“I’m 26, I have a bachelor’s degree, I have a master’s degree, I’ve been to Japan. I’ve been poor, I’ve been homeless, I pay for my own education, and I have a lot of debt. … I get a lot of flak for being an undecided voter.”
Above are the words of Ashley Velázquez. Velázquez is a young woman made up by the sum of her experiences. Born in Dayton, OH to military parents, but raised as a transplanted Virginian and Fayetteville, NC native (Cole World), she has seen and lived through a great range of living conditions and varying plights. Decisions that parallel, in some way, her political indecision regarding the next President of the United States of America.
Today, Velázquez is an adjunct professor at the University of Dayton and on the cusp of receiving her master’s degree in education. Passionate about children, and the future of America’s youth pertaining to health and education, her desire to learn in stems from the lack of knowing certain definitive truths in her own life. A writer and poet, Velázquez learned that the politics of government are much more complex when the politics of life aren’t particularly clear or easy to navigate.
“I grew up with my African American mother, and she had different husbands; some were Caucasian, one was Puerto Rican, and now her last is African American, but coming from a poor household, we never had welfare. I have been homeless and poor, but I have also had to support myself…I have had people who reached out, and they were Christians, and that’s where I got my support from financially.”
When asked where she stands between the parties that are competing for representation in the Oval Office, Velázquez was unsure about just where she fits in.
“My political stance is a little bit unsure, in the sense that my mother doesn’t have a lot of influence in my life, and she’s a Democrat, but she’s not really an informed Democrat, whereas the people who have the most influence in my life are Republican, and they’re informed Republicans and they’re educated, but they don’t have college degrees, and they’re upper-middle class, and so, a lot of their influence affects me.”
And yet, her lack of certainly as a voter has roots that have forecasted her current indecision in the election.
“I didn’t grow up learning about politics. My mother’s not educated, my father’s not educated, and I’m the first one [in my family] to have a college degree, and the very first to have a master’s, so, the information I receive and that I depend on comes from those who influence me the most [my aunt and uncle]. Though they don’t have college degrees, they are very successful in their fields. I really look up to them.”
Still, Velázquez can’t point her finger to any one particular candidate and say that one is actually better than the other. That has significance. She understands that she has a unique experience as an American citizen that can’t be duplicated by any one person that might be compared to her.
“I’m [an ethnic] minority, and I’m a woman, so I should automatically become a Democrat, according to society,” said Velázquez.
She had alluded to her heritage before, but specifically, her tri-ethnic blend of culture has affected her greatly. The product of her African American mother and Anglo American father, but raised as an adopted Latina, negotiating the social politics of life in the South and Midwest required feats of strength that often came with an emotional price tag. That price tag exists even amongst her closest allies. Standing 5’9” and a former college track runner for Central State University in Wilberforce, OH, Velázquez looks like one of the “wavy, light-skinned girls” that Jay-Z depicted in “December 4th.” However, her plural heritage comes with a social exchange rate that binds her socially and can boggle the mind, especially when her choice of presidential candidate becomes a topic of discussion.
“If I were to go for Romney, I would be ostracized by the African American community; if I were to vote for Barack Obama, I would be ostracized by the Caucasian community, so it’s very difficult; and even the Puerto Rican side [of my family], they’re very much for Barack Obama, [more] than they would be for Romney.”
Seeing that she would likely be a victim of disrespect hasn’t actually deterred Velázquez from contemplating what choice reigns truest in her heart – instead, it has only made her dig deeper about the civic duties of citizens.
“According to society, and according to what I know, I should want to vote for Barack Obama, because I’m in higher education, and I’m a woman, and I believe in women’s rights; but then understanding the economy…and the separation of church and state, it also makes it a little bit more difficult, because I believe it’s the church’s responsibility to take care of the poor, not necessary the government.”
In the end, Velázquez comes to this truth, which is the most definitive utterance of her time spent conveying her mind’s thoughts.
“I believe than my vote is extremely valuable; I believe that everybody’s vote is extremely valuable,” exclaimed Velázquez. “I had ancestors that died for my right to vote.”
“It carries a lot of weight that I need to make the right decision.”
Indeed, it does.