If I had to distill the Democratic Party’s response to black people who question leftist orthodoxy into a concise message, it would be, “Don’t talk to them! Get back in the house!” Despite the unfortunate tendency of black conservatives to liken the relationship between black voters and Democrats to slaves on a plantation, the truth is this dialogue more accurately represents what an abusive husband says to a wife he thinks may leave him.
Joe Biden apologized for his “you ain’t black” comments last year, but his assessment of the political dynamics at play in the age of Trump were supported by the nation’s foremost writer on race. Nikole Hannah-Jones tweeted, “There is a difference between being politically black and being racially black. I am not defending anyone but we all know this and should stop pretending that we don’t.”
Hannah-Jones quickly deleted her tweet, but in both perception and practice, her analysis was correct. Despite the predictable response, “Black people are not a monolith,” the degree of diversity within the black body politic is irrelevant if 90% of black voters consistently make the same choice every election.
Black second-class citizenship through law, policy, and social custom was legal for most of America’s history. The non-discrimination of that discrimination — impacting black lawyers and janitors alike — forged a sense of racial solidarity that was used to fight for common political interests. That fight was successfully won through landmark court decisions like Brown v. Board of Education, legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and changing cultural attitudes around race. Lyndon Johnson was correct when he predicted that his support of civil rights legislation and Great Society programs would secure the black vote for generations.
That support has morphed into a fusion of black racial identity and Democratic Party affiliation that intensified significantly during the Trump administration. That is why a break from the Left feels like a threat to Democrats and an existential crisis to black voters who have constructed their sense of self around race.
This is why Democrats reacted so viciously when they thought that even a small number of black men were considering voting for Trump in 2020. Congresswoman Maxine Waters said she would never forgive black voters who made the “despicable” decision to vote for Trump. Others said black men voted for Trump because they hate black women and wanted access to the white patriarchal power structure.
Understanding the link between black identity and political behavior is also why the Left is so effective at using fear as a rhetorical tool. To them, black people are always one Republican away from Jim Crow. One reason close to half of Hispanic men voted to recall Gavin Newsom and nearly 40% voted for Trump is because they don’t have a single racial narrative for Democrats to exploit. There is no “Hispanic Selma” or “Jaime Crow” for the left to use against Latino voters in the way they use historical injustices to scare black voters today.
If the Democratic Party’s treatment of black voters is on trial in the court of public opinion, the black leadership class of elected officials, political pundits, journalists, athletes, entertainers, and activists are all unindicted co-conspirators. Like the party they serve, their behavior has all the necessary components of a toxic relationship: manipulation, gaslighting, codependency, public affirmation combined with private neglect, and a fierce resistance to outside interference.
The video of Roland Martin dancing for Hillary Clinton at an HBCU town hall in 2015 captures the relationship between black elites and Democrats perfectly. The most striking thing about the video, other than his total lack of rhythm and self-respect, was the presence of National Education Association stickers on the audience members seated behind him.
That teachers’ union stands in opposition to school choice and the interests of the black parents who support it. That is why I wasn’t surprised when Martin let Clinton answer a question about public education with boilerplate talking points about charter schools not taking all students and traditional public schools needing more resources.
He never noted that charter schools that fail to provide the type of education parents want for their children are shut down quickly, while government-run public schools that underperform for years often receive more funding and resources. The only circumstance under which politicians like the Clintons and Obamas would allow their children to go to failing government schools is for community service projects, but they have no problem consigning low-income black families to them for generations.
Black elites have enabled the Democrats to practice the politics of personal connection, superficial representation, and cultural affirmation for decades. They tell us to celebrate because our elected officials look like us, carry hot sauce in their purses, sing Negro spirituals, play the saxophone, and smoke weed in college while listening to rap music. None of those things mean they are serving our interests.
The black activists and journalists who supported the “Defund the Police” movement clearly were not thinking about the black and Hispanic men who have borne the brunt of the homicide spike in our largest cities. In New York City, 98% of shooting victims and 94% of homicide victims in 2020 were either black or Hispanic. Of Philadelphia’s 10,000 shooting and homicide victims since 2015, 94% were black or Hispanic and 75% were black males. The same dynamic exists in St. Louis, where black residents make up 44% of the population and 92% of the homicide victims. Congresswoman Cori Bush, who represents the city, wants to defund the police for her constituents so that she can hire them for her private security team.
A functioning black leadership class could simultaneously advocate for needed police reforms while noting that fewer police mean fewer resources to investigate cases and bring justice to grieving families. Instead, the black community has elites like Colin Kaepernick and the founders of Black Lives Matter who advocate police and prison abolition from the safety of their million-dollar homes.
The irony is that these same political operatives want more police to arrest the “Karens” they periodically show harassing black people. Media outlets like the Root and Black News Channel seem to think that rude, middle-aged white women are a more pressing concern to their audience than the hundreds of black children who are killed in drive-bys each year.
The black elites’ intellectual vapidity applies to the issue of family as well. The left promotes a Black Lives Matter organization that thinks the nuclear family should be abolished. Apparently they think the black community is suffering from too many intact families. Conservatives acknowledge that the nuclear family is the cornerstone of a free society. They know that strong families mean less of a need for government in our everyday lives. They think a man and woman should marry before having children. The Left thinks women with children should marry the government.
Like their Democratic bosses, the black leadership class responds to any deviation from the script — whether on COVID or voting preferences — with ad hominem attacks, slander, lies, deflection, defensiveness, and any other tactic to avoid answering straightforward questions. They engage in theatricality and deception instead of telling their audience how specific policies fare in the “4-I” test of intentions, incentives, interests, and impact.
Let me be clear, I’m not saying Republicans are the answer. Many of them lack the spine to be of much use. They wilt in the face of baseless accusations of bigotry and fail to push back on Democrats who paint the conservative fight against abortion — and for black babies — as an act of white supremacy.
Ultimately, the black men rejecting the liberal worldview want the freedom to start businesses, earn a decent wage, live in safe communities, practice their faith, speak their minds publicly without social censure, provide for their wives and children, and protect their families. These men embody the spirit of Frederick Douglass, who simultaneously fought for abolition and the right to exercise self-determination and self-sufficiency. Douglass’ nickname was the “Lion of Anacostia,” an ode to the D.C. neighborhood he called home. My hope is that the men who are leading this break from the Left remember that they are lions whose job is to protect the pride from outside intruders, not housecats looking to be fed by their master’s hand.