Current Exhibition > Art Making in Hell’s Kitchen and Beyond

Shannah Harris
Shannah Harris

Shannah Harris

The biggest lesson I’m taking away from text banking is to remember to be polite. Those texts you get from random numbers? Turns out, there could be a real person behind them. Before this experience, I had always assumed that it was a robot, and I would neglect to reply. In a way, I was doing the polite thing, because it turns out that not replying would have been the polite thing to do in the situation.

The process of text banking is quite simple. Through an app called Hustle you text people through a number that is not your own. The organization that I volunteered with is called DemocracyNYC, and they do most of the work for you. You text chunks of one hundred people at a time to send, saying “Hi my name is Shannah and I am a volunteer with DemocracyNYC” and then asking if the person on the other hand needs help registering to vote. The responses have incredible range, hence my politeness comment.

I received a lot of “F*ck you, Democrat” and other very aggressive comments. Despite being from a nonpartisan organization and introducing myself as such, it was still automatically assumed that I was a democrat. I mean, I am, but there was no reason to come for my neck about it. I did three text banking chunks of three hours each, and the bright spots were always the people who responded with a very kind “thank you for doing this” or simply responding to my texts in a kind way. The best, of course, was when people actually needed help registering or making a voting plan.

My biggest takeaway from the whole experience probably should’ve been how important it is to be knowledgeable about voting and be an active citizen, but all I really could think about was the importance of kindness. I’ll definitely be responding to those random texts from now on, obvious robots excluded.