Why Ethiopian Americans Should Vote in the November Elections

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By Emebet S. Bekele

“Being a citizen of a country brings with it a set of privileges and responsibilities” my dad always said. And so, I have always voted because my father had ingrained in me the civic duty of a person living in a democratic country.  I am aware that I am probably amongst the privileged few that grew up in households engaged in current affairs and politics on both sides of the ocean. As an Ethiopian, my father has spent most of his life from his student years to his current age, fighting in one form or another for democracy in Ethiopia.  So, from an early age, I was raised to understand the responsibility of participation in a democratic system.

Voting is a concept well known by most Americans since many things about this country are decided by voting in elections. The governance of the country, the states, the cities are all voted upon the general population and if not, they are decided by elected officials.

Personally, as an Ethiopian American woman I believe that everyone should vote especially those of us who come from countries that do not give us these democratic rights. People in Ethiopia fight and die for the right to have a voice in their governance and still are not given the opportunity to freely participate. However, we do!  As Ethiopian Americans we have the power to make decisions that can affect the country. If we do not like the way America is being run, and we do not vote in elections or make an effort to be heard, then we, and not the government, are at fault.

Voting is our chance to stand up for the issues we care about for our personal lives like healthcare, raising minimum wage, or funding local schools and policies that impact Ethiopia like the suspension of assistance aid due to the GERD project or the diversity visa program. Most first-generation Ethiopian Americans are concerned with conditions in Ethiopia and the only way to influence foreign policy is by engaging in the electoral system. 

Here is why I will be voting for Joe Biden and why I think you should too. In the last four years, the administration has tried to overturn Obamacare and put people like me who have preexisting conditions without insurance, and Joe Biden will stop that from happening. Families like mine who fled their country of origin because of political persecutions, women fleeing war zones because of sexual assaults are no longer granted political asylum in this country, Joe Biden will make sure we have working immigration. Immigrants at the border are separated from their children and put in cages like animals, Joe Biden will stop that policy. The last four years tax cuts were passed to further enrich corporations and the one percent leaving ordinary people like me behind, Joe Biden will redress that policy. While you can ignore the daily diatribe of lies, of rants and tweets full of misogyny, xenophobia and racism from the current occupant of the white house, you cannot, should not ignore the sheer incompetence and willful ignorance that resulted in over two hundred thousand dead Americans due to covid-19.

In this election, our voting rights, our healthcare, our civil rights, reform to the criminal justice system, our education and most importantly a possible vacant seat on the Supreme court are at stake. By organizing and galvanizing the hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian American votes on this election from the federal, state, and local levels we can no doubt bring about the desperately needed change in our lives and U.S. policy towards Ethiopia. It is especially crucial for those living in swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio to organize and vote in numbers that can impact the direction of the election.

This is our life: let us take the time to help decide what’s best. VOTE