More and more Black Americans are casting their ballot ahead of Election Day (November 3), and Black essential workers are letting their experiences affect their vote, according to NBC News. From postal workers to truck driver to food and law enforcement, these individuals were on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic since day one. Most do not have union support, and they are more likely to contract the virus.
"Low-income workers, nonwhite workers, workers with less educational attainment and workers in the service industry are all less likely to be able to work from home than their peers," according to a Brookings Institute report released last month.
On top of the protests, some had to deal with economic struggles, social justice demonstrations and other events that happened in 2020. These events and more will play a big role in who Black essential workers are voting for in the presidential election.
Dee Moore, a fast food worker in Houston, said they worked during the pandemic because he had to. "I'm not bitter, but I don't even like talking about it. Bottom line: If I don't work, I don't eat right now. So I work, even though coming to work could ... could kill me — or at least make me sick," Moore said." So when I hear 'essential,' I think, 'Essential for who?' Definitely not for me."
Moore said they were grateful for being okay so far, but when it comes to their vote, "it's not going to the person who got us in this mess and who made it worse by not following the science."
Then there's Tamaira Johnson, who is a registered nurse at a hospital near San Diego. With her role being deemed critically essential, Johnson described the experience as "being in the eye of the storm." "The tensions across the hospital dialed up significantly. Doctors and nurses were all on edge... The overlap of the unstable patients declining in a synchronized fashion was overwhelming," the nurse said.
Johnson's also been "disappointed with the messaging around the pandemic response," calling it "chaotic and inconsistent." "Public health has become politicized. But the diligent work of the health care workers must go on," she said. Now, those issues will be at the forefront of her mind when she heads to the polls.
In Atlanta, Fulton County Sheriff's Capt. Damien Bulter has faced a dilemma as Black member of law enforcement. He handled issues during the pandemic and social justice demonstrations, but the "bad apples" makes it harder for the authorities that want to make a change in their community.
"They see the uniform, not the person," he said. "We had to work the protest, and it was something I didn't want to do, because I understand their anger. I'm with them. But I wear a uniform. So I have been called all the names you can think of, from 'Uncle Tom' to 'House N-word.' I understand their anger. It's not easy to see officers consistently harming unarmed Black men. I don't condone that."
Now that it's time to vote in the general election, Butler noted that foreign policy and the economy dominates the candidates' platforms. "A pandemic and police reform usually aren't issues to consider, but they are this year. Those are big on my list. And I stand with that candidate that is committed to making changes," he said.
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