Though we’ve known for four years that the 2020 US election cycle would be even more fraught than the strange and painful fall of the 2016 elections, most of us still find ourselves a little disoriented these days. For some, the urgency to remove Trump from office has immobilized us. For others, it’s fortified us into action to get out the vote and to sway those who are undecided, apathetic, and reluctant.
In the final five weeks before the election of a lifetime, we asked writers to consider the undecided voter and contribute compelling arguments and ideas for making the world right. Some contributors sent us work that takes on issues with precision and gravity. Others sent us different work, perhaps an even more visceral snapshot of this alarming moment — a one-act play, an open letter, a story of exile. New writing will be published weekdays; we believe its wisdom and strength will help us all navigate the uncertainty ahead.
As the unfortunate number of police brutality cases surge, I often think about the term justice, about the pledge of allegiance and our country’s vow to allot it to all Americans. We have seen time and time again our country’s struggle and failure to uphold the promise that we have been taught to recite. There comes a time in our lives when we are forced to confront that harsh truth head on, and some confront it sooner than others.
I became aware of this truth my sophomore year of high school. One of my best friends was the person I most admired. She was a white girl whose passion for indie music and visual art I still carry with me. From her embodiment of kindness to how she bridged creativity and social justice, she was the epitome of who I strived to be. I looked up to just about everything she did.
She once said that she wasn’t afraid when driving past a police car, and I was captivated by how she refused to let the police and their position of authority threaten her. I remember trying to use her philosophy for my own practice but every time I’d see a police car in my rearview mirror, I’d begin to panic. My sweaty hands would glide off the steering wheel, and my heart would attempt to beat its way out of my rib cage. I’d frantically look back and forth from the mirror to the road as though I were watching a tennis match. That’s when I knew my admiration for my friend and her philosophies came with limitations.
To believe in justice for all is to stand up for all Americans. From calling Mexicans rapists to refusing to condemn white supremacy by telling the neo-fascist group Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” Trump has proven time and time again that his protection only applies to his supporters, who are typically cis, white, and heterosexual US citizens.
This year’s election is not about staying within the bounds of your political party. It’s about justice versus injustice. It’s about right versus wrong. It’s about equality for all versus equality for some.
I voted for former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris because I believe they have a willingness and a desire to provide justice for all people – especially those who have felt the ripples of this country turn its back on them.
If you enjoyed this essay, please share it with an undecided voter in your life, and please consider contributing to Black Lives Matter Support Fund.
J. Isaiah Holbrook holds a BA in English from Saint Francis University and recently received his MFA in creative writing at Oregon State University. He’s been published in The Rumpus, Adelaide Magazine, and Delta Epsilon Journal, where he received first place in short fiction in the journal’s national writing contest and is currently the flash fiction editor for Decolonial Passage Literary Magazine. He’s also received acceptance into Lambda Literary Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ voices and will attend the summer of 2021.