared of you.”

READ MORE: California high school teacher, who punched teen who used n-word, receives over $80K from supporters

And even in the 70s and 80s the naysayers could be heard loud and clear as children in Black neighborhoods were still being bussed into white schools so they could get access to the same books and facilities that their non-melanated counterparts took for granted. Their new critique being that we didn’t need those resources and were gonna just end up “sounding white” and selling out anyways.

So eighty years and a whole Barack and Michelle Obama later, when someone has the audacity to give that same microwaved “broken system” speech – as if they’re being edgy and innovative – it takes everything in my body not to yawn.

Your grandparents tried spitting that mess too fam, and we didn’t listen to them either.

Thank God.

The ‘My vote doesn’t even matter’ excuse

For many of you, last night’s midterms should have been a wake up call. While the Democrats were able to hit the senate with that “Blue wave” that everyone has been talking about, there is still a very red GOP fortress left to contend with.

And even when progressives won, the margins were mostly thin, disproving the “my votes don’t matter” stance all across the country. These days your votes do matter, so much so, even the morning after, some races were still a toss up with campaigns demanding tie breakers and recounts.

Last night, Andrew Gillum, who went out of his way to give the people of Florida intelligent policies, social integrity, and a chance to make history, LOST by a measly .7%

That means if you’re a Florida resident who recognized what Gillum was trying to do, and yet made the decision NOT to vote, YOU arguably failed him and are part of the problem. Why? Because you didn’t stand up to be counted for someone you actually believe in. Which is what elections – at their best – give us all the privilege to do.


The Gillum defeat highlights what confuses me most about the “I refuse to vote ever” crowd.

It’s one thing if you occasionally can’t bring yourself to vote for a corrupt politician who happens to be running for your Party. That’s fair and is your right, but even when there are good, decent, community focused candidates who look like you, think like you, and are vowing to fight for you, you STILL sit at home pursing your lips and talking slick about how the rest of us better not “shame” you about your choice… NOT to choose.

READ MORE: California high school teacher, who punched teen who used n-word, receives over $80K from supporters

In 2018, there’s a self-indulgence in that mindset that I just can’t support. In the words of Eldridge Cleaver, an early leader of the Black Panther party, “There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.”

The ‘thanks for carrying my slack’ excuse

Every election night, after the results begin coming in, people love to pull out the same tired ass charts that show how Black and brown women voted for the rights of all marginalized people and “saved” an election, while white women mostly voted with their men.

OK great. Black women are loyal and willing to show up when needed. We knew that, BUT NOW WHAT? What exactly is the plan to relieve us of that burden?

Those of you who willfully sit out elections but then pat us on the back for carrying your dead weight, are bold as hell. What are you so proud about slim? All you did was watch the rest of us post pictures of our “I voted” stickers while you stayed at home.

Showing up at the very end of election night to post memes and clap “in support” of something you actually DIDN’T support at all… is some deadbeat dad behavior and I’m not falling for it.

As for the white women who are applauding us too, I’d prefer it if you spent less time writing “Yass queen!” in our comments sections, and more time speaking up to your problematic sisters about this 53 percent issue. In fact, this time around it was 59 percent of white women who voted Ted Cruz into the Texas Senate as well forcing Beto O’Rourke to go away quietly into the good night.

People already expect women of color to do their part, to the point where we’re beginning to look like the mules of the Democratic party. What they DON’T expect is to get checked by their cousin Carol at Thanksgiving.

You ladies need to get it together and start showing receipts too. YES, even liberal white women. Because it’s hella suspect that I’m constantly asked to stand in solidarity with my white sisters at women’s marches, but soon as it’s time to cast a vote, the majority of you start getting amnesia about what that sisterhood looks like in action.

The “I already do enough’ excuse

Of all the people who proudly don’t vote, no group is more smug than the “I already help my community” contingent. When you ask them about politics they smirk as they read off their resumes and tell you about every freedom march, after school program, charity day-party, and local bake sale they’ve ever organized.

Bruh. What does your LinkedIn profile have to do with any of this?

You mean to tell me you are civically engaged enough to go to a food drive, hold up signs during protests, and write long intelligent think pieces about the trappings of our patriarchal society, but for some reason draw the line at showing up to a ballot to put a little Black circle next to the name of candidate who will do the most good (or least harm) to that VERY same community you’re so involved in?

What part of the game is that?

And why do you get so furious when someone even dares to mention that people died in order to give you the right to even have that choice in the first place.

READ MORE: Manifesto: TheGrio presents a list of demands to hold candidates accountable before and after the midterm elections

You guys can send me hate mail all you want, but being super engaged in local community activities while refusing to support those attempting to fight for those same communities at a higher level, is like meeting a handsome man in a nice suit, and then realizing he didn’t brush his teeth.

From a distance ya’ll may seem “woke” but up close, what’s coming out of your mouth smells off.

Do better.