Attendees listen to President Trump’s address during the 2018 Young Black Leadership Summit at the White House on Oct. 26, 2018.
BROTHERS, WE NEED to talk.
In the midterm elections, about 17 percent of black men voted to give Texas Republican Ted Cruz another term in the Senate. Around 11 percent supported Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, even though he did his best, as the Republican secretary of state, to disenfranchise more than a million voters, the majority of them African-American.
So, here’s my request: Black men, vote like black women.
Yes, black men vote consistently for Democratic candidates, but there is no more unshakable bloc than black women. More than 90 percent voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and against failed Alabama Senate candidate and accused sexual predator Roy Moore last year.
In Tuesday’s midterms, 94 percent of black women voters supported Beto O’Rourke, Cruz’s opponent; in Georgia, 97 percent of African-American women backed Democrat Stacey Abrams. (Her opponent, Kemp, only resigned as secretary of state Thursday, after turning his contest against Abrams into a hot mess of voter suppression. She has refused to concede.)
Only in Florida’s gubernatorial race did black men surpass black women in voting for the Democratic candidate — Andrew Gillum, the African-American mayor of Tallahassee.
Black women generally don’t vote against their self-interests. We vote as if our lives depend on it, because they do.
Much has been made — and rightfully so — about white women supporting terrible white Republican men at the ballot box. Two years ago, 53 percent of white women shunned Hillary Clinton for Donald Trump, unswayed by the infamous “Access Hollywood” audiotape or his other boorish or racist behavior.
For the recent midterms, the numbers were again telling. Yes, Republicans lost support among suburban white women, which allowed Democrats to regain control of the House of Representatives. Yet in key races in Georgia, Texas, and Florida, white women still overwhelmingly voted red.
As exit polls revealed demographic breakdowns and voting patterns, they again garnered a lot of social media chatter about white women as “foot soldiers of the patriarchy.” But the statistics that caught my eye concerned black men, and their double-digit support for Kemp and Cruz. Even in the Florida race between Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis, 8 percent of black men voted for DeSantis. That’s a low number, but still too high when one considers that DeSantis was endorsed by white supremacists and buoyed by racist robocalls.
How can so many black men still align with a party that, now more than ever, is unified by white identity politics?
During his campaign, O’Rourke spoke passionately in a black church about a young unarmed black man killed in his own apartment by a police officer in Texas. Cruz turned the O’Rourke speech into an attack ad.
One day before the election, Kemp tried to tie Abrams to the Black Panther Party, by tweeting a photo — plucked from Breitbart News — of armed members holding an Abrams sign. Kemp claimed this as proof that his opponent was “TOO EXTREME” for Georgia.
My brothers, don’t believe the hype. This Republican Party is not the party of Lincoln. This is unabashedly the party of white supremacy, migrant family separations, racist fearmongering, and Brett Kavanaugh. Even one-time Trump-hugger Kanye West has finally stopped parading around in his red MAGA hat, at least for now.
Recently, The Economist pondered what it would take to make a black voter a likely Republican. For me, this was the most compelling statistic: The younger a black person is, the more likely to skew to the right. Although older white voters tend to be Republican, it’s the reverse in black communities. That’s because older African-Americans have vivid memories of Jim Crow and segregation.
Meanwhile, Trump is courting young black conservatives. In October, he welcomed hundreds to a leadership summit, where they chanted, “Build that wall.” Yes, those were black people joining a racist president to keep brown people out of America.
Look, I get that black people aren’t a monolith, and shouldn’t be expected to hold the same beliefs and political leanings. But we’re in an era when Republicans have swapped their dog whistles for bullhorns. With hate crimes rising, you’ll still be targeted for the color of your skin, not the content of your politics.
You are supporting a man who places party (and, really, his own needs and wants) over country. He proudly calls himself “a nationalist,” and has repeatedly declined to tone down rhetoric fueling racism and anti-Semitism.
Often, people of color ask white allies to speak to their own friends, relatives, and coworkers about the damage Republican candidates and policies do to our communities. In that spirit, black men, I am speaking to you. Our concerns are your concerns — or at least they should be.
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