Racial justice: The critical piece of this election

Latinos taking the pledge of allegiance in Los Angeles. (Photo: Joseph Sohm, via Shutterstock)

A presidential election year. A pandemic. A national reckoning around race. One of the most destructive fire seasons in California history. A year of bravery and persistence from everyday people, many of them immigrants, doing the essential work that has kept our communities and economy afloat.

2020 has been anything but typical, and for Black communities and communities of color, this year has been especially tough.

Yet, we remain hopeful and determined because this election is a golden opportunity to create a Golden State for all of us. With our collective efforts, 2020 could be the year where an electorate that reflects the diversity of our state shows up to be heard and counted.

It is critical that California’s electorate reflects its people — and with racial justice on the ballot, this election year could turn the tide.

As one of six majority-minority states in the country, people of color make up 63 percent of California’s population and Latinos are the largest voting bloc in the state. Yet, white folks, who make up only 41 percent of California’s adult population, are 55 percent of the state’s likely voters. It is critical that California’s electorate reflects its people — and with racial justice on the ballot, this election year could turn the tide.

Our organizations are part of the Million Voters Project, a coalition leading an unprecedented campaign to engage 1.5 million new and infrequent voters of color to raise their voices this election season. We are leading with boldness and pride to engage California’s diverse communities using culture, community values, and content in a range of languages including Korean, Hmong, Spanish, Arabic, Somali, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Khmer, and Chinese. Our collective efforts have reached voters in every single one of the state’s 58 counties.

Already, more than 7.4 million Californians have voted and we worked to make sure that as we headed into today, Election Day, the turnout reflects California’s majority. We are excited about what we are seeing in our own communities; motivated by the uprising for racial justice and the intertwined crises of the pandemic, economic downturn and climate crisis, young and new voters of color are turning out in record numbers to reclaim the future of our state.

One example is Raymiro Gómez-Galiano in Palmdale, who turned 18 just this month and is excited to vote in his first election. Another is Aisha Wilson, a 46-year old-from Southeast San Diego who had not voted until 2016 and credits the impact of local and state policies for motivating her to get involved. T

These voters represent the present of the California electorate as well as a future where who consistently turns out to vote is as racially and culturally diverse as the state.

We are making sure our communities know their voting options and feel informed and ready to make their voices heard all the way down the ballot, including on 12 statewide propositions with big implications for racial justice in California. We’ve grown our ability to reach voters digitally because of the pandemic and encouraging our members to leverage the reach of their own online networks to get out the vote. In recent weeks, we also pivoted to address rising concerns around the efficacy of voting by mail and to encourage turnout and remind voters to vote all the way down the ballot.

For example, Prop 15, also known as the Schools and Communities First initiative, would close the corporate tax loophole created by Proposition 13 in the 1970s and reclaim $12 billion a year for our schools, libraries, roads, fire departments, and communities. Recent research from UC San Diego demonstrates that a yes vote will dismantle a system holding back people of color and help right past wrongs.

Another major issue is Proposition 16 which, if passed, would undo California’s dishonorable distinction of being the first state that outlawed affirmative action. This ballot measure was designed as a direct response to the June uprising in support of Black Lives Matter. With a yes vote, California will expand opportunity for all.

These are just two of the initiatives on the ballot where voters can take a stand for racial justice. As we stand at this crossroads, it is time to pave a new path forward- towards a state that reflects not just our diversity but our values of equity and justice. Voters of color, young voters, and immigrant voters are the majority. Democracy can not work for us until it includes us.

This year, we are more determined than ever to show up, turn out, and ensure our voices are heard and our votes are counted. And we need everyone to take part in this pivotal time.

First by voting and making sure every person you know who is eligible uses the ballot to be heard. Second, by investing in ongoing and long-term efforts to build political and economic power in the communities that look like the new California.

We know that California can be a golden state for all. But we will only achieve this vision if the everyday working people of our state have real power– from the streets to the ballot box, and from their neighborhoods to the Capitol. For voters who care about racial justice, our time is now. This year and this election are not just a moment, but a movement.

Editor’s Note: Kevin Cosney is senior organizing manager of California Calls and MyBlackCounts campaign lead. Angelica Salas is the director of CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights.

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