As a political scientist, during any given election year, I’m bombarded with questions about my assessment of the current electoral slate. The look of disappointment is always palatable when I tell folks that, that isn’t what I do. After all, what good is a black political scientist that doesn’t study black public opinion?
As a scholar, one of the things I’ve struggled with is pushing back against the dominance of voting based politics within black communities in our post-civil rights era, without minimizing the importance of showing up at the polling booth. After all, in a midterm election year, just like in presidential years, whether or not our communities show up can be a make or break for the services and programs that are desperately needed for our communities.
Yet, and still, political engagement cannot and should not, be only about politicians. We do a severe injustice to ourselves, and especially young people, when we insist that to be political, we must be limited to engaging with politicians in someway. To be clear, this is not to say that pushing against institutional structures and the people who populate them is not important. But it is to say that in order to politically empower marginalized populations, we have to identify, celebrate and make meaningful, the everyday resistance strategies present in our neighborhoods.