Election day (make me wanna holler)
“How many Black people are in the Dutch Senate and the House of Representatives?” “How many Black people in the Netherlands have the right to vote and how many actually do?” “Is there a Dutch equivalent of The Black Vote?” “We need the people who are fighting against racism to also vote for parties or politicians that oppose the Dutch asylum and immigration laws!” “The Netherlands needs better, more revolutionary parties and politicians who truly represent us!” The conversations with seven of my dearest comrades who’re fighting against the Dutch asylum regime are as hopeful as they are confronting. Hopeful because I can’t wait for the other levels of change they can make if/when they get their residents permits and five of them can start forming the political party they’re dreaming about; confronting because the answers to these questions are so much less exciting than those of us who’re often surrounded by politicized folks might expect.
On a grassroots level and quantity wise, the Randstad (consisting of the Netherlands’ four largest cities and their surrounding areas) has no shortage of hommages to political leaders. When admirers of iconic activists express doubt about, an aversion to or disinterest in voting, forming political parties and/or paying close attention to those in the established political parties who could be considered ‘our representatives’, I often wonder how those we admire affect our actions. How does co-signing the political ideals of activists like Wangari Maathai, Thomas Sankara and Kwame Ture (f.k.a. Stokely Carmichael) affect what those of us who can vote do on election day? What do speeches like Shabazz’s “The Ballot or The Bullet” or Mandela’s “An ideal I am prepared to die for” mean to us when we’re deciding if we’ll vote or not? And when we decide that we won’t vote or cast a blank vote, do we know how this affects the political arena we have so many deep rooted problems with?
I know some people who, for a variety of reasons, don’t vote and I know a bunch of people who will vote but who’ll cast a blank vote. None of them knows exactly what not voting contributes or casting a blank vote means. None. Zero. Less than zero. The shadow of zero! Which, at least to me, wouldn’t be so puzzling if they didn’t often (if not always) join or form movements that take a stand against the Netherlands’ current political climate. How, and I ask this without even a dash of sarcasm, does this work?
Am I saying that nobody who doesn’t vote should have the gall to call themselves an activist? Of course not. What I am saying is that if you don’t know what happens when you don’t vote or when you cast a blank vote, you should drag yourself away from the illusion of “having a strategy”. You are not “turning your back on The System”, “sticking it to The Man” or “voting ‘No!’ against the current political climate”. How could you when having absolutely no idea what you’re doing or not doing? I know that “I don’t know!” is a statement that’s wrapped up in the most destructive forms of shame, dismissal or pride but I strongly believe that it is something people should either work on or own up to. In this particular case: If you’re uninformed and you know it, clap yo’ ripped up ballots.
Especially when it comes to fighting against the Dutch asylum regime, I don’t see why voting shouldn’t be part of the blows we’d like to strike. Every single dehumanizing law that adds yet another layer of hell to the lives of those that don’t have the documents that Fort Europe requires, is political. There is nothing non-political about the Dutch asylum regime. The government´s continuous denial of proper, 24 hour shelter? Political. The fact that the European Committee for Social Rights numerous critiques of the Dutch asylum regime had nothing to do with why former State Secretary Teeven was forced to resign? Political. People ´living´ in squated buildings or on the streets because the Dutch government continuously fails to rehumanize its asylum laws? Political.
May we all (continue to) invest time in better, more informed understandings of what we are and aren’t doing. And yes, I´m voting today.