On Oct. 24, my cousin Ebonee, a proud Atlantan, became one of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have lost their lives to the novel coronavirus. Ebonee was a 35-year-old mother of three. She had just celebrated her 13th wedding anniversary and was so proud of her Air Force veteran husband. Ebonee was an entrepreneur and writer who worked harder than anyone I’ve ever known. I know she fought until her last breath, and I know she should still be here.

While Ebonee was unique and irreplaceable to me and my family, I know there is nothing special about our loss. There are at least 225,000 people in this country who have been lost to their families forever as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which means that millions of Americans like me are currently grieving. I know grief well: when I was 25, I lost my mother to breast cancer, and last summer, I lost a pregnancy.

But this grief is different. This grief is colored by a deep and abiding rage because Ebonee’s death could have been prevented. Ebonee’s death is a consequence of failed political leadership in the United States. I am not foolish enough to think that any politician caused this global pandemic. But I firmly believe that effective political leadership would have helped reign in this virus and save lives.

We know from Germany, South Korea, Canada, and New Zealand that the spread of COVID-19 can be controlled with appropriate, government-led safety measures, which we never fully enforced in America.

Our country is currently led by an immature, irresponsible, and callous man who does not care if people die from this virus as long as the stock market performs well. He himself hosted a super spreader event at the White House, a building that is currently undergoing a second coronavirus outbreak. If the White House were a restaurant, it would have been forcibly shut down by now.

I know how we got here, but I also know it doesn’t have to be this way going forward. We do not have to keep losing our loved ones like this. We do not have to accept a leader who refuses to acknowledge our grief – a leader who, instead of consoling grieving Americans, dismisses them and suggests the current death toll is negligible. We deserve better than this.

We deserve leaders who will not only work tirelessly to get this virus under control but leaders who will seek to comfort us because they know grief. We need leaders who know what it feels like to be a part of the “death phone tree,” calling your loved ones to tell them someone they love has died. Leaders who know how challenging it is to raise children in the absence of their parents.

I know I am grieving in large part thanks to Donald Trump’s irresponsibility, selfishness, and ineptitude, so I am begging you, if you haven’t voted yet, to please vote for the only candidate who has a plan to get this virus under control. Voting for Joe Biden isn’t about politics at this point; it is about life or death for millions of American families.

I need you to vote for families that look like mine because Black people are three times as likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 and twice as likely to die from it. I want, and we all deserve, someone in the White House who is decent. Someone who understands our grief and cares enough to console us, to comfort us. Someone who sees and acknowledges the millions of us who’ve lost a loved one to this awful virus. Vote to honor Ebonee and to protect your own family.

Marisa Renee Lee is a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur. She is the CEO of Beacon Advisors, co-founder of Supportal, and founder of the breast can cancer charity, The Pink Agenda. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband Matthew and dog Sadie.

(Photo: Marisa Renee Lee)

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