Talking To My Black Son about Politics
He asked me what am I going to....
As a black parent of a son, some indelible questions can not be avoided; girls, driving, police, and now politics?
At first pass, this seems as though I can give a very pedestrian answer and stave off the byzantine of analyses that would need to accompany my response. Unsurprisingly politics and black people have a very complex dance. We have voted Democrat essentially since FDR and his New Deal policies had the potential to uplift blacks more than any previous administration. The efficacy of those votes is debatable, but the “tradition” of this vote maintains.
My dad sat me down in the summer of 1996 and instructed me that this family voted Democrat. That’s all. No understanding, no explanation, just a proclamation. It was a hard pill to swallow at first; how can I vote for a candidate that I didn’t know, and more importantly, did my dad even know? I voted for Clinton because I chose obedience over analysis. That day, I decided not to offer any voting directive but to be demonstrative in my advice of the pitfalls in selecting a political party and why he/she would be disappointed.
But this was a little different; my son wanted to know what I did when my political party (Democrat) failed. Here is our discussion. This conversation took place during the winter of 2020.
Son: Ok dad, why vote Biden? What’s wrong with Trump?
Me: Trump patronized black people, trivialized our vote, and offered no concrete plan to specifically address joblessness or racial equality for African Americans. There was no exchange for my vote and his policy.
Son: So, he’s racist?
Me: Not racist, I don’t think, but uninterested in changing the status quo that has white people perched above blacks in most aspects of financial wellbeing and preferential tax benefit.
Son: I saw an interview where Biden told CTHAG (Charlamagne The God) that if black people don’t vote Democrat, they aren’t black. How can a white man tell me that?
Me: Sigh, this is complicated, and to be honest, it’s highly offensive. No man, white or otherwise, can tell you that any action you take reduces your closeness or loyalty to your people. It was a sophomoric and condescending thing to say.
Son: What would Malcolm (X) have said about Biden?
Me: (In my mind and physically, I gulp audibly) Well, I believe Malcolm would quote his Ballot or the Bullet speech, remember? He would say, “your and my leaders have the audacity to run around clapping their hands and talk about how much progress we’re making.” I would hold that the evidence supports that claim, even some 57 years later. On the one hand, we have progressed regarding the civil rights act, but creating a law isn’t a guarantee of justice for black people.
Son: Why did Granddad tell you to vote Democrat?
Me: Survival. Dad was born in 1946 in Eufaula, Alabama. You have to remember that he was able to do many things in his youth because of the jobs the New Deal provided your Great-Granddad through the WPA. So they were directly impacted by this, and during those days, black people sought out politicians who remotely seemed amenable to their prosperity.
Son: Ok, I get why Granddad voted Democrat; why did you keep voting?
Me: Honestly, G, I have percolated through the Green Party and Democrats. But overall, I had hope that the Democrats would somehow remove the eclipse of white supremacy not by ingratiating themselves every 2 to 4 years but providing some rudimentary view of freedom and policy that would allow us to achieve the American dream.
Son: Facts, that’s pretty dope pops!
Back to Instagram, he drifts, meanwhile I was left with a lot of self-assessment that I typically review before any election, precisely one that decides Legislative or Executive level leaders. I was taken back to a documentary film by James Baldwin: **The Price of the Ticket**: Baldwin states, “What is it you want me to reconcile myself to? You always told me it takes time. It has taken my father’s time, my mother’s time, my uncle’s time, my brothers’ and my sisters’ time, my nieces’ and my nephews’ time. How much time do you want for your ‘progress’?”
I must be honest; my anxiety is growing as of late. For most presidents’s the first two years are generally when their campaign goals get accomplished or disposed of entirety.
So, I am left with questions around how much Biden has actually accomplished for African Americans in exchange for our vote. Moreover, shall he be viewed as transformational or just another President that pandered, scared, and maintained the general Democrat playbook to keep our votes with the home team.
When I research black unemployment for the previous month, I encounter the following stats. This data is from the Brookings Institution website and shows that black unemployment was high as 9.2% in June, 8.2% for July, and 8.8% in August. Now, this is almost double the nation’s average and requires policy initiatives to solve. One must ask why it is generally accepted for the black community to suffer beleaguerment of this magnitude. If these numbers were instead the bedevilment for White America, there would be legislation flying out of Congress, along with a firm backlash on Black America. That’s the United States. And that’s what my vote bought? More of the status quo? I would say the government failed us; this included Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and the majority in the House of Representatives and Senate. My disenchantment isn’t novel or is surprising; this does nothing and expects everything behavior from the Democratic Party is irremediable in my eyes, and a significant change needs to take place. Honestly, it feels like my vote doesn’t matter anymore; I guess time will tell.