By Melissa Beatriz Skolnick
With just over a week after the midterm elections, it seems as though people have gone back to the pattern of everyday life. Yet as someone who is studying social work in today’s society, I find myself constantly thinking about the implications of this election especially for minorities.
According to an article published last week by Ronald Brownstein in the National Journal:
“The portions of the electorate that remained loyal to President Obama and Democrats – particularly minority voters and young people – did not show up in anywhere near the numbers they did in 2008.”
Although the aforementioned group of voters may have been frustrated, and understandably so, it seems as though they might have learned a valuable lesson: there are consequences for not exercising our right to vote. First of all, voting is a right that every one should take seriously, especially if change is to come about. Secondly, when voting, it’s important to be an informed citizen. Thus, being proactive in educating oneself about each candidate, proposition, bond measure, etc. should be important parts of the election process for all of us. It’s amazing how many uninformed people do show up to vote.
With the Republican Party controlling the House of Representatives after the lame duck session, there will be a major shift in focus. One effect on Latinos, and other minority groups, will be a major cut back in funding for organizations that support social service agencies & community centers. For example, community centers across the country that assist minorities with educational, financial, translation services, and cash assistance programs will now be on the chopping block. At a time when our country finds itself recovering from one of the worst recessions, agencies such as these are greatly needed, especially in Latino communities throughout the country. Perhaps this type of cost cutting is a way to keep Latino communities under water a little while longer.
In addition, immigration reform is imperative if our elected officials truly have our country’s best interest in mind. According to Ashley Southall in an article entitled “Obama Vows to Push Immigration Changes,” Republicans have been noted in supporting immigration laws similar to Arizona’s “anti-illegal immigration law.” It still remains to be seen how many more states attempt to enact similar laws to SB1070. While Democrats pander to their constituents about plans for overhauling our nation’s immigration laws, this has yet to come to fruition, which is especially frustrating for Latinos. Thus, the importance of voting in mid-term elections is now pretty obvious, especially since this was one of the largest shifts in power in over four decades. It will be interesting to see how many steps backward our country takes regarding immigration reform. This week we have already heard a state representative in Tennessee say that immigrants will “multiply like rats”.
Although the current situation cannot be reversed until the next election cycle, it is necessary to truly understand the role that the government plays in our lives. Next time, no matter how frustrated our elected officials make us, we should think twice about not exercising one of the most important freedoms we have as citizens. Remember, as a single vote we are being heard. As a group of voters we have the ability to hold our elected officials accountable. Whether it is through simply voting, advocating, or spreading awareness of potential outcomes such as this latest election, we just need to be involved.
Melissa Beatriz Skolnick is currently a graduate student attaining her Master’s in Social Work in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She strives to merge social work and journalism together in order to bring more awareness to various underrepresented communities, as well as to bring light to societal inconsistencies. In addition, she hopes to one day impact society through endeavors such as policy-making, writing through a widespread medium, and speaking to those who are willing to listen.