by Emani Pollard
“YES, I AM MY BROTHER’S KEEPER!” is a thing I would like to yell from a rooftop where a decent number of people could hear me. It is a principle everyone should hear and adhere to, but my voice only carries so far.
I look at this election and I’m troubled. I think I can speak for most people when I say I am troubled by the two presidential candidates from which I am expected to choose. I am also troubled by the amount of people (mainly Christians) who have told me that they are not planning on casting their vote for the next president. They might vote locally, but they refuse to participate in this mess of a presidential campaign we’ve seen unravel before our very eyes. However, voting is an honor and a privilege we must not forsake. With each box you check, you shout into the universe, “YES, I AM MY BROTHER’S KEEPER!” a principle we find in the Bible.
In Genesis chapter 4, Cain gets jealous of his brother Abel and kills him. God goes to Cain and asks him flat out, where is your brother? The question Cain asks in response has always haunted me, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9 ESV). God doesn’t answer this question here, but there are plenty of passages in the Bible that answer the question.
In Matthew 25 Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me…Truly I say to you, as you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:35-36, 40 ESV). Jesus here gives us tangible examples of how to be our brother’s keeper.
But back to voting. Voting is a form of political participation that expresses opinions about who should represent citizens in an office or what propositions should become codified law. Although political participation can look like many things–think of Beyoncé’s halftime performance of Formation at the Super Bowl 50–voting is a special form of participation.
Historically, not everyone in this country has been allowed to vote. As a black woman, the 15th and 19th Amendments affirm my right to vote.
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
I feel that I have moral a duty to my ancestors and posterity to vote. History is full of freedom fighters that died that I might have the privilege of voting. The Boston Tea Party happened so that I could vote. Crispus Atticus died so that I could vote. The spirit of Nat Turner embodies the struggle for the vote. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony worked tirelessly so that I could vote. William Wilberforce fought for my vote. Dr. King had a dream, Rosa Parks had a dream, Malcolm X had a dream, Stokely Carmichael had a dream…that I might vote. These people, and so many more unnamed here, all fought for my right to speak my peace for myself and for all oppressed peoples.
Today, as a citizen of the United States (with some exceptions that are perhaps better discussed in a later article) you are allowed to vote in national elections. In voting for president, you are essentially allowed to select who you would like to lead the nation and represent you to the rest of the world for the next four years. You get to play a part in the direction of the nation for a period of time. I can’t think of a more blatant opportunity to decisively act to “form a more perfect union.” It is the privilege and duty of a citizen, therefore, to vote.
Moreover, as Christians, this citizen obligation carries an eternal weight and call that cannot be ignored. When Dr. King spoke throughout the nation of the importance of a lived equality for black and white people, calling out the racist structures the inhibited black economic flourishing, he was answering the call, saying yes, I am my brother’s keeper. When Lily Ledbetter fought for her right to equal pay for equal work, she was answering the call, saying yes, I am my brother’s keeper. There is a high call that God has placed on each and every Christian to care for those around them. Jesus is clear in Matthew 25 that feeding, clothing, and housing are some of the ways in which we can actively be our brother’s keeper. But I submit to you that voting is another way.
In an election with issues such as law and order, immigration, national security, and social progressive issues at the forefront, voting is a way to affect what issues get addressed and in what ways. Some might argue that the effect of voting is miniscule, but that should absolutely not hinder anyone from voting. Is a small act of love not still an act of love? A vote is still an opportunity to speak and act in a way to secure a better future for posterity, no matter how small the opportunity.
It is endlessly important to realize that your vote is not just for you. In the struggle for a lived equality, which has been my political heritage, I cannot remain silent. And I’m not too proud to beg you to speak up and speak out on behalf of your brothers and sisters. I think we can all agree that we want a bright and promising future for ourselves and our children and their children. That necessitates work. If you are physically able to cast a ballot, what simpler way is there to make your voice heard? Voting is not a privilege you or I can afford to shirk because, while it affects you, it is ultimately not about you; it is about your brother.
Want to know more about Emani? Read her bio here.