One thing is for sure: Black folks are enjoying this latest political mating dance with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Sanders is discovering Black people in South Carolina and Georgia, and Clinton has reopened the ‘leading Blacks’ vault to rediscover their loyalty and willingness to present her to the Black electorate one mo’ time, y’all.
Sanders, after years without doing anything specific for the one percent Black population of his state, much less for Black people in general, has now discovered, and some would say rediscovered his love and concern for us. In the vast majority of cases it is really a case of Black people discovering Sanders, because most Blacks knew absolutely nothing about him prior to a few months ago, but for Ed Schultz and Black folks’ penchant for watching MSNBC. Sanders started out by traipsing up to Harlem, cameras in tow of course, to sip tea with Sharpton at a Black restaurant. I am sure that boosted his ‘street cred’ bona fides with Black voters.
Uncle Bernie then goes to MLK’s alma mater, Morehouse, and tells thousands of Black folks how much he loves them now and how much he will do for them—now. It’s almost like he is waking up from his five-decade ‘I marched with MLK’ respite and discovering that Black people exist. And yes, they are important to court because he cannot win without them. He is pulling out all the condescending platitudes to get the Black vote, and Black folks are lovin’ it.
Hillary, far more knowledgeable and adept at getting Black voters, reached into her bag of politricks and pulled out an old, tried-and-true, sleight of hand tactic. She met with the Great Triumvirate of Black “civil rights” leaders, folks who will hurt you if you get between them and a news camera, to subliminally suggest she is ‘down with the bruthas.’ Sitting at a table with Morial, Sharpton, and a guy Black folks have yet to discover, Cornell Brooks, was her springboard to vie for the Black vote.
Mama Hillary called on old stand-by, John Lewis, to tell Black folks that Sanders has no street cred, because Lewis “never met him” back in the days of fire-hoses, dogs, and Billy clubs. (Maybe Lewis had a concussion back then and simply forgot.) Hillary then got members of the Black Caucus to endorse her, a monumental victory that will surely bring home the ultimate victory. After all, we cast from 93%–95% of our precious votes for Barack in both elections, and he won. Why not the same thing this year for Clinton?
Black folks are discovering and being discovered by Bernie; we are also being rediscovered by Hillary. And while we are making political campaign ads, going to rallies and cheering for the Democratic candidates, as Gil Scott-Heron said in reference to Richard Nixon and the Republicans: “All is calm and quiet along the white sands of San Clemente.” In today’s political world that simply points to the Republicans continued strategy of ignoring Black people by saying absolutely nothing on our behalf or in support of issues that specifically pertain to Black voters. But why should they? We are ‘all in’ for the Dems.
Hype is meaningless unless it is accompanied by real accountability and substantive results. If the Black vote is so important and so precious, as we like to say, then why is it literally given away for a song and a dance or a rousing speech? Saying how bad it is for Black people is not doing something about it. Glad-handing and hobnobbing with two or three leading Blacks is not doing anything to elevate Black people to a state of economic empowerment—and not even political empowerment. Feeling our pain and walking in the streets with us does nothing to alleviate that pain or stop the injustices we suffer.
It is embarrassing to see our people fawning over folks who, when they get what they want from us, will return to the political status quo. If that were not true, we would have seen huge benefits by now. It’s always, “this time it will be different,” when it comes to Black voters.
One practical question to ask candidates who are running around our neighborhoods, churches, and college campuses seeking our votes: “How much campaign money have you spent with Black-owned media, i.e. newspapers, radio?” That’s just one of many acts of reciprocity and the bare minimum of what we should demand. If they do as the current POTUS did in 2012, spend one-tenth of one percent with Black media, don’t support them until they increase that amount, and then move on to the next demand. Stop allowing them to use and insult you, and stop slobbering over this latest discovery process. Black people have been in this country since the show started.
(James Clingman is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. His latest book, Black Dollars Matter! Teach Your Dollars How to Make More Sense, is available on his website, .)