Thursday, May 5, 2016

Why black voters pass on the Bernie-olution

What is it about Bernie Sanders that hasn’t translated into widespread support among black voters?

Bernie supporters contend black voters don’t know enough to make a calculated decision. Bernie blamed it on the extreme conservatism in the deep South. Black enthusiasts of the Bernie-olution say supporters of Hilary have been brainwashed by the Democratic Party. In other words, the house Negroes are unwilling to unite with the Negroes in the field.

The language used to expound on the counter-Bernie-olution is divisive and problematic for reasons beyond the common rhetoric intended to explain black voters lack of passion related to Bernie’s message. There is much more in this pot of gumbo. The fixings in this tub aren’t about black stupidity, Uncle Tom and Aunt Tamisha being brainwashed or black folks dancing to the Clinton bullstank because of some deal made long ago.

Black voters aren’t getting burned by the Bernie juice for reasons that can’t be supplanted by the damage of the 1994 Crime Bill. It doesn’t help when a few black intellectuals and celebrities scream like doomsday is coming if we pull the lever for Hilary. It doesn’t help when Bernie supporters throw Michelle Alexanders book “The New Jim Crow” at black folks like it’s the word of God in flesh.

There’s a condescending pitch that feels like white privilege condemning black people for being too dumb to get it. It’s time out for all of that. Let’s get down with the get down.

Bernie assumed his message was enough

As powerful as the messages of Wall Street greed and corruption, the loss of American jobs after the passage of NAFTA and the need to replace Obamacare with a one payer option may be, policy statements and promises aren’t a replacement for the building of authentic relationships.

Bernie waited too long in building the type of soul ties that inspires black voters.  It’s not enough to talk that talk. It’s hard enough for black voters to trust an old white man from Vermont who promises to elevate America beyond the Obama years. It’s painful when he shows up with a platform that reads like a bad review of the first black President’s administration.

It sounded like a dis that needed to be checked.

But there’s more. There was insignificant relationship building connected to those revolutionary claims. Bernie stepped into the black Kool-Aid with an agenda to change the tune of the inner city blues. That’s business as usual in the hood. White folks are known for walking in black space with a formula for change.

This is when you better ask somebody. Before telling black people what they need, spend some time listening to what black people have to say.

Bernie failed to consider the divide between millennials and old school black activist

So, the response to my previous argument is the Bernie camp listened to the concerns of representatives from “Black Lives Matter”. Yes, Bernie added the groups concerns to his platform statement. Good move, but don’t drink that Kool-Aid.

You need to do some homework before signing on that dotted line. In other words, get in there and ask about the dirty laundry. There are some messy dynamics that require pondering before jumping in like “Black Lives Matter” is reflective of the common voice of black people.

Not so.

The truth is there is major tension between some of the millennials in the ‘Black Lives Matter” movement and old school activist. That tension relates to the perception that millennials refuse to listen to and learn from older activist.  In many cases, older black activists are asked to leave the room.

This isn’t new drama. It’s the same type of generational battle that caused tension between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and members of Black Power movement. Back then, young people felt tremendous disdain for those old school ways. They pressed for a new type of revolution that rejected going to jail without fighting back.

Bernie’s support among black millennials was a critical decision that put him at odds with black leaders who feel rejected and disrespected by young leaders.

Bernie failed to frame economic disparity within the context of slavery

“No, I don’t think so. First of all, its likelihood of getting through Congress is nil,” Sanders responded to a reporter with Nando Vila involving his position on reparations. “Second of all, I think it would be very divisive. The real issue is when we look at the poverty rate among the African American community, when we look at the high unemployment rate within the African American community, we have a lot of work to do.”

Sander’s response raised the ire of Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist with the Atlantic, wrote a critical response in “Why precisely is Bernie Sanders against reparations?”

“But judged by his platform, Sanders should be directly confronted and asked why his political imagination is so active against plutocracy, but so limited against white supremacy,” Coates writes. “Jim Crow and its legacy were not merely problems of disproportionate poverty. Why should black voters support a candidate who does not recognize this?”

Sanders has been unable to communicate the extent of systemic racism beyond its impact on economic disparity

Sanders has a strong message for poor black people. It is true that the economic disparity between blacks and whites leaves one wondering if slavery has returned in America. The low wages some earn, coupled with the free labor of the men and women in prison, is a challenge to understand.

The problem is with the assumptions Bernie makes about race.

“When you’re white, you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto and to be poor,” Bernie responded during a debate when asked what he has learned about racism.  “You don’t know what it’s like to be hassled when you walk down the street or get dragged out of a car. I believe as a nation in the year 2016, we must be firm in making it clear: We will end institutional racism and reform a broken criminal justice system.”

It was a great answer to a complex question. It was honest, heartfelt and comforting. It also left many black people confronted with other questions. Primary on the list is does Bernie understand the black people who don’t live in the ghetto? Oh, why did he use that word?

What is the message for black people beyond Wall Street reform, socialized healthcare and education? What reforms are proposed for black people who confront racism beyond their pocketbooks and the consequences of mass incarceration.

What is the lesson?

The jury is still out regarding the meaning of it all. What is clear is a real revolution demands significant participation from black people.  A band of disgusted black millennials is not enough to bargain for radical change. As much as young people have reason to be outraged by the world we have created for them, there is a level of brokenness carried by their parents that shows up in places that require a sit down and long talk about what it meant back then.

Those stories may be more than most white people can handle during this season of change. Yes, stuff is unravelling before our eyes.  All it takes is a quick glance at the Trump-olution to feel the rage. One has to ask what’s behind the resistance toward old school politics.

For many black people, it has something to do with the brother in the White House. Is America resisting because there’s too much black to feel comfortable. Or, is it a combination of policies that make it impossible to accept business as usual.

Another thing is clear. It all feels like microaggression when confronted about perceived ignorance related to voting.

“Hey dummy, can’t you see you’re voting against your own interest?”, sounds like “Hey, why don’t you take your black ass back to Africa.”

I’m just saying.

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