Conscious consumption, the practice of questioning what we buy, how much we buy, and where we buy comes from, is deeply connected to politics. Whether or not products are made by factory workers paid a fair, livable wage is political. Whether or not what we buy destroys the environment and the communities living in that environment is political. Whether or not large corporations are held to account is political.
Politics touch all parts of our lives, which is why I’m voting this election cycle and taking part in MoveOn’s Your Vote Is Power campaign to get my audience of largely Asian-American conscious consumers to vote as well.
Similar to consumption practices, my identities and communities are affected by politics, which is exactly why we must vote. One side of my family is Japanese-American and the other is Filipino-American. My great-grandma and my grandfather were incarcerated in Japanese internment camps during World War II. My great aunt–who was interned during crucial years of her young adult life–even wrote a book called Looking Like the Enemy explaining how harmful the experience was, how it changed her perspective, and how it affected her ability to engage with the world around her. The internment of Japanese-Americans was a political decision.
My Filipino father and his siblings immigrated to the U.S. when he was around 14 years old. Being minorities with limited English proficiency, it was difficult to navigate a new education system while simultaneously adjusting to the cultural differences. When I was in college, I mentored high school students in their college application process and saw how education inequity runs deeper than knowing how to fill out certain forms. The needs of these students, much like my immigrant family members, were not prioritized early on within their experience in the education system. I realized that if we wanted to effectively address the issue of education access, we’re going to have to provide resources to students much earlier on — resources made available by the government.
Despite making these connections to issues I cared about–conscious consumption, identity, and education–to politics, I did not always recognize that my vote mattered. I grew up believing that my vote wasn’t significant in a state that so reliably leans blue. But when 2016 happened, I was shocked to see that so many Americans did not vote for Hillary Clinton. I learned then that it is important that I not only vote, but that I also help others think about voting–people outside of my immediate community and state, which is what the Your Vote Is Power campaign allows me to do.
I acknowledge that it can be hard to feel like your vote matters, especially in a world with voter suppression that targets Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities. But as I look into voting patterns for Asian-American/Pacific Islanders specifically, I feel strongly that our votes are important. In my home state of Washington, the population of eligible Asian-American voters has grown significantly in a short amount of time, meaning our share of the electorate is growing and can make a big difference. It isn’t just the pattern for my state, but for many battleground states as well.
This election cycle, I’ll be voting for Joe Biden because we cannot wait another four years to get rid of Donald Trump. Too much is at stake right now for myself and for so many others. Trump’s administration has made me concerned for the health of our planet, for the future of the Supreme Court, and for the safety and rights of my queer and BIPOC friends. This election is personal, but it is also communal. And we, as a community, all need to vote.
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People like Mariko are committed to ensuring that injustice is no longer the norm. We must elect officials who won’t stall and who won’t put the lives and livelihoods of millions in danger. Make sure you are registered to vote. Make sure you know how to vote by mail. And make sure you mobilize others to vote as well. Together, we’ll create a better tomorrow.