Here is something to think about as we watch the political circus that is currently dominating the news: Black people are nowhere to be found in the real action, nowhere to be found in determining the candidates from which we will eventually choose to compete for the presidency, and nowhere to be found in the debate questions or answers. We are merely watching from the balcony, as we had to do back in the 1950s in segregated theaters and churches that relegated Black people to the rear of the building. We were also told to be quiet, especially in the churches, way back when.
All Black folks are doing right now is watching. Yeah, we talk a lot, from our vantage point in the peanut gallery, but we have absolutely zero skin in the political game at this point, which means we lack self-determination in the political process. Yes, we have the individual choice to vote, but that’s about it, y’all, and even in that act, we will only be choosing between the decisions that others have made.
Have you ever wondered why two small states, Iowa and New Hampshire, have so much impact on the national election? Is it simply because they are the first two states to conduct caucuses and primaries every presidential election year? Is it because they have such a large number of electoral votes? Even though some candidates who win those states do not always get their party’s nomination, these two states are held up as the political ‘trend-makers’ and benchmarks for a candidate’s success. That’s why they all flock to those two little states long before the election really begins.
For all of you critical thinkers out there, try these stats on for size: Iowa is 91% White and two percent Black. It has six electoral votes. New Hampshire is 93% White and one percent Black, with four electoral votes. There are 538 electoral votes among the states, 270 of which are needed to win the presidency of the United States. I ask again, why are Iowa and New Hampshire so important in the scheme of things?
And I reemphasize that Black folks, comprising a grand total of three percent of the total population of these two small states, have absolutely no influence, not to mention power, in what is taking place right now in the political arena. We are relegated to being spectators if we care to watch this current show; it is a rerun, so many of us are not interested anyway.
By the time you read this article the séance for Ronald Reagan, known as the Republican debate, will have taken place at the Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. You remember that famous city, right? It’s the place where the White cops beat Rodney King within inches of his life were declared not guilty. Of the 500 there, I saw just five Black people in the seats at the CNN debate. Another insult to Black voters, or another indication of political impotence?
We are just spectators, brothers and sisters, watching the Dems and Repubs race toward the finish line in November 2016. They will put on a great show for us though, as they invoke Rosa Parks’ name and cite the sanctity of the Black vote. Each party will try to convince us that it can and will ‘take care of us’ because God knows we can’t take care of ourselves. Then in January 2017, Black people will settle in, once again relegated to their plantation of ‘choice’ for four more years, without having gotten one ounce of quo for our quid.
My article ‘Black Political Dilemma’ (2014) posed the possibility of Ben Carson running against Hillary Clinton for president. Some folks responded by saying, “That will never happen,” “You’re crazy, Jim,” and “Carson will never be nominated.” Some folks even laughed at the question: “What will Black people do if that happens?” Well you may want to stay tuned.
Black people have dug ourselves a deep political hole, and now we must figure out how to get out of it. It really doesn’t matter who wins the highest office in the land, Blacks will be in the same relative position as we have been under a Black President for the last seven years. In other words, we ain’t got nothin’ comin.’ Only we can save us, not Hillary, Carson, Sanders, or Trump.
Because we have tried to play politics without having a strong economic base, we have become impotent and irrelevant. Reflect on the words of T. Thomas Fortune, journalist and co-founder of the National Negro Business League: “No people ever became great and prosperous by devoting their infant energies to politics. We were literally born into political responsibility before we had mastered the economic conditions which underlie these duties.”
(Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He can be reached through his website . He is the author of Black Dollars Matter: Teach Your Dollars How to Make More Sense, which is available through his website and Amazon Kindle eBooks.)