While confronting folks about why they don’t vote, many will probably list off a number of excuses: Not seeing their vote as important, believing their vote won’t count, and/or not seeing who they voted for win the election. To them, it is better to leave things up to chance. After all, it is commonly believed that no matter who ends up in the seat, they would just be participating in a system that has failed many people of color for centuries. When the government doesn’t have your needs in mind, why give them your political attention?

This mentality of passivity and indifference doesn’t just come from nowhere — it is something that is learned, and it is sometimes an act of survival. When you’ve been knocked down so many times by the government, it can sometimes feel like there is no other choice but to accept what decides for you. We begin to practice submission and believe that our role in the political system is subjected to inactivity.

However, inaction is definite proof that the political system is doing what it was initially designed to do; to hand over all executive decision-making power to white, land-owning, men, who are most likely clueless about what communities of color wanted or needed, starting with the election of President George Washington. It reduces the role of the people down to merely  “seat choosers.”

In the case of the presidential elections, there’s still a small chance that the Electoral College could override the individual votes of the people, despite how many people actually turn out to vote. This is something that came up during the 2016 presidential election, as Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, while Donald Trump won the vote of the Electoral College. Though the Electoral College is arguably a flawed and outdated system, we can’t give up on it just yet. With or without political experience, politics thrives on action — even if it is slow.

Here are a few things you can do to take action and restore your confidence in politics:

1.) Realize what is under your control, when it comes to dealing with the government.
Knowing what we can control in the political system can lessen a lot of stress and frustration, because we know what’s expected of us and of the government. Being aware of the limitations gives us enough room to figure out what individual and collective actions are needed to to take to bring about change we want to see.

The only power you can rely on for change, in addition to your voice and your vote, is your ability to mobilize the people around you. As with free speech, the right to peaceably assemble is protected by the First Amendment, and peaceful protests and demonstrations have historically helped push the envelope to demand change from the government. People power is only ever truly effective in large numbers. So whether it’s through the amount of money you invest into a campaign, how many votes attributed to a candidate, or the number of people  voicing the same message on social media — know that your participation as an individual is within your control, and that it does make a difference in the long run.

2.) Think nationally, act locally.

If you want to take political action, thinking bigger than your neighborhood is a great vision. However, it can cause burnout pretty quickly, if not followed up with local movement. Thinking locally can act as a toolkit or provide a template that can be applied on a national level for all. When we create new alternatives for our own neighborhoods, these can act as definitive evidence of new ways that work to benefit everyone around the country, and make living in a peaceful and just society more seem attainable.

Some ways to act locally may be to join or form a few social justice groups within your neighborhood, to gather resources that may help someone facing a social issue, or to build connections with people who are already doing the work in your community.

3.) Know politics inside and out, like your favorite sports or drinking game.

Politics often gets alluded to as a game, because from the perspective of many constituents, it feels that way. Shows like Veep clearly make light of the sneaky tactics that politicians pull to get out of bad PR situations or to get their own agendas passed. Even seeing politicians make careless mistakes in real life shows us that maneuvering through politics isn’t an easy job. But just like any other sport or board game, strategic moves have to be made in order to score. Teams need to form, and we all need to know the rules to know what can help us move forward.

It’s easy to get mad at politicians — and trust me, a lot of them deserve it. But we also need to hold ourselves in the same high regard. If we can keep up with our favorite sports team or the personal gossip of our friends, then we can keep up with what is happening in politics. Our lack of knowledge on political proceedings and structures gets taken advantage of when we miss our opportunity to let politicians know what initiatives or bills will or will not benefit us. However, having political awareness will prevent this, because familiarity with the democratic process gives you an edge to make noise when politicians think you’re too tired to play.

4.) Run for political office yourself.

Let’s not pretend like voting and protesting are the only ways that we can bring about changes in government policy. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and judge every decision that politicians make on your behalf, but it’s much harder to get into the ring with them.

If you believe that fighting the system requires sneaking into the government and tossing the place around for answers — then go for it. Though many black people are currently are running for office to combat the neglect of the community’s needs, there’s always more room at the table for increased representation. If you don’t see yourself running for office, ask yourself how you can help support someone else who is. It takes a village to win a political election — know your place within it.

5.) Find a way to heal from trauma that may be influencing your ability to participate in politics.

If you’ve shut down from engaging in politics at all, it’s time to dig deeper to ask yourself why. It could be due to the passing of a legislative bill that infringes on your survival, or just feeling a blatant disregard for your input. Seeing how the government is handling or not handling issues that are important to you can trigger the onset of depression and anxiety. According to a 2017 poll by the American Psychology Association, 63 percent of Americans say that thinking about the future of the nation contributes to their stress. Unfortunately, the price of our health and well-being is allowing politics to function without us.

We the people are the only ones who can show up for ourselves, both emotionally and politically. In the meantime, listen to your pain and seek help. Talk to others who may be experiencing the same problems. Share your stories when comfortable, to help build up a sense of security and solidarity. Set boundaries on what it means for you to be politically active while healing from past disappointment.

Restoring your confidence in politics comes in knowing what your limits are, and knowing how to work with what’s been given. We have to remember that politics work according to how those who are elected into office want  them to work. We can ensure that the people we vote into the government’s platforms and proposed policies best align with how we want to see the future of the country. This brings us just as close to realizing our own political agenda, as using our voice helps  bring awareness to the closed-door nature of politics. We aren’t with the politicians when they’re drafting the bills or making impactful decisions; our role as people comes into play after we stick our nose in everything. Only then can we find ways to trust that politicians will do better.

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