I am writing this “Word from the Chair” message for Evan while he is on vacation. Lindsey Barber | LD 5 Chair

The Importance of Acting as a Political Ally for the Underserved

Prior to the 2020 presidential election, I asked a friend if she had requested an absentee ballot. She told me she did not even know if she would vote. She went on to say, “I mean, regardless of who wins, is my life really going to be different tomorrow?”

Hearing this I paused and considered letting it go. I know it can be hard to be candid with someone you care about, especially regarding politics. However, this was about more than politics. It was about being a good ally by using my influence to help amplify the voices of folks that public policy often underserves. Finding my resolve, I replied, “Your life may not be different, but that is because you are speaking from a place of privilege. However, other peoples’ lives will be quite different tomorrow based on who wins and you need to vote for their sake.”

She admittedly had not considered it from that perspective, and she did vote. Yet, when I reflect on our conversation, I see two important lessons. First, being an ally is not always easy. It was hard for me to tell her why I thought she should vote. I was afraid she would think I was calling her self-centered or that I was being arrogant. In other words, navigating this conversation was tricky knowing my effort to be a good ally could have damaged our friendship. Second, being an ally does not come naturally. It can be difficult even for the most well-intentioned people. Therefore, we should help each other practice being allies for others and remind each other to consider the impact of both our actions and our inactions.

So how can you be a better ally?

The answer is complex but let us start by thinking in terms of politics.

Start by confirming the status of your voter registration and that your voter record is current. Next, pay attention to the election calendar. Use the resources at VoteIdaho.gov and KCgov.us to know when elections are happening and what will be on the ballot. Third, research the candidates. You can visit their websites, peruse their social media posts, watch candidate Q&A sessions and debates, or go to meet-and-greets. If it is not obvious from your research, ask them directly how they plan to support immigrants, racial minorities, parents, the LGBTQIA2S+ community, veterans, disabled people, students, women, renters, small business owners, refugees, or any other group that needs better representation in the government. Finally, use your vote to ensure we elect well-vetted candidates who acknowledge and support vulnerable or underrepresented groups.

Another way to act is by donating to candidates, writing letters to your state senators and representatives, or making phone calls to your elected representatives. You do not have to have a uterus to support safe access to abortions. You do not have to be LGBTQIA2S+ to urge your legislators to Add the Words. Nor do you have to be an immigrant to lobby for immigration reform.

Like my friend, I am a white, married, cisgender, straight woman. As a result, I consider myself very privileged. I own a home and have a secure professional career. In addition, I do not wonder where my next meal is coming from. Struggling to pay my bills, access health insurance, or clean water are not a concern. Plus, I have reliable transportation.

Moreover, I have never had to make a judgment call on how honest to be when someone asks if I have a significant other, and I never expect to hear racial slurs aimed at me in public. I can call the police without wondering if I will go from victim to accused, and I do not have trouble finding a therapist or doctor who supports my specific needs. Rent and childcare expenses do not exceed my budget. I have the right to vote, I am not subject to discrimination, and there is always an appropriate box to check when I fill out census forms.

There are people in Kootenai County like me who sit in a similar place of privilege. However, there are also people living here who experience everyday challenges and could use our support. So, let us look out for the less privileged by making sure we reflect our concern for others when we go to the ballot box this November.

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