The relationship of white politics to racism is as deep on the progressive side as it is on the conservative. One is by an allegiance to supremacy and/or willful ignorance and the other by passive assumption and centering of white narratives about Black perspective, culture and experience. There is an assumption as to what it is to be progressive and without listening and comprehending the origins and trajectory of America – sins and successes – white political motives won’t drive a coalition that include the full melatonin spectrum of a diverse America. Whether political party or individual person, if you do not know yourself – you flounder in a trial and error parcourse with slapstick finale of misapprehension. Welcome to the show.
Black people know a whole lot … A Whole Lot … more about whiteness that white people do about Blackness. Privilege is really only one thread that runs through many tapestries. Not having to pay attention in order to achieve. That’s it. Not a single white candidate is prepared for what is absolutely necessary to win Black voters in high enough numbers in an era where white supremacy is more than prepared to call upon and secure the support of their own. Black America is not monolithic. This in no way suggests that it is. As a matter of clarity and priority, I’d rather white folks read The Root or watch J.C. Watts new network than read anything I have to say. I hope I say something from time to time that has a white reader dump me and go directly the far more qualified sources that I go to in a continuing education and yes, deprogramming of inherent biases.
This is not directed to any person of color. A truth defining line in David Bowie’s era-iconic song Changes, has for me, been a reference to an arrogance from which many of us suffer. Though he speaks of children and I am not – the arrogance of explanation as to what someone else is experiencing and what to do about it, is a universal offense.
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re goin’ through
Any time an observer of a group of people working for and achieving change decides anything about that group purely from the outside – a propagandized outside – you can count on large crop of ignorance having flourished recklessly and soon after gone to seed.
Hard for many to swallow, that it remains true – white folks are the ones who need to be listening. The fact that that bothers you if it does, are the biases I’m talking about in full self-preserving operation migrating to propagate and perpetuate their own. Salmon don’t work harder, and white biases have no natural predator to keep them in check. All structures have been intricately climatized to flourish and choke out any threat to dominance or even resistance to white centeredness in America and in American politics. It may sting to some, but the only way to combat the natural enemy of justice and liberty for all is to fix ourselves and get over it.
Black America’s brain trust is the most substantive for understanding America. Even with the broad spectrum of political leanings among Black American’s – they are the least likely to fall for a line. Particularly when it’s been used so many times to achieve so many disappointments, betrayals and so much disempowerment. White fear and the lack of necessity to step out of the ignorance that once held Black American’s down has turned a fateful tide. Black America has been honed and refined as a collective of profound resilience and yes, superior self-perspective. Black Women have become the Exemplar’s of Truth Telling. Most white people are still lying to themselves .. about even the smallest of collective self-truths. Certainly about ‘who’ America is and where she has been.
Color IS the issue. But not necessarily the color of the candidate. Voter color is the delicately spoken, clumsily pursued element that will matter in 2020. And it will matter bigly. So what is the problem with the candidates in this race? Possibly nothing. But the campaigns are rising to an echelon of offense previously exclusive to Trump and the offenses he uses for appeal. Dems are catching up though. This is not merely the being ‘passed over’ kind with regard to constituency and their vital interests. Black folks are used to that treatment – not that there will be much more tolerance of it. But these campaigns have lazily set a course sure to offend – and offend they have.
When a white candidate asks a Black voter of any political denomination or ilk for their vote, they are not just asking for political trust – they are asking for their lives to be put in the hands of that white candidate. That is not hyperbole. Black voters do so as an option. The other of which is just stepping aside and letting the proverbial shitakes hit the fan. That IS a possibility, incidentally. The outcomes for Black voters have often been the same no matter who goes into office. There is a consciousness that says “why vote at all” or “why vote for the same old thing.” We kid ourselves when we suggest that Trump has brought a wave of hidden white supremacy to the surface. It wasn’t hidden to Black folk. It wasn’t hidden from anyone. White people may just be beginning to see how deep and how far supremacy goes – how populated the mass of it. Black people however, have always known. The biggest perk of privilege is being insulated from the suffering everyone else is going through. White people have not had to know, so they haven’t bothered to see it in its magnitude. Rather than interrupting that legacy, the current candidates with all we know and all that is available to know, instead are wittingly or not – perpetuating that legacy. And THAT may cost us 2020 and the life support we find American Democracy hooked up to – tubes, bellows and all.
So what kind of offenses has Black America been subjected to by a party who expects allegiance? Start with Candidate Pete. A candidate whom one would think might know better than to crib note plight awareness and its actionability. Buttigieg managed to single-handedly alienate the four percent of the Black vote his efforts and primary flagship policy sought to attain. First by using a stock photo of a Kenyan woman to brand his Douglas Plan (yes, the abolitionist, and thankfully so. A white savior introduced to brand this would have been just one too far, to brand the policy instrument Buttigieg devised to address racism in America – Really Pete? The only thing more racist he could have done is don a Dashiki to publicly announce his policy. Undeterred by consequence of insult, his campaign followed with the choice to do a press release for his plan through HBCU’s. In those press releases, Candidate Pete named prominent South Carolina supporters of his Douglas Plan categorized as support for him. Those names included a Columbia City councilwoman, prominent Baptist pastor, a state representative and the chair of the state’s Black Caucus – all of whom had no intention of endorsing Buttigieg. A couple of these generously let him off the hook for deliberate misrepresentation. They agreed to consider authorizing the plan … not Buttigieg and would do so as consulted toward its structuring. Something that had not occurred. To ice the cake, there is the dance. What to say about the dance. Going negatively viral just before the South Carolina debacle was Michael Harriet’s article in The Root “Pete Buttigieg is a Lying MF” followed festively by a tweet storm chock full of commentary like “As if we didn’t know that the campaign is super white already — might want to work on these moves before SC” – “flash mob meets Jazzercise” and “the cringiest campaign trend so far.” Buttigieg’s campaign staying conspicuously clear of the elephant in the room- older generation Black voters non-support of same sex marriage. “Nothing to see here” and the band plays on.
I laid into Buttigieg here because it was such a dark comedy of errors. But none are doing that well. None are driving a motivated coalition because none are really listening. The handling of candidates of color was reprehensible. So comes the hail-storm of objection not only from Black Communities, both geographic and webosphere, but also from the candidates toward their respective identical Dem party siblings. I sat thinking “what a mess.” White people in pursuit of the Black vote end up looking like Lucy Ricardo in an elaborate scheme to finally corner Van Johnson. Problem here is, Ethel is nowhere in sight for any measure of restraint. And the absolute truth is … the Democratic Party cannot win without a robust Black vote.
Democrats have got to do something to stop the alienation of Black voters by a party with candidates barely able to differentiate themselves from each other. But above all else, the lack of authentic relationship to the fullness of the society the Democratic Party claims to represent and the values that make that possible. I am not referring to the need to assure a Black or minority candidate – though it would help if the gay minority could invest more in understanding the interests of marginalized communities before devising and delivering resolutions for it. The combination of mansplaining and whitesplaining to women of color draws either contempt or a strained human compassion – but it ever will garner support.