Growing up, I knew that Election Day meant that I had a day off from school on a Tuesday. As I grew older and could vote, I realized that voting was a duty. I knew of the hardships that people who look like me faced to vote. I learned about the three branches of government. I watched Bill Clinton play the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall Show, and I knew of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. I watched the levees break as people called out for help across the news, and watched as George Bush flew over New Orleans from a helicopter.
I read about weapons of mass destruction as we invaded Iraq. I had the chance to vote for the first Black President of the United States and watched countless young Black men and women be inspired in 2008. Still, through it all, I never truly realized the importance of voting. I was what some people would say “not a political person.” Now, here we are. From 2017 until now, I have watched our political system with shock and disgust. I’ve watched a President speak hatred. I’ve watched a President endorse white supremacy while spewing lies, and turning his followers against the same institutions that helped America evolve. Science, journalism, justice, and facts. The list can go on about the incompetence of this President and his administration, but this isn't about that.
Soon after former Vice President Joe Biden nabbed the Democratic nomination to become the next President of the United States, popular Black men started to voice their indifference with the Democratic Party. The likes of entertainment moguls, P. Diddy and Ice Cube expressed to their followers to hold the Black vote “hostage,” if Black people’s demands are not met. Rapper Kanye West has danced in the White House and has taken his love for who is in the White House so far as to announce that he is running for President. Although it is hoped that West poses no significant threat, his wild card entry on ballots is still damaging, As he stated in a Forbes article, he is “okay with siphoning Black voters from Joe Biden.” His announcement caught the eye of actor Nick Cannon, who later went on to endorse Kanye’s bid for Presidency. For every Candace Owens, there are three former NFL Black players who support the man in the White House, as shown during the latest Republican National Convention.
I now realize that I was naive to assume that seeing a President who supports red tape in homeownership, would be enough to cause others who look like me to want to vote him out. I was naive to assume that it was enough to see that a President who lied about the severity of a pandemic that caused countless deaths and affected Black and Brown communities at a higher rate, would ignite a fire in our community to vote him out. I was naive to assume that it was enough to see that a President, a billionaire who once used his influence to call for the death penalty of five innocent young Black boys, has yet to acknowledge or apologize for such negligence. Through all my assumptions, I still ask myself the question, “What is it with Black men and the Democratic party?”
92% of Black women support Joe Biden's run for Presidency, compared to 80% of Black men. Although the number of Black men who oppose Biden is small, Priorities USA, the largest Democratic super PAC, Chairman Guy Cecil told the Washington Post, that such numbers are “statistically significant,” and “something the Democratic party needs to address head-on.” Make no mistake, I absolutely believe that the Black vote has to be earned, but we begin to walk on dangerous waters when those with visible platforms are doing more criticizing and not laying out an actual plan that doesn't cut off our nose just to smite our face - not voting.
Black men who put on the red hat, I get it, you receive an abundance of attention that America does not often show us unless we are entertaining them in sports. You stand out and have a sense of validation that you matter and that you are special. These are feelings we should always feel as we live, but we don’t. We are used to being seen as less than, and with the red hat, whatever attention you receive, you feel a part of something. But ask yourself, what does a political party and a man who supports white nationalism think of you if that hat comes off? What do they think of you if they can't say those in your community matter, no matter who they vote for?
I often think about a speech that former President Barack Obama gave at the University of Illinois two years ago, where he spoke on America’s past progress and the failures of the current administration. “Better is good,” he said, “that’s the history of progress in this country—not perfect, better. The Civil Rights Act didn’t end racism, but it made things better. Social Security didn’t eliminate all poverty for seniors, but it made things better for millions of people,” he explained. Since I heard this speech, I have adapted “better is good” in my everyday life, through different stress, small achievements, obstacles at work and growing. Better is good and the only way to continue to get better is to accept that not everything will happen when you want it and how you want it to happen, and understanding that not everyone will do things the way you feel that they should be done, But in the end, when decisions and laws are made, did the needle move just a bit towards progress or have we fallen back? That’s what we have to ask ourselves when voting on November 3rd. Better comes in the form of those in Congress such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who continues to fight against the two-party system and push for Medicaid for all and a Green New deal for climate change. Better comes in the form of Kamala Harris promising free tuition and student loan forgiveness for low-income HBCU students. Better comes in the form of what we do for our communities every day.