The Mental Enslavement of Black Republicans
Joe Biden was right. He may not have been the right person to whitesplain it, but he was on to something when he said, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”
His words may have been clunky and technically inaccurate — the last time I checked, undecided Blacks and Black Republicans for Trump were indeed Black. Still, if, say, Jay-Z had said the same thing to Charlamagne tha God, replacing “me” with “Biden,” Black Americans would have haven given him a virtual standing ovation.
The problem wasn’t so much what Biden said but the fact that he, a privileged White man, had the audacity to say it. Who is he to tell us how to be Black? Many interpreted his comments as proof that Democratic politicians take the Black vote for granted and don’t think they have to work for it. I agree it’s a lazy and demeaning assumption, but if it were entirely true, would Biden have picked biracial Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential running mate? You don’t court the Black vote if you assume it’s already yours.
I’m not saying Biden picked Harris as his number two solely because she’s one-half Black, but if you don’t think that played a major role in his decision, then you probably don’t believe Republicans are trying to get Kanye West on the ballot in certain battleground states because they are making their own knee-jerk reactions about how Black people vote.
There’s been a lot of talk about how the Democratic Party is basically a plantation where Black voters toil and don’t get anything in return. Kanye West has said it. We’ve heard Black Republicans say it and allude to it this week at the Republican National Convention. It’s as if they’ve decided to side with the Republican Party to prove a point, to remove themselves from the ranks of the “common” Black people.
‘Kanye for President’ Exposes GOP Disdain for Blacks
Betting we’ll vote for him just because he’s Black underestimates us.
What I have yet to hear is any valid reason why the Republican Party deserves Black support. “I watch him treat janitors, security guards, and waiters the same way he would treat a VIP,” former NFL player Herschel Walker said of Trump, sounding like a slave thanking “massa” for giving him the time of day, grateful for a speaking gig he got solely because Trump needs to gaslight Black voters into thinking he’s just like them. Black Republicans talk about Donald Trump like he’s Abraham Lincoln, or Atticus Finch. Their hero worship is as much a figment of fiction as To Kill a Mockingbird’s White savior.
Well, this may come to them as a newsflash: Blacks didn’t just become Democrats by default. Since the Civil Rights Era, the Republican Party has been the party of White privilege and White supremacy, and Trump repeatedly has fanned the flames of its racist alt-right contingent since entering the White House. It’s long ceased to be the party of Abraham Lincoln, arguably the most significant White person in Black American history, or have anything to do with his legacy.
There’s another reason why Black people have been drawn to the Democratic Party since the Republican Party became the party of Barry Goldwater and staunch conservatism during the U.S. Presidential Election of 1964. It’s the same reason why the LGBTQ community tends to vote Democrat. It’s the same reason why the Latino community tends to vote Democrat. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was pushed and signed by a Democratic president (Lyndon B. Johnson). Gay men and women finally won marriage equality under a Democratic president’s watch (Barack Obama). Only one candidate has vowed to halt construction of a wall to keep Latinos out of the U.S. (hint: not Donald Trump).
Under the watch of a Republican president (Ronald Reagan), we saw another pandemic, AIDS, decimate the gay community and go almost completely ignored. Under the watch of a Republican president (George W. Bush, whose silence right now is deafening and makes him complicit), we saw Black victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana go almost completely ignored.
The Democratic Party does not have a perfect track record when it comes to Blacks, Latinos, and the LGBTQ community, but life in America most recalls life on the plantation when a Republican president is in office. That is why Blacks tend to vote Democrat.
Under the watch of the current Republican president, we’ve seen the commencement of construction of the aforementioned wall to block Mexicans from sullying our hallowed shores. We’ve seen brown children in cages. We’ve seen Blacks and Latinos die at twice the rate of Whites from a virus the President dismissed during the crucial early stages as a Democratic hoax.
We’ve listened to him refer to alt-right White supremacists as “very fine people.” We’ve listened to him refer to Black Lives Matter protesters as “thugs” before sending national troops after American citizens. We’ve listened to him defend Confederate monuments as sacred (although the Confederate States of America was actually a separate country that killed scores of U.S. soldiers IN ORDER TO PROTECT THE INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY). We’ve listened for unequivocal condemnation of the virulent racism that led to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and we’ve heard nothing. Nothing.
The Democratic Party does not have a perfect track record when it comes to Blacks, Latinos, and the LGBTQ community, and Joe Biden is not the answer to all of our problems. But life in America most recalls life on the plantation when a Republican president is in office. That is why Blacks tend to vote Democrat.
Why do Black Republicans vote Republican? From what I’ve been hearing, it’s mostly because they want to prove to the world they are free-thinking individuals who don’t have to follow the crowd and aren’t enslaved on the “Democratic plantation.” They vote Republican because they’ve achieved the American dream against all odds. So clearly the United States is not, as many Democrats insist, a country tainted and still tarnished by the scourge of racism.
Black Republicans who call the Democratic Party a plantation while stumping for Trump are the modern-day version of the free Blacks who used to help White masters recapture runaway slaves. It’s like because they’ve reached a certain economic position, all is right in Black America, and the way to continue thriving in the ranks of White Americans who look down on Black Americans is by pretending they don’t.
But those who tout Trump’s record on criminal justice reform and low unemployment in Black communities before the pandemic paint an incomplete picture. Does criminal justice reform apply to White people who get away with killing unarmed Blacks? At its pre-pandemic low point (6.6 percent), the Black unemployment rate was still twice as high as the White unemployment rate (3.2 percent), a disparity that has remained unchanged for decades. In other words, Trump has done nothing to close the gap. Did the unemployment trajectory even start with Trump, or did he inherit a downward trend? (He inherited it.)
More importantly, are economic gains all that matter? And if he’s going to take credit for achievements that aren’t his own, when will he take credit for the 180,000 Americans who have died from coronavirus. Oh yeah, that isn’t his fault.
My husband, a White Australian, made an interesting observation the other day. He said Black Republicans who call the Democratic Party a plantation while stumping for Trump are like the modern-day versions of the free Blacks who used to help White masters recapture runaway slaves. It’s as if because they’ve reached a certain economic position, all is right in Black America, and the way to continue thriving within the ranks of White Americans who look down on Black Americans and side-eye them is by pretending they don’t.
That’s a plantation where I have no interest in toiling. I am the embodiment of the American dream. I am the son of immigrants and as a Black person who didn’t come from money, I had to work harder than most of my White peers to achieve a certain degree of success and respect. My personal and professional gains aren’t a credit to any political party. I haven’t forgotten where I come from, and where many of my Black brothers and sisters continue to languish. Being black in America isn’t all about me and my accomplishments.
I am secure enough in my individuality that I do not have to play devil’s advocate to prove I think for myself. Just because I’ve overcome to a certain extent, doesn’t mean Black people have. All I have to do is look out my window to see that racism persists. All I have to do is listen to what Donald Trump says and what he never says to see that Black lives don’t matter to him unless they’re good for Black votes.
One’s racial identity doesn’t depend on whether they’ve figured out if they’re for Biden or for Trump. But if you’ve already decided you’re for Trump and you’re Black, then you’re probably living in the same alternate reality as Trump, where the truth is whatever fits your agenda, where Trump has done everything for Black people, expecting nothing in return.
That Republican refrain is a familiar one. It’s a continuation of the White revisionist history masters were spinning 200 years ago to paint slavery as a benevolent institution. They gave us their language, their names, their civilization, their God, and for those of us who have overcome, our success. We should be grateful, right?
Wrong. Brothers and sisters, pack up the plantation. It’s time to free your minds.