Can you look past my complexion? This question is a common thought in the minds of Black Americans, from every cultural and ethnic background. Constantly considering the potential of facing discrimination, stereotypes, and the anxiety of someone else’s fear. Hoping that grace or miraculous divine intervention interjects itself in the next racially-charged situation so we can maintain a Christ-like composure.
We can’t ignore the reality
Can you look past my complexion? This question is often dismissed by those who claim to suffer from the affliction of color blindness—unable to detect hue or melanin in the skin of their brethren, and only able to observe their underlying humanity. Political pundits, authors, self-prescribed black conservatives, and even heartfelt liberals speak on how color/complexion is not an issue when heated debates about police brutality, education, mass incarceration, or social justice ensue.
There is no agreement or unified messaging around black oppression, black healthcare, black economics, black education, black faith, black wealth, or even black culture. However, the Black Vote is treated as a singular indictment or endorsement of the black race in totality. The notorious Black Vote has given rise to polarizing black voices like Candace Owen, Omarosa or Kanye West, who are anti-Democrat/liberal. They’ve become the faces and voices used by conservative media to rescue the Black Vote from the plantation of the Democratic party.
Given our current primary season, I would not be the only person who would find misalignment between my complexion and the perception of the Black Vote. Thank you media, for compounding the complexity of being a minority by eliminating my individuality. With no clarifying details, it would be reckless to immediately assume what political affiliation a White American ascribes to. Regardless of economics, education, occupation, or religion, you don’t see broad classifications of the white vote during the election cycle. We have red states and blue states, but no White states nor a White vote.
We report White demographics based on education, gender, and even income, but the Black Vote does not garner the same detailed analysis. To likely misquote Token from the infamous South Park animated TV series:
“Jesse Jackson is not the emperor of Black people.”
This iconic episode used satire to highlight the fact that when White people do something offensive or racist, there are “keepers” of the black coalition that you can speak with to reconcile with the entire black race.
We can’t ignore the reality that the majority of Black voters have cast their ballot for Democrats in the last few decades. We are not going down the rabbit hole of Dixiecrats and Lincoln Republicans, but feel free to share those historical lessons in the comment section. Needless to say, the Black vote is not a homogenous block of singular thought or alignment. The Democratic, Independent, Libertarian, and Republican parties could never entirely represent the interest of Black voters, for we are not a single entity. We minimize our democratic power when we fail to hold elected officials responsible for delivering solutions that matter to us.
Federal elections dominate the media and our attention, yet we have insignificant participation in state and local government elections that have the most immediate impact on our daily lives. Our local schools, city governments, police departments, public services, building codes, public health, civil courts, criminal courts, and community development are in the hands of local officials. Yet, research shows that in large cities, as few as 15% of the population votes to elect a mayor. The same data shows that “low income and minority voters are not being heard in mayoral races.” This means that the vote of older, more affluent, White Americans largely dictates the local government in most American cities.
Who is running for U.S. President may be the latest trending topic on social media, but when do we ever consider who is running for Sheriff, School Board, County Executive, City Council, Mayor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Governor, State Supreme Court, and Senate—all of which are exponentially more significant. The Black vote gets attention in national elections because they need marginalized groups to sway a divided majority. The Black Vote gets no attention in local elections because there is a clear majority that benefits from our lack of engagement. The very that we still have schools in predominantly black neighborhoods struggling for funding, yet those same cities can find resources to add bike lanes for the post-gentrification/development residents, is a clear illustration of this negligence.
I am not a Black Vote
I am not a Black Vote. I am a husband, father of future black men, #girldad, conservative Christian, social progressive, disabled veteran, healthcare executive, social justice activist, hip-hop artist, author, friend of a special needs parent, relative of a Medicaid recipient, nephew of SNAP recipients, a debtor of federal financial aid, benefactor of pell grants, a patient of Veterans Administration hospitals, son of a retired veteran, brother of a wounded warrior, a fan of community policing, critic of criminal justice, and a millennial of the Oregon trail variation.
I am not a Black Vote. Don’t assume my interest based on this melanin-rich complexion. Let your platform, plans, and performance demonstrate who and what you truly care about. Empower local leaders to address issues in your own communities, collaborate with organizations that know reality and provide resources to achieve the dream.
Dear urban leaders, you no longer have to settle for periodic pandering during election cycles. You represent the voices, opinions, and frustrations of the community, but you have to be more than an amplifier. Urban leaders have to use their megaphones to not only amplify the message but to put out a clarion call to their communities, to get out and vote in every election. Problems should be distilled down to actionable items, and local politicians will be forced to address them if we use our votes to speak. Lobbyists, special interests, and political action committees may dominate media cycles and paid advertising, but you have unmatched access to the hearts of the people. Urban leaders have earned the respect of their communities by standing beside them during struggle, so trust does not need to be purchased or manufactured. You have baptized their infants, officiated their weddings, coached their children, and offered them benevolence in times of need. Our communities are waiting for leaders from amongst us to speak out, provide direction, and send a message that unifies. We can fill pews, gain followers, sell books, raise money, and host nationally recognized events. But if we fail to have a lasting impact on our local governments and the legislation they implement, our children will face the same challenges we protest today. We owe it to the next generation to not be satisfied with a trending hashtag, but be willing to sacrifice like those who came before us, to keep pushing for legislative change until we reach the promised land.
ABOUT FEATURED ARTIST: PASTOR ROY DOCKERY, ‘THE savage truth podcast’ host:
The featured art is from Pastor Roy himself, a new single from his upcoming album entitled My Story. With a classic beat by legendary producer Tone Jonez, Pastor Roy uses hip-hop to paint a real picture of the Black American experience—politics, social media obsessions, and division within the Christian Community. More music and information available at roydockery.org. Make sure you follow them both on Instagram (@officialtonejonez and @pastorroydockery)