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What Living in a Battleground State as a Black Woman has Taught Me

I spent the first thirty years of my life living in the State of California; I grew up in San Diego county before moving to Florida five years ago. There are a ton of differences between the two states – different types of beaches, different types of people, different bugs, different weather, a whole lot of difference.

Another difference between the two states, one that not everyone would get to see unless they spent a lot of time in both areas, is the political climate. California tends to be a Democratic state by default. There are conservative parts of the state, but overall, you can bank on California having voted Democratic on election nights even before their votes are even tallied. Florida is a bit different.

I want to break down some basics of what a battleground state (also referred to as a “swing state”) is. While campaigning, politicians focus their energies on where votes matter most. States that typically vote red, or Republican, wouldn’t receive as many scheduled rallies and events on the campaign trail as places like Nevada, Maine, or Minnesota where it’s more of a toss-up to see what voters will do.

Texas is an example of a state where you’d be hard pressed to see citizens vote against the Republican stance the region has had for almost four decades. The last Democratic candidate to win the State of Texas was Jimmy Carter in 1976. Ohio is one of those states, too. So is Florida. The state was blue when I moved here in 2014, but flipped to red in 2016 and most voters seem to be happy with the switch.

Living in a battleground state for the past five years has taught me to get clear on who I am and what my priorities are. Because Florida receives so much attention from all parties on the campaign trail, citizens of Florida are also recipients of a lot of political imagery and messages, most of which aim to seek out certain tropes to cater to. I have seen black women be used as props for a lot of this propaganda, but we are not stepstools for others to stand on in order to serve the interests of their groups, nor are we helpless. I was always aware of this in myself, but have had to become comfortable with empowering myself.

Next, I have seen firsthand the impact of media illiteracy, and I implore all black women everywhere to avoid falling into this pit. It is impossible to stay up on every single issue and every single story, but when consuming news or media, it is best not to be easily triggered. I know that this can be hard to do, but keep in mind the freedom found when you can cultivate inner peace.

Staying calm through the initial breaking of stories and events can also help you apply discernment to know what stories to “believe” and which ones are just fraudulent. Wealthy politicians bank on groups of people being ignorant; do not think black women are not being used in this way. Take steps to educate yourself before reacting or responding so as not to allow your energy, heart, or mind to be used.

Finally, I’ve come to realize that it truly is okay to change as long as the change you make comes from an informed place. I can’t make predictions on what Florida’s political climate will be in 2020, but I do know that the state did what a lot of people seem to be afraid to do, and that’s try something different. In the case of the election, the difference was extreme when compared to how things were prior, but in life, our minds change. Experiences open our eyes to situations and we start to think differently. This is okay, especially when backed by reason and sound judgment rather than groupthink and outside pressure.

Changing your mind does not warrant cancellation, nor should it put us at odds with others, yet both of these are regular occurrences, especially among black women. Instead of being concerned over the politics of others, concern yourself with being clear on your own politics. While it may not seem like a big deal if you live in a state that typically votes one way, you may find yourself surrounded by something different in the future, and knowing how to cope will be a benefit.

Antoinette is an online curriculum designer who moonlights as an author, editor, podcaster, and yogini. When she is not designing courses, authoring books, or recording episodes for her podcast, she is enjoying life with her husband and two children. Find her on Instagram @msantoinettechanel.

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