Hillary Clinton visited a Black church in Charlotte Sunday, a city still wrestling with the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott at the hands of police. In her address Clinton said, “I am a grandmother and like every grandmother, I worry about the safety and security of my grandchildren. But my worries are not the same as black grandmothers, who have different and deeper fears about the world that their grandchildren face.” Hillary Clinton only had to say that Blacks are more likely to be shot in the streets by the police–whom our tax dollars fund–in order to differentiate herself from the other guy. That’s it. This is 2016, mind you. It should scare the hell out of us that securing Black votes today is as simple as it was in the 1960’s. My people died for voting rights and their blood must be made more meaningful. Yes we should vote but we can’t keep playing the game in the same way. There are two steps we need to take in order to fix this mess.
Just before the 1960 Presidential Election, Dr. King was falsely arrested and sentenced to a Georgia State Prison. Fearing that he might be killed en route, Coretta Scott King appealed to Richard Nixon and John Kennedy to intervene. Nixon kept quiet but Kennedy answered the bell, a move that helped him gain Black support and defeat Nixon. A few years later President Lyndon Johnson appealed to Congress to move on voting rights for Blacks after protesters were brutalized in Selma, Al. During his speech he cited that many had been beaten and killed in Selma, a move that won Johnson more Black support. In the 1960’s simply acknowledging Black suffering was a big deal and predictably, that galvanized Black voters. This is 2016 and the political landscape should have advanced tremendously by now. But acknowledging obvious Black suffering and racial violence is still sufficient to garner Black support. At what point do we say, “enough is enough?” Are we satisfied with this progress or do we yearn for more?
If we want greater things for our children, we have to think differently than we have been. We can’t continue having elections this awful. We can’t allow for more choosing between the “lesser of two evils,” so to speak. There are two things we need to do going forward and the first is prioritize issues that will have actual impact for Black communities. Agreeing that I should not be shot in the street cannot be your “Negro card” as a politician. We need to press candidates on their strategies to grow Black businesses, employment and other economic issues. If it doesn’t make dollars, it makes no sense. Secondly, we need to stress those priorities at the right time. The Presidential election is not that time. We need to collectively stress these issues in the primaries. Primaries are the election before the election. Whether we are choosing a Mayor, City Councilor, Governor or any other seat, we have to put the onus on showing up–with our prioritized issues–during the primaries. If not, we are left with the “lesser of two evils” every. single. time.
Yes things have changed in America since 1960 but clearly not enough. Acknowledging that I get shot by cops should not be a big deal or the ticket to my vote. We have to press harder and deeper on issues that will build wealth and power for Black communities and the time to do that is during primaries, where we can actually choose something greater than a lesser evil. We haven’t moved the needle enough politically since the 1960’s and Hillary Clinton’s speech in Charlotte just showed us that. Two basic steps can begin to shift that dynamic so that our children live in a different world. Hold your nose and vote this cycle but going forward, the game has to be played differently.