We are writing this simple, straightforward note after watching the last Presidential debate and reading again the numbers of people who didn’t have to die or fall into poverty this year. We are writing together because the frankness of our friendship compels us to speak up for people we love and to challenge the forces that try to divide us.
We are two sons of the South, raced differently by an unjust system of laws and customs that were not built to serve either of our families. When we witness the divide-and-conquer politics that Trump has embraced, we think about William’s father, who served the cause of justice in the Jim Crow South and, in the 1940s, was drafted into the Navy and gave first class service for a nation that still made him sit behind German prisoners of war when he came home. We think about his mother, still living, who helped desegregate a school system and suffered there, but was able to endure for more than 50 years. We also think about Jonathan’s white family that has been told for years that their values should compel them to vote for leaders who demonize Black and brown neighbors and support policies that make all of us poorer, sicker, and less secure. We think about how we live in a state where neither of us would have received a free public education if Black and white people had not joined together after the civil war and elected people who made it a constitutional guarantee for all North Carolinians.
We do not write not as representatives of any organization, but individuals born in this country who became citizens with voting rights upon turning 18. We live and breathe nonpartisan movements and nonprofits efforts that do not endorse candidates or campaigns, and we will continue to do so. But we cannot run the risk of being ambivalent or unclear about who we are voting for and why.
William Joseph Barber, II, and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, speaking on behalf of no one but ourselves, are voting for and support Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Democrats who are running to change the make up of the United States Senate. This in no way changes our non-partisan posture or full belief in non-partisan organizing when we are leading, serving, and speaking on behalf of an organization in public.
This is our decision because we must be clear, and we must call others who have influence to speak out and be clear. We must speak together as brothers because what’s happening now is a direct threat to our families. The lies Trump tells and the policies he uses those lies to justify are not only hurting our families. They threaten every family — not only in this country, but around the world.
As fathers we have felt the Trump administration’s attacks on healthcare, living wages, worker’s rights, education, voting rights and the environment as an assault on our families. When our homes are under attack, we must not only vote to restrain evil. We must issue a public call for others to join us.
As people of faith who try to pattern our lives after the Bible’s example, we know there are times when the Lord requires individuals to step forward and clarify the choice before God’s people. “Let my people go,” Moses said in Pharaoh’s court. “Thou art the man,” Nathan declared in King David’s court. “I will go and see the king,” Queen Esther proclaimed, “and if I perish, I perish.”
The call to make our vote public feels equally clear to us. Our vote is one nonviolent tool we can use to defend against the harms of policy violence. We can vote to restrain the evil that is hurting people we love. We can also empower political leaders whom we can then push to do more for those who are hurting. We are not voting for perfect people, but for people we believe we can work with to protect families like ours.
Since each of us became eligible, we have voted in every election, and we have stood together to fight for the voting rights of every American. But we have never said publicly who we are voting for. We are choosing to do this and to do it together for the sake of our families and every family. And we are asking every person of conscience and good will to join us. Between now and November 3rd, we must each do everything in our power to elect Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and public servants all the way down the ballot who can see and understand the needs of families that are hurting.