American Voter: Nile Blass

Al Jazeera asks the same key questions about the presidential election to voters across the United States.

Nile Blass's top election issue is racial equity [Courtesy of Nile Blass]
Nile Blass's top election issue is racial equity [Courtesy of Nile Blass]

US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling for the presidency in a sharply divided United States.

Trump has been focusing on “law and order”; Biden has been trying to strike a conciliatory note. The Black Lives Matter movement – and whether Trump will release his taxes – are among the many issues Americans will consider when choosing their president.

As the hotly contested election approaches, Al Jazeera has been speaking to voters across the US asking nine questions to understand who they are supporting and why.

Nile Blass



[Courtesy of Nile Blass]

Age: 20

Occupation: Production Assistant for Feral Films 

Residence: Prince George’s County, Maryland 

Voted in 2016 for: N/A

Will Vote in 2020 for: Joe Biden

Top Election Issue: Racial Equity 

Will you vote? Why or why not?

“I will be [voting]! I think that there’s a lot of conversation about reformation, or really like the deconstruction of the political system right now, and I agree with those things, but I always like to think about the interim. So, if we want to be put in a position wherein we can actually move forward and change the systems, we have to have an administration that’s receptive to opinion and perspective into science, and I don’t necessarily think that’s what we have right now.

“I think the only option is to vote … there’s work that needs to be done before and after an election, in terms of social justice and change, and the support of different communities. But right now, the most impactful thing I can do is participate in this national and local election, since judges and sheriffs will be on the ballot as well.”

What is your number one issue?

“I would have [to say] racial equity. Only because in every other issue — like if we talk about climate change, for example — that’s going to impact everyone. But if we look at the communities that are going to be immediately impacted, who’s going to be harmed first is going to be Black and brown communities, impoverished communities who are on coastlines, the states that are going to be flooding first — if ocean levels continue to rise in the next few decades— are black and brown communities. I think that when you’re looking at economics and unemployment rates, everything that is a national issue — when looked at on a more microscopic level— [it] becomes very clear who’s being harmed at an accelerated rate.

“And also, just because of how we’re dealing with race right now. The vice president of the United States said that he does not believe in systematic racism. And when you have the CIA and FBI talking about an imminent threat of white supremacy, that’s not a great narrative. So I think that’s the issue that I feel is central to what this country needs to deal with. And I feel like dealing with that allows us to deal with a lot of these other issues that stem from it — at least [those] with disproportionate impact.”

Who will you vote for?

“I will be voting for Joe Biden.”

Is there a main reason you chose your candidate?

“I understand the disappointment in Joe Biden. I’m more set on the left side of politics, so in terms of the candidate that was most progressive, and who would take a more immediate and strong stance on a lot of these issues, I don’t necessarily think he was that. I’m a proponent for the Green New Deal — [Joe Biden] is not. He stated as such on several different occasions. But when we’re talking about his climate change coalition – of committees of politicians, historians, scientists, who he is bringing together, who he wants to put on this issue and suggestion of policy – the authors of the Green New Deal are there.

“So that communicates to me that there’s a level of societal engagement and perspective and opinion that he’s willing to be receptive to and understand that I don’t necessarily think the other candidate is going to be doing. I don’t think he’s a perfect option, I don’t think that we can go back on autopilot like a lot of people were with Obama and [say] that, ‘OK, we elected a competent person, and now we can have our hands off the wheel.’ I think we’re always going to have to be engaged. But I think that Joe Biden is the opportunity to do better, whereas the opposition is just — I don’t know. I don’t personally view there being a positive end.”

Are you happy with the state of the country?

“No, not at all. But I also think it’s important that a lot of people are discussing ‘Oh, back in 2015, 2016’ — I think the beautiful thing about America, at least on a conceptual level, is that it’s not being satisfied with where we are. Because at any given point, if you name a year, it’s when a certain group of people are going to be marginalised, disenfranchised or oppressed.

“Like there are people who are like, ‘Oh, I [miss] 2015, 2016.’ But for Black Americans, that was Ferguson, and for Indigenous people, that was the pipeline. So you’re going further back, there’s the fact that there was a point in time when we didn’t have handicap-accessible buildings or streets.

“And so there’s an obsession of nostalgia — that I don’t like the state of the country now, but there was a point in time where things were good. And it’s, ‘Well, things were good for you.’ So I don’t necessarily believe in ever being satisfied with the state of the nation. I think it’s understanding that we make progress, but the point is to continue making progress, because if we stand right here, and we congratulate ourselves on where we are now, it’s ignoring how much further we have to go. You’re never going to have a perfect union, but the point is to get as close as possible, and that just requires constant movement, and not an obsession with ‘I’m happy we’re here’.”

What would you like to see change?

“Everything. There’s so many issues that we have to deal with … I feel like we’re in a position where if we can, we [need to] address issues in terms of allocating resources, teams of researchers, of legislators, of local government and national government working together. We have to deal with the Black maternity death rate, we need to deal with the federal response to the coronavirus, we need to deal with voter suppression and whether or not we can have federal regulation that mandates ‘Hey, if you have a county with a certain amount of population, then for this amount of citizens, you have to have this amount of poll centres’. There’s so many different issues that are kind of intersecting that we can deal with.

“But the issue is everything — nothing right now is good. You have to deal with Black unemployment, we have to deal with Indigenous women going missing. There’s a lot of things from a legislative standpoint and a cultural standpoint that we need to be dealing with. So everything is a very – a cop-out answer – but it’s my legitimate stance that we have a lot of different areas of improvement, and not necessarily a big amount of time to start addressing those issues.”

Do you think the election will change anything?

“Not inherently. I think a lot of people who were disconnected during Obama and even during Bush, the thing they say is that ‘I trusted this leader to be reliable and consistent with their decision-making. So day to day, or even month to month, I did not feel that I as a citizen needed to be actively participating and paying attention to what they’re doing.’ I think that’s a failure.

“This current administration has shown a lot of people that engagement is before and after the election. So Joe Biden, to me, is an opportunity to make progress. But nothing’s promised, because he has a platform and you can argue as to whether or not you think he’s going to stick to that platform, or if he can be moved past that point, but if we elect him, and we stand back, then easily nothing can be done. And we can just either have a repeat of the last four years or just no significant progress past the last four years. So that’s what I would describe it as — an opportunity. But it’s not a promise. Nothing’s inherent in politics, unfortunately.”

What is your biggest concern for the US?

“My biggest concern is time. I tend to be an optimist. I can’t remember the exact wording, but there’s this James Baldwin quote, that’s essentially that ‘I’m an optimist, because I’m alive and being a pessimist makes life an academic matter.’ So I have to believe that we can get through this.

“I like to believe that we have the resources and the people available and willing to deal with all these issues. I think that the biggest problem to me is the time. I don’t know if we have a lot of time to still be discussing climate change, or to still be discussing white supremacy. I think we’re in the realm where we actually have to start doing really tangible things on a federal, local, [and] state level with consistent speed and dedication, and follow through. Because I don’t think that we can’t deal with these problems, but at some point, it’s going to be out of our hands if we don’t start. It can’t always be a conversation or a judiciary committee where we’re asking people to give us information that we already have. I think my biggest problem is time. We’ve got to start doing things a little bit.”

Is there anything we haven’t asked about the election that you want to share?

“The really important thing is a lot of people feel dissatisfied with the political system, including myself — I’m much more interested in the abolition of certain systems than I am [in] whether or not these systems can be reformed effectively.

“If you’re upset with a political system that puts two people forth, and you have to choose and you feel like neither of these people are my choice, then the work doesn’t start 20 days from the election, or even January 1, the work that it takes to reform and abolish systems is years in advance.

“So voting is an important part, but ultimately, a very small part in what can be done to make things better. And it’s [not] just waiting until November, to be mad and to express your issues, when you could have actively been doing something about it — in whatever way, because I understand economics and privilege and I’m a college student, so it’s very easy for me with like, where I am societally going to Georgetown [University] [to] be like, ‘you should do something.’ There are people who have to raise several children on minimum wage, and it’s like, ‘You know what, I’m not in a position to march in the streets.’ But I think that what people can do, they should do. And I think that if everyone does that to the capacity that they can do — like across different cultural, racial and economic standpoints — we’ll be in a much better place by next year.

“And then our future won’t just be on whether or not a Supreme Court justice dies at the right time, which is a weird conversation to have, or if the Russian roulette of our political process ends with two people that we find bearable.”


Source: Al Jazeera

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