As Black Lives Matter protests continue across the United States following to the recent police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, Michelle Obama made a point to encourage people to vote, emphasizing the democratic process as a significant action toward change. If you're not sure how your vote can help the country make necessary changes to the systemic racism in the justice system, you'll want to read her advice. Michelle Obama's Instagram post about voting and the criminal justice system is an informative must-read.
Obama posted to Instagram on Saturday, June 13, describing how every vote could directly impact the criminal justice system. Alongside an informational slideshow explaining the role of various elected officials, she wrote, "The first step in making lasting change is understanding the best, most effective routes to achieve it. As Americans, we have the power to vote in — or vote out — the people who make decisions about how our streets are policed and how the criminal justice system operates."
"The policies put in place aren’t the result of random events, they are a reflection of the people we vote into office," Obama continued. "So make sure you take the time to figure out who best represents you and your vision for the future." She concluded her statement, saying, "Make sure your friends, family, and everyone in your neighborhood is figuring that out for themselves, too."
In her post, Obama points out several ways voting is connected to the criminal justice system, including the fact that a chief of police is typically appointed by a mayor or other local government official. Mayors, of course, are voted into office by the people. Sheriffs, she pointed out, are also elected officials, and depending on your state or county, so are District Attorneys (DAs). Both positions vastly impact the justice system, as a sheriff oversees the law in their county while a DA is the top tier law enforcement official, ultimately determining whether an arrest will lead to a criminal charge.
Other elected officials include the majority of judges, governors of state, state legislators, senators, Representatives in Congress, and of course, the president. Each of these officials play an integral part in the criminal justice system, so voting for candidates who will make a change is crucial to eliminating systemic racism and police brutality in the United States.
Obama is a co-chair of the nonprofit organization, When We All Vote, which launched in 2018 and works to increase voter participation, close race and age voting gaps, and assist with expanding grassroots energy. Other co-chairs include celebrity activists Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monáe, Chris Paul, Faith Hill, and Tim McGraw. The organization hosts events and works to encourage students to vote once they turn 18.
Recently, Obama gave a speech for the Class of 2020, encouraging graduates to take a stand against systemic racism. "Sometimes it’s easier to stand with strangers at a protest than it is to challenge someone in your own backyard," she said. "So if you hear people express bigoted views or talking down to ‘those people,’ it is up to you to call them out. Because we won’t solve anything if we’re only willing to do what’s easiest. You’ve got to make hard choices and sacrifice," said the former First Lady. The advice she gave meant taking a step further and getting involved by voting, protesting, and fighting for change. "Send all your friends a link to register to vote. Text everybody you know to join you in exercising their constitutional right to protest," she said.
Once you've seen how your vote can make a difference in the criminal justice system, head over to When We All Vote's website to register or learn more.