“Fifteen minutes is a long time,” she said, the 4th of July sun beating down on her.
I was shocked. According to this straight A, double major college student, many in her generation found mere minutes of waiting a barrier to registering to vote.
It was hot on the rooftop. I felt my rising blood pressure make me hotter and my urge to pontificate escalate. Did she not know how suffragists were arrested, beaten, and jailed? How they were mocked for decades for their dedication making this right real? How Susan B. Anthony sacrificed all that she had for the cause and died without seeing the 19th Amendment ratified?
I took a long sip of my watermelon iced tea.
“It’s so confusing,” Grace continued. “Where to register if you go away to college. How to vote if you do. And what happens when our college closes from COVID and your living some place new?”
There is a multitude of obstacles to each of us recognizing our privilege and exercising our power. In lieu of a lesson on women’s history taken from my Women and the Law teaching days, we played 21 Questions. I chose feminist author Betty Friedan to satisfy my longing to give a lecture.
My privileges are immense on many levels. My parents were never subject to a poll tax or a literacy test. and my own privilege is immense. The furthest I’ve walked to a polling place was three blocks. Being white, I’ve never been heckled at a polling place nor told I didn’t have the proper ID like countless people of color are each election day.
Here we are now, just weeks after that Independence Day conversation, and Kamala Harris is the first Black woman to be a vice presidential candidate for a major political party. We are less than 90 days from election day. And we are on the brink of marking the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
How do we remember the hard-won victories of those who came before us? How do we remember the privileges we take for granted? How do we act on what others have given us?
Grace is away at college. I’ll text her to encourage her to go online to register to vote and send her the link. I’ll let her know that her uncle Kevin and I already put our applications in the drop box to get our vote-by-mail ballots. I’ll remind her to vote in October in case there are any kerfuffles. Maybe I’ll even tell her how I celebrated when my youngest child was born on Susan B. Anthony’s birthday.
There is a time for education. There is a time for listening. And there’s still time to vote. Grace won’t be the only one hearing from me in the weeks ahead.
What obstacles get in the way of you exercise your rights?
How do you show appreciation for sacrifices others made that benefit you?
Is this a time to use your voice, to listen, or to act?