Christian Hip-hop artist Amisho Baraka, popularly known as Sho Baraka revealed last weekend that he will protest both Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in November by voting for a third party candidate.
"I am going to vote. I'm especially going to vote in my state and local elections. I will definitely cast a ballot for someone in the presidential election; it will not be Trump or Clinton," the son of a former Black Panther who currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia told NPR.
Baraka who first shared his decision to go against the nominees of the nation's two major political parties in an op-ed for Christianity Today, said he struggles because of his race when it comes to Republicans and is challenged by the progressive values of Democrats. However, he did not say whether he would be casting his vote for either Libertarian Gary Johnson, independent Evan McMullin or Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
"As a black Christian in an urban environment, I consciously struggle to give my allegiance to either political party. In this way, this election gives many white evangelicals a sense of what it's like to be a black believer in America today," he began.
"As an African American, I'm marginalized by the lack of compassion on the right. As a Christian, I'm ostracized by the secularism of the left. As a man, I'm greatly concerned by subversive attempts to deconstruct all 'classical' definitions of manhood," he said.
Baraka's protest echoes some of the frustration aired by African American millennials who have argued that Clinton has not shown them that she is concerned about their issues.
Clinton's former Democratic rival-turned-supporter Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders warned on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that casting a protest vote is not something voters should be doing at this time.
"I think what the focus has got to be on now is understanding that this moment in history, for a presidential election, is not the time for a protest vote," said Sanders who ran as an independent for Congress in 1990.
"Look, I am the longest-serving independent in the history of Congress. When I was younger I ran on a third party here in the state of Vermont. So I'm not here to disparage third-party candidates who historically have played a very, very important role in this country in raising issues and moving this country in certain directions …. It's time to look at which candidate will work best for the middle class and working families," he added.
Clay Shirky, associate professor in the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and associate arts professor at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University, argued Monday on Medium that voting for third party candidates to protest is akin to "throwing away your vote."
He also argued that protest voters are driven more by their own egos rather than their conscience.
"Throwing away your vote on a message no one will hear, and which will change no outcome, is sometimes presented as 'voting your conscience,' but that's got it exactly backwards; your conscience is what keeps you from doing things that feel good to you but hurt other people. Citizens who vote for third-party candidates, write-in candidates, or nobody aren't voting their conscience, they are voting their ego, unable to accept that a system they find personally disheartening actually applies to them," wrote Shirky.
Baraka says he understands the concept behind the argument but is standing his ground anyway.
"I understand the argument — and I think it's a viable argument — but I also believe the 'protest vote' as they will say ... it should speak volumes. So like if Donald Trump wins then the Democratic Party should recognize, 'well, there's a base of individuals that we could have actually listened to, and rather pandered to," he said.
"And on the left, if Hillary Clinton wins, I think there needs to be a lot of work done on the right to say, 'hey, how do we actually' — you know, you hear a lot of Donald Trump in his platitudes of 'I'll help the black community out' — 'but what actually will you do?' And I don't think there's been any steps to actually have real legitimate conversations or interactions with people. And so for both parties, I think there needs to be a reassessment on how we are to earn the vote of the urban Christian," he said.
The hip-hop artist said he is concerned about the way in which he thinks black voters have been taken for granted and he urges African Americans to hold their vote and use it like a bullet as expressed in Malcolm X's "Ballot In A Bullet" speech.
"I think what we've done — not just as an urban Christian demographic, but as a black community — I think we've just given up our allegiance, our blind allegiance, to the Democratic Party, without them actually giving any true concern to the plight of African-Americans in this country. ...," he said. "Malcolm X would have said, that was political — he called those individuals political chumps."
Ultimately he says, he wants to create "a coalition that is biblically based but also shares the compassion that Jesus displayed in the scriptures — an individual who cares for the poor, who's concerned for the outcast and marginalized, but at the same time doesn't compromise his divinity in order to show compassion. I think what we often are asked to do is make those things mutually exclusive."