When asked about Republican strategy concerning African American and Latino voters in the upcoming presidential election, House Speaker John Boehner said, “They may not show up and vote for our candidate but I’d suggest to you they won’t show up and vote for the president either.” When a party’s political strategy rests on the hope that minority voters simply will not vote, it becomes that much more imperative that those voters raise their voices.
Politics can be an exhausting subject for those of us working on behalf of American Muslims and other minority communities. It is easy to feel disillusioned by the political process when even states generally perceived as multicultural beacons, like California, Illinois, and New York, are wrought with xenophobia in both the public and political spheres. Prominent politicians treat minority voters, and especially American Muslim voters, as pawns to be seen and not heard; they want our votes, but not our voices.
Yet, the Brookings Institute, one of the nation’s leading independent public policy research organizations, declared in a May 2012 article that minorities will decide the 2012 U.S. election results. The presence or absence of minority voters in the upcoming election is important not only from the perspective of performing one’s civic duty, but because it will literally determine the future of our country.
If we allow cynicism to take root and convince us that voting is fruitless, or writing to our representatives is pointless, or running for office is hopeless, we only create a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. Our collective voices can create a future that embraces both diversity and unity; our silence only paves the way for continued ignorance.
But we will not be silent.
We watch with trepidation as the tides of bigotry rise in our country, but know that the desperation of the extremists, ugly as it is, signals the sunrise. Hope is peaking the horizon, and it is ushered along by those willing to speak up and stand up for the rights of minority communities. American Muslim participation in the political process is vital, because it lends to the chorus of voices that together make our nation what it is meant to be.
Jillian Holzbauer -Fraizer is CAIR-Oklahoma’s first communications director. She has worked with various community-based organizations and projects to support local business, art, and music. In 2011, Holzbauer organized a statewide conference in Stillwater on Islamophobia and its implications for civil and human rights. She is also a founding member of the Amnesty International chapter in her native city of Tulsa, Oklahoma.