Voices Behind The Vote: Casting A Ballot To Condemn Racism

Oct 7, 2020

During the presidential debate a week ago, moderator Chris Wallace asked President Trump to denounce white supremacy. Trump sidestepped the question and instead told a white supremacist group to “stand back and stand by.” The next day, I caught up with Art Simoni, who once would have called himself conservative, and who was my editor when I was a student reporter nearly 20 years ago.

Transcript:

MARISA DEMARCO: Well, when I pulled up today, you said to me something that I think you used to say to me all the time in the newsroom, like: ‘What we got today?’ Because you were my boss.

ARTHUR SIMONI: I'm Arthur Simoni, and I'm voting for the second time in my life. I'm 46 years old. So that's not a very good batting average, I guess. But I'm here and ready to vote.

For a long time, I kind of subscribed to the view that I was, you know, this rugged individualist, and whatever, whoever, was elected didn't affect me or my family, and I don't think that that is the case now. I feel like if we don't vote and change the tide, so to speak, that we're not going to have the opportunity to vote in four years, in eight years, and that choice is going to be taken away from us.

I think I've evolved. I think, you know, I was probably borderline conservative.

We're on the Westside, we're in the Bosque. This is the Atrisco area. I guess you would call it the Westside Bluffs, because we have the bluffs right over the river right there. When we moved here with my parents, this was all sand. There was that one little housing development.

The valley in Albuquerque
Credit Marisa Demarco / KUNM

Just recently with the pandemic, and just the disregard for human life, we have a commander in chief that is a white supremacist, or at the very least, panders to a base of white supremacists. And there's kids in cages right now. There's really no concrete action for equality for people of color; it's all on the surface. Police brutality is not getting any better, and if we don't put a stop to that now, with, you know, the power of our vote, it's going to get worse.

I think that we need to operate within the parameters of what our country has been based upon. Voting has been our primary source of power, you know, as people since this country was established. I'm hoping that things go well, and he does stand down if he's not re-elected. And then you know, we have more work ahead of us.

DEMARCO: Excuse me, we’re standing on an anthill. We can stand away. It's a metaphor.

SIMONI: I think about my daughters, and it scares me to think that they can be targeted, and people like them targeted, because of their choice of who they are or their skin color. I think my generation is responsible for where we're at—me, a prime example, with my apathy towards voting. But also, we're responsible for being the placeholders, so people of that age and younger can kind of get this country through an evolution and make it better.

DEMARCO: I can't believe your kids are so big.

SIMONI: 2001, is when we worked together last. It’s nuts. I have never looked back on that at all. I don't think I've written in probably 15 years. I coach wrestling, boys and girls wrestling, and I coach girls soccer at West Mesa. I see a lot of people my age kind of passing the buck and saying “Oh, this generation.” Ninety-five percent of the kids that I deal with on a daily basis are kinder, more empathetic, think with more reason, than most of the people my age I come into contact with.

People my age and a little bit younger need to take responsibility for what we've created, and that starts with voting.

View of the Sandias from the Westside Bluffs
Credit Marisa Demarco / KUNM

We're looking at a lot of Chamisa right now, some cacti, lots of little desert flowers that I have no idea what they are. And then of course, there's all the cottonwoods in the valley right there. And you can see probably one of the best views in the city of the Sandias from here. For some reason, I had kind of ignored this area growing up, and, you know, in my early adulthood. But when I moved back from California, this was the first place I came. And I started to run this route and just kind of, it was a very meditative space, and I’d think a lot. It's a very specific place that feels like home to me.

My kids live in this area, too. So they get to see the same things. They'll text me: ‘Did you see that sunrise this morning? Were you running?’ And I'm like, ‘yeah.’ It's just something worth saving, and that's why voting is important.