I fully disagree with the growing trend that casts Democrats and Republicans as two sides of the same coin. It takes reading one book, one Google search, or even one thoughtful YouTube video to dispel that myth.
But…I do think that Black Americans are in a peculiar sociopolitical situation. Black folks are angry; understandably so. And they want their presidential candidates to answer that anger. At the same time, presidential candidates have to be elected by a country that is 87% non-Black. These candidates may need the Black vote to win even though a sizeable portion of that 87% percent is at the very least apathetic when it comes to the Black cause of the day.
As Black voters, this is where we have to really be critical in our thinking on the issues. The answers are in the nuances.
Example: A growing cohort of smart Black people have been criticizing President Obama for not being present enough on issues that matter to Black people. They want him to address more assertively the issue of police killings of black people that have been popularized in media. The fact that he is a Black man puts added pressure on him to address these calls for justice. The contention lies here: police brutality, while emotionally charged, is almost a negligible cause of death and/or disfranchisement in the Black community.
The two leading causes of Black death and Black distress are heart disease and homicide. The two biggest cornerstones of the Obama presidency are The Affordable Care Act and the budding prison and criminal justice reform, which aligns closely with what will be Obama’s cornerstone project post-White House, My Brother’s Keeper. While both of these efforts are in their infancies – and skepticism can be a healthy part of discourse – both have already had promising results. And they both directly address the most pressing issues in our communities.
What is happening is this: President Obama, an unarguably intelligent man, is working from a systems-level body of knowledge, insight, and in my opinion, compassion. While the black consensus is trying to salve the symptoms of oppression, the president seems to be clawing at the cause. All the while being criticized by the people who don’t realize he is actually helping them. If I may be hyperbolic, it reminds me of how Jesus prayed for and had compassion on the mob AS they spat on him and led him to his slaughter. His compassion understood that they knew not what they did.
Here’s where Bernie comes in: Bernie has to address the concerns of his Black constituents, whether from genuine concern or out of political expediency. His resume suggests concern. Simultaneously, Bernie realizes that the deeper and more treatable dis-ease in the Black community lies in the economic disfranchisement of the race. Racism is a private battle. Discrimination is a public one. So while the Black movement wants Bernie to look at the crack in the ceiling (which he does/has), Bernie realizes he cannot stay there. He has to attend to the structure of the foundation. What affects the United States economy, infrastructure, social landscape, etc, disproportionately affects the brown populations of the country. A ground-up philosophy of change understands that the condition of the leaves is based on the health of the roots.
And this is where Black America comes in. We are an emotional people. We are an emotional people because we have had an emotional history and in many ways, live an emotional present. And it can sting. But emotions are based on thought. We must be critical and nuanced in thought to sense what we cannot see is happening here. We cannot be so single-minded that we lose sight of everything else that is important. Let us climb a little higher on the mountain for perspective. There’s a different view from the peak than there is from the valley. The air is clearer too.