Monday, May 2, 2016

Why "Bern or Bust" is hard for black people to concede

I understand the “Bern or Bust” movement.

It’s a challenge voting for the other candidate after believing in the revolution.  It’s especially difficult when the other candidate represents everything you fought to defeat. How can you legitimately cast your vote for a person married to Wall Street while willing to bomb a foreign country just to prove who carries the biggest stick?

Those millennials fighting on behalf of change aren’t crazy for refusing to jump on the Hillary bandwagon. They have real concerns that make it difficult to distinguish between Trump and Hilary as the lesser of two evils. They need valid reasons to accept the call for party unity.

Many will refuse to vote. Check your Facebook newsfeed. Articles are circulating that justify handing this election over to the Republicans while building the base for the 2020 election.

That argument works for white voters who don’t carry the legacy of black people who fought for and died for the right to vote.  The willingness to give up is rooted in the type of privilege that fails to concede the hardships taken to get the right to vote.  They don’t have to listen to grandmothers and grandfathers who stood on the other side of police brutality while marching just to obtain the right to vote.

Not voting is a position engrained from a culture shaped in assumptions of power.  Black folks have always compromised when it comes to making these types of decisions. There is something to be said about having the privilege to forfeit an election for the sake of something better in four years. While some millennials are willing to lose to make a point later, black people can’t afford to lose.

Those who fight for “Bern or Bust” fail to consider the loses black people potentially face with each election. There are few safe bets among the people blacks support to become President of the United States.

How can blacks trust the Bern enough to not vote?

The majority of blacks aren’t down with the revolution. Black millennials insist older blacks have failed them, and have sold out to the Democratic Party in a way that jeopardizes the future of the black community.

Those older black voters say they have no reason to trust the Bern. They lack enough evidence to forfeit the election. They ask, what has Bernie done, prior to his bid for President, to give black voters reason to not to vote?

Those older black voters say too much has been invested to justify not voting. Why should black people commit to not voting after the Obama years? What resistance will be established to shield them from the white people fuming after the Obama Administration? The post-Obama years may witness the type of backlash that stirs America back to the days before the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

That message has already been spewed. We are witnessing a rise in white hate groups. Some argue that the deaths of unarmed black men, women and children by police, is proof of implicit bias and systemic racism that results in mass incarceration and a disregard of black lives. What will it mean over the next four years to have a president that fails to consider the implications of these matters as it relates to public policy?

Black people have always voted for the lesser of evils. 

There has never been an election, prior to Obama, were blacks felt confident the person chosen understood and honored the concerns of black people. Sadly, many are left troubled by how race and racism impeded Obama’s ability to press forward on an agenda that addressed many of those concerns.

If the first black President wasn’t able to push a national black agenda, why should blacks trust a white President to achieve that goal? Those who feel the Bern believe the difference is Bernie’s socialist perspective. They say his focus on Wall Street, universal healthcare and free college tuition is enough to wait on the revolution.

But, what happens as we wait?

Who gets appointed to the Supreme Court in a Trump administration? What wars will we be left to fight and what will happen to the bond built with Cuba? Will the push to build the wall negatively impact relationships with Mexico and will Trump’s rhetoric regarding the Islamic community impede the way we think about diversity and inclusion?

Will we witness a rise in laws that limit the number of black people who vote? Will a Trump presidency influence advances toward equal pay for women? What happens to reproductive rights and efforts to increase the minimum wage? What can we expect related to protecting the rights of members of the LGBTQ community? What about efforts to grant Christians the right to discriminate against members of other faith traditions?

There’s too much to be lost within the space of four years. This is a point that black voters know by experience. The election isn’t always about supporting the person you believe in the most. It’s often about blocking the person you fear the most.

Black voters know the consequences of electing a President that refuses to acknowledge the power of black voters.

Black people watched Regan kick-off his 1980 presidential campaign in Neshoba, Mississippi, a stone’s throw away from where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. Reagan pledged to undermine civil rights. Regan called the Voting Rights Act of 1964 “humiliating to the South” and implied he wouldn’t support it when it came up for renewal in 1982.

Reagan lashed out against affirmative action. He told reporters “I’m old enough to remember when quotas in America existed for the sake of discrimination, and I don’t want to see that again.” He gutted the Civil Rights Commission, slashed federally funded jobs programs and called welfare recipients “queens”

During hearings to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by naming a holiday after him, Reagan said the jury was still out on whether King was a communist sympathizer.

Black people know the damage that can be done in four years. They’ve seen opportunities taken away by legislative action and executive orders. 

Not voting is not an option for black people. The management of black lives doesn’t afford black people the choice of waiting four more years for the revolution to start. Black people have been fighting a revolution since 1619.

People with privilege might be willing to wait for the candidate of the choosing, but black people have been conditioned to select the lesser of evils.

After Obama, it’s back to business as usual.

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