Black voters and issues were given center stage in the 2016 presidential election for the first time during the recent Democratic Party debate in Charleston, S. C. Finally, it was admitted in a big way that Black Voters Matter when it comes to who will capture the White House in the fall.
All three Democratic hopefuls, Hillary Clinton, the presumed nominee; Bernie Sanders, the “anti-establishment” figure; and Martin O’Malley, the “I’ve been a big city mayor and governor who has dealt with Black people” contender, acknowledged in some way that America has failed to give full freedom to Black people and admitted a troubling racial divide exists.
With the Iowa Caucus slated for Feb. 1, followed by caucuses and primaries in New Hampshire and Nevada, a major primary is scheduled in Feb. 27 in South Carolina adding to the predictability that a focus on Black folks would happen during the debate.
Given the racially charged murders of nine Black worshippers in Bethel AME Church in Charleston, allegedly killed by Dylann Roof, and the killing of Walter Scott, who was shot to death in North Charleston, S.C., by Officer Michael Slager as the 50-year-old Black man was running away, it was impossible for the Jan. 17 debate to avoid matters of race and racial justice.
All of these candidates have also been confronted by Black activists who ditched the politics of respectability to demand that each Democratic hopeful take a position on whether Black Lives Matter–Mr. O’Malley, who had famously responded with “All Lives Matter,” changed his tune and declared “Black Lives Matter” in South Carolina. Some of these young activists have also signaled they might forego the 2016 presidential election if nothing substantive is offered to address the problems of police misconduct and police killings of Black people.
It was somewhat disconcerting to have three White candidates discussing systemic racism in terms that the first Black president never has and in ways he failed to raise in his final State of the Union address.
America’s deep divide and ambivalence in dealing with race is even seen in who has tacit permission to discuss the issue. President Obama, who has hardly been a racial bomb thrower, has been blamed for dividing the country simply because he is a Black man in the White House. An entire political movement arose in opposition to him.
The Democratic candidates said some of the right things in calling for an urban policy, reinvestment in cities, federal investigations anytime someone is killed by a police officer, more jobs, better education and more access to free education. But can any of these ideas be delivered–even if a Democrat wins the White House?
Despite President Obama’s constant conciliatory overtures to the GOP, virtually nothing has come out of it. The U. S. Congress is a cesspool of partisan bickering fed by narrow political interests and deep-pocketed special interests who force lawmakers to capitulate to their whims with little thought about what is best for the country. National interest means nothing in this current political climate and if a Democrat wins the White House that is unlikely to change.
Republicans don’t seem to mind that their party is increasing Whiter, older, male and based in the South. That combination threatens to make the GOP a perennial loser when it comes to the presidency, according to some analysts. Yet, the party seems unwilling to change and despite lip service is alienating Black and Latino voters.
As the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan observed in a recent interview with Alex Jones of infowars.com, “For the American people to think that a Black man in the White House has taken over this country, you know, that is so far from the truth because he’s just the CEO of U.S.A. Inc., and they can either hire him or fire him for the job that he’s doing but he’s not in control.” A Shadow Government is the ruling power behind every president, said Min. Farrakhan. That truth and fractured race relations mean changing course and dealing effectively with issues that affect Blacks, Native Americans, Latinos and even poor Whites is highly unlikely–if not impossible.
Public opinion polls have consistently found a racial divide in the United States. According to a nationwide poll conducted by CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation in November, “roughly half of Americans–49%–say racism is ‘a big problem’ in society today.”
“About two-thirds of blacks (66%) and Hispanics (64%) said racism is a big problem, while just over four in 10 (43%) whites said the same. Hispanics are much more likely now to say racism is a big problem than they were in 1995, when less than half responded that way. Among blacks, the share who said racism was a big problem dropped from 68% in 1995 to 50% in 2011, and now has climbed back to 66%,” CNN reported.
White America has largely pardoned herself for the sin of racism as tension has risen from the streets, to college campuses to corporate suites as Blacks insist all is not well inside “the world’s greatest democracy.”
“Half of white Americans–including 60 percent of the white working class– told researchers that discrimination against whites has become as big a problem today as discrimination against blacks and other minorities. … White Americans feel putupon and mistreated–and large shares of non-white Americans do not seem to have any knowledge of the challenges that white Americans say they face,” added the Washington Post in reporting on a poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute in mid-November.
Even the most well-meaning Democratic candidate or Republican candidate would face an almost impossible task in uniting this country across racial lines. If Whites already feel put upon and Blacks feel locked out, where is any room for middle ground? There isn’t any.
Black America is going to have to make a decision about her future and faith in a benevolent White man or woman isn’t going to change our reality. We are going to be forced to reckon with a message and warning that came to us over 80 years ago–it is time to separate from the children of our former slavemasters and go for self. No debate is going to change that reality.