The Alabama special elections are in the rearview mirror and our long national nightmare is finally over.
In a less than stunning (but still notable) victory, Doug Jones became the first Democrat to represent Alabama in the United States Senate in 28 years. It didn’t hurt that his opponent was an accused pedophile, but his victory also came in large part on the backs of black women voters – a fact Democrats did not fail to tout over and over again…and then over again.
DNC Chairman Tom Perez, in particular, sent out a giddy message of thanks to the black women who turned out in overwhelming numbers (98% of black women voters chose Jones) to vote.
Let me be clear: We won in Alabama and Virginia because #BlackWomen led us to victory. Black women are the backbone of the Democratic Party, and we can’t take that for granted. Period.
— Tom Perez (@TomPerez) December 13, 2017
I find this message to be a shining example of why I left the Democrat party for good almost a decade ago.
As a default Democrat, I was always of the belief that Democrats were our only hope to achieve economic and political equality for black Americans and in particular, black women. I couldn’t fathom why any black person wouldn’t vote for a Democrat. I didn’t even know at the time that the Republicans had traditionally been the party of abolition, but it wouldn’t have mattered. My response would have been, “Well, what have you done for me lately?”
How I left the left is another story for another day, but a major catalyst was starting a family of my own and delving into serving my inner-city, majority black community on a day-to-day basis. Our small, depressed Midwestern city was run exclusively by Democrats. There was not a Republican within sight of city hall. Every election cycle some white Democrat would show up at our churches and community centers and give an impassioned speech about getting out the vote and not letting Republicans set our civil rights back 150 years. I would clap and nod along with everyone else and pat myself on the back for caring more about black people than those dirty Republicans and snooty, rich white folks.
We deserved prosperity, affluence, INFLUENCE! And by golly, this random white man is the only one who can deliver it (and then later, the random black man who became POTUS).
While dealing with some frustrating bureaucratic red tape at our non-profit community center, it occurred to me that nothing was changing…even in a black city run by black Democrats. In fact, year to year everything seemed worse! All these policies I had been supporting over the years were unfolding all around me and I could see with my own eyes that they weren’t working. In fact, they were hurting.
Welfare had set so many conditions on single mothers that they were forced to push away fathers from their homes in order to keep their benefits. Black men responded accordingly and it all was adding up to a crippling crisis of fatherlessness. Despite spending more money on schools than anyone in our state and almost in the nation, we were still experiencing horrific drop-out rates and our public schools were unsafe, unclean, and severely lacking in qualified staff.
I looked around at my sisters struggling to make ends meet, struggling to keep their kids out of gangs, out of jail, and in school; struggling to better themselves and often being knocked right down by the same system that claimed to be helping them. It disgusted me.
What the hell have we been voting for all these years if nothing ever changes?
I knew then that to the Democrat party we are just numbers on a page. We’re fundraising dollars. We’re “diversity protection”. We’re faceless robots.
Wind us up every 2-4 years, drop us at the ballot box and then go back to business as usual.
That was years ago and yet we are still in the same place we were then. In fact, there is no shortage of pundits and politicians telling us day in and day out that things have never been worse for us.
Tom Perez’ comments following the Moore/Jones race are indicative of the patronizing attitude Democrats have taken towards black America since Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, famously declaring “I’ll have them n***ers voting Democrat for the next two hundred years.”
They fluff us up when they need our votes and then while white Democrats go back to their lives we are once again relegated to tropes and stereotypes for campaign commercials and political points in the never-ending Capitol Hill wars.
Mr. Perez – and all Democrat leaders – we are not your backbone. We’re not your saviors and we’re not your puppets. We are real human beings with human problems. We don’t want you to hold our hands as you guide us to the voting booth, all the while patting us on the back and smiling like the devil.
We may disagree on the details of a more prosperous community, but I feel confident in speaking for most black women when I tell you that we do not want your useless praise.
If you can’t make things better for us, get the hell out of the way so we can do it ourselves.
Your patronizing attitude is a large reason why our forward progress has stagnated. You infantilize us and convince us we need you – our white “big brothers” – to help us do better and have better. You promise and promise and we believe and believe.
I’d hoped that by now more of my sisters would join me in recognizing that having all of our political capital in one party has not only been damaging, it’s been devastating. So much so that when Republicans are in power we suddenly panic and act as if we have no recourse whatsoever. We might feel differently if more of us were invested in the other major party in this nation.
If Democrats really meant to “appreciate” us, they’d start supporting policies that make it easier for our families to thrive, our parents to choose the best schools in which to educate their children, and our communities to control their own destiny.
They can never do that because if we actually began to prosper on our own they’d no longer have the “power of panic” behind them every election cycle and they might actually have to run on ideas instead of fear-mongering.
Mr. Perez – you can take your thanks and kindly shove them up your email server. What have you done for us lately?
Asked and answered.