By Desirae Gonzalez, Blue Future Spring for Progress and Change organizer
Sometimes it feels as if my short nineteen years of life can be summarized by a series of political awakenings. I work up the courage to remind myself that politics, at the end of the day, is always personal. I remember that politics is personal when my family and I save up our paychecks to afford the perpetually half-empty pill bottles for my parents’ non-functioning kidneys. Or when I empty my bank account for my inevitably increasing college tuition. Or when I stood in a voting line for three hours, looking at my first ballot list, wondering how many candidates could tell me how much a gallon of milk would cost.
The privilege of being involved in politics is something I learned very quickly, especially because I did not grow up in a civically engaged household. For most Americans, like my family, we tend to learn how politics impacts our lives after harm and pain that has made its way into our lives as a reminder that we, as constituents, are an afterthought. As if our lives are just some adverse effect of legislation passed or rejected in a room where we are always fighting to be in. This is the bitter truth that needs to change. We must expand opportunities to become civically engaged before harm and pain is felt in our households and communities, and we have the right to demand better.
I know that in America we are promised freedoms or rights as they are called. But I also know that in America, they are always just around the corner when it all rests on privilege. Sometimes I wonder what could be more patriotic than the way marginalized communities embrace a country where we fight for the promise of freedom to be all that we can be. All of that blood, sweat, and labor blended into American soil. All of those prayers of potential have fallen from the lips of past generations. All of the roads paved so that we could be here — building the momentum of a youth-led movement. We are the voting bloc — the biggest generation full of marginalized identities — and yet we are kept out of legislation until the next election cycle. This is the fundamental problem in America, a direct contradiction. This is the disconnect between the vote and reality.
We cannot reshape the structure of politics until there is a recognition that there cannot be decisions about us, without us. We cannot keep campaigning for solutions as if the disconnect between the vote and the reality does not exist. For so long, we have enabled an inefficient, apathetic habit in which we keep electing officials who campaign around our pain, and once in office, ignore our pleas for change. We cannot keep electing representatives who are not close to the issues, therefore, will not be persistent about the solutions because they tend to lead with apathy.
Americans cannot afford for politics to make its way into low-income and minority neighborhoods like a second-hand promise of knowledge and then power. The fundamental truth is that we, as a society, have perpetuated a bitter American reality in which we measure resilience by the things we cannot afford. This is the truth about the burden of inequitable hardships; it relies on the labor of poor individuals and the reinforcement of internalized challenges within communities of color. It sets the precedent that resilience must be measured by what we have endured, instead of the courage we have to thrive and organize for a brighter tomorrow.
Americans deserve better. My home state of Texas deserves better. I am tired of seeing us become the example of what happens under failed leadership. I am exhausted from seeing low-income communities and communities of color become martyrs for what is preventable. This time around, it was a winter storm. One in which Texas’s infrastructure was ill-equipped for, despite being warned a decade ago. It is a bit ironic when I think of the phrase “time is money.” But I know that this is not a new narrative, because it happens all over the country. This is our reality.
While we paid, and some Texans still pay the price of no heat or electricity, those who pushed for privatization continue to profit. It looks like hours of missed minimum wage that pays for the soiled food in the fridge. Or a burst pipe in a single-parent home, while gated communities watch the aftermath unravel on cable. How, even in the middle of a pandemic, my gentrified neighborhood shared what we could with other families sitting in their cars trying to stay warm. Or when a homeless man’s lips turned blue on the street, while our senator took a vacation from what we cannot escape. This is the muddy, ugly truth trickling out of the faucet — that even though Texans were at the mercy of the weather — we are constantly at the mercy of our elected officials’ actions. Or lack thereof.
All of my America knows that there is an unspoken saying; just survive. I know that the American Dream connotes the expectation. I know that for most of us, it just consists of everyday people trying to do everyday things. But we cannot be great until we can be good. Good enough to call this what it is: the politicization of existence. I know I am only nineteen and advocacy is a lifetime worth of experience, but I refuse to let this experience become just another untold story of American reality. Accountability has no age limit. A reckoning does not just stop at the polls, so continue the conversation with courage. Be vulnerable with your advocacy and never stop organizing to demand a seat at the table. Vote with compassion. Recognize that resilience is measured by the people on the ground, and it should be measured by our seat at the table.
About Desirae: Desirae Gonzalez, she/her, is a junior and a Politics and Law major with a minor in Sociology at the University of Texas at San Antonio. When I’m not vehemently opposing outdated and oppressive systems, I’m procrastinating homework, watching Netflix, and listening to Bad Bunny.