MY POLITICAL BELIEFS are woven into childhood memories. I remember
hearing stories about being rolled along in a stroller at political
demonstrations and going to see Jesse Jackson speak in Pittsburgh
when he ran for president in 1988 -- he bought me an ice cream.
When I was 12, I went to the local headquarters of the
Democratic Party and called people to make sure they voted. Those I
called thought it was a joke, because I was so young. But in my
family, you can't be apathetic about politics. It was a given that I
would register as a Democrat. In my family, the joke goes,``Being a
person of color in the Republican Party is like being a deer in the
National Rifle Association.''
I never understood how deeply ingrained this idea had become until
I finally ventured out of Berkeley's liberal cocoon and interned in
Washington, D.C., last summer. I had to confront my own prejudices
when I realized that I was afraid to tell my mom I had made friends
with Republicans. It's funny -- some people upset their parents by
piercing an obscure body part. I thought I would upset my parents by
spending Saturday night with people who had conservative views on
welfare and affirmative action.
Becoming friends with young Republicans in D.C., however, didn't
change my views. But sometimes someone would make a derogatory
comment about Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer from California, or
complain that those ``black-power writers'' like Toni Morrison and
Alice Walker were replacing Shakespeare and Chaucer as mandatory
school reading. I would just stare down at my french fries and try
not to laugh or yell. But I can't look the other way when it comes to
my first vote.
For years, I've waited to finally vote in a presidential election.
But, now that I can, I don't feel the excitement that I always
anticipated: I'm more worried than anything else. The prospect of
George W. Bush as the leader of the free world is downright
As a young person, I strongly disagree with Bush's reforms to the
juvenile justice system in Texas, such as lowering the age at which a
minor can be tried as an adult to 14. I have friends and relatives
who have been in juvenile facilities, and I've seen it do much more
harm than good.
As a person of color, I am appalled by Dick Cheney's 1986 vote
against a House resolution calling for the South African government
to free Nelson Mandela.
As a woman, I believe a Bush/Cheney administration would threaten
rights. I am 19, an age where I see a lot of my peers getting
pregnant and dropping out of school. If I am ever in that situation,
I want the power to decide if I will become a parent. If Bush becomes
our next president, I will lose the freedom to be who I am.
Belia Mayeno-Choy, 19, a student at Vista College in Berkeley, is a reporter and producer for Youth Radio.
©2000 San Francisco Chronicle