“Now the world knows what it means to be black in America”

“Now the world knows what it means to be black in America”

In the run-up to the most important election for generations, we ask women voters how they feel about the choice that lies ahead. 

Nneka Achapu, from Houston, is executive director at the US Bilateral African Chamber of Commerce and founder of the African Public Affairs Committee (AfriPAC). 

This election is do or die. The last four years have been very tumultuous in terms of the economy, immigration policies, trade and healthcare. There are many, many reasons why I think we need to change the guard in this country. 

The next president must address discrimination against black and brown people. Since the onset of the pandemic we’ve seen how big an issue racial inequality is in America. We might not have paid attention to it before, but now we are showing the world what it means to be black and living in America, and people are realising what the real harsh realities are. 

The only reason we’re talking about it more is because we’re seeing what I personally think is an attack on black and brown people, and it’s happening all over the country. That’s the reason we’re now trying to address inequality – it’s not that it wasn’t there before, it’s just that now it’s more visible. This visibility has changed people, now they want to understand why it’s happening and what they can do to prevent it. 

It will be very difficult to continue this discussion with the current administration because of the way they have minimised racial inequality. When they talk about it they are very quick to say they don’t want to defund the police – but that’s not the issue, it’s about redirecting funds into educating the police force of their inherent biases on racial issues. We’ve seen attempts to roll back diversity and inclusion training and protections against racial injustices. We’re seeing the complete dismantling of the immigration legal system, from visas to DACAs (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to asylum and refugee processes. 

I honestly don’t know what would bring an entire administration to ignore the pulse of the country, the people that live here, in understanding that racial inequality needs to be resolved. If you’ve not lived that experience, if you’ve not been sensitised to understand what it means to go through that, I think it’s very difficult for you to have a basic understanding and I think that’s the problem with the current president. He doesn’t understand how racism impacts people. 

The country is very polarised right now, but people on both sides realise there is a need to address this issue. Unfortunately, I don’t feel this particular administration will do a good job at having that dialogue.

People are definitely going to vote regarding the handling of the pandemic, the economy and how we’re going to resurface as the America that we’ve known. Immigration is another huge issue, and I think those are the things people want answers to before they decide who they are going to cast their ballot for.

The next presidential debate was going to be done virtually, but President Trump immediately said he wouldn’t do it. The media should have talked more about his reluctance to talk to the American people about what his plans for America are. If you’re running for elected office it’s your duty to talk about your plans.

Mailing ballots is not a fraudulent way to tip the election. America has been voting like this for decades. It’s an attack from the Trump administration to ensure people are scared, to suppress the vote. 

I believe America will have a peaceful transfer of power. The pandemic has created a lot of strong feelings among people everywhere in the United States, but I trust America will continue to be on its righteous path, at least in terms of ensuring we have a safe and fair election and that the outcome, regardless of who wins, will be accepted by both parties.

People need to really take the time to inform themselves of what is going on, not just listen to soundbites on the news, but really take the time to lean in to the policies that this administration has outlined for the last four years, and see whether another four years is going to drive America to the ground, and whether we need a change to ensure we can recover from everything that’s happened. 

Politics is local, not just presidential.  It’s as small as knowing who your school board member is, and making that selection for the right person. It’s about looking at all elections across the board, so that people who feel that things are not going the way they’re supposed to, can take charge by being involved. 

Follow Nneka Achapu on Twitter at @nnekaachapu

READ MORE ON THE US ELECTIONS: “America is so profoundly unequal, we need tax reform”

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