|Image by Mike Licht via Flickr/Creative Commons|
It's Election Day.
As soon as I left work today I headed straight for the polls. There were no lines at my voting site, but I had come armed with plenty to read in case I had to wait. And I was willing to wait, for hours if that's what it took, because since I turned 18 nearly 14 years ago I have always been determined to exercise my right to vote.
I vote because I am black.
There was a time when people with skin like mine were not allowed to step foot in the voting booth. And even after laws changed making their disenfranchisement illegal they still faced one obstacle after another -- such as poll taxes and literacy tests -- as they tried to cast their ballots. This is the history my grandmother recounted to me every time she took me to the polls with her when she voted. And she voted, always -- not just in presidential elections, but every local election too, because she understood those were just as important.
I vote because I am a woman.
We American women have been guaranteed the right to vote for less than a century. This still stuns me.
When I voted today I couldn't help but think of Malala Yousufzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban after gaining international recognition for advocating for girls' education.
Not only are girls like Malala being denied an education but they're being denied a voice. For them speaking out against their government means risking their lives. So how dare I take for granted this opportunity that I have in my country!
I vote because I am an American.
Being born in this country is a privilege. I've always known this but I don't think I realized the gravity of this truth until last Tuesday when I attended an immigration town hall meeting here in Birmingham that was led by undocumented journalist and immigration reform activist Jose Antonio Vargas. Hearing his story and hearing both the love and the pain in his voice as he expressed how much he wants to be an American citizen broke my heart and made me think about how I should show appreciation for my country by being a good citizen. Part of being a good citizen is being an informed voter. So I sat in front of my computer one night and researched all the state amendments that would be on my ballot so I could make educated choices.
This is why I vote. What brought you out to the polls today?