Now Reading
Trump and Clinton need to learn that Black Lives Matter

Trump and Clinton need to learn that Black Lives Matter

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

Black votes matter! Politicians are happy enough to pander to that idea. And yet they consistently fail to show their belief that black lives matter.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to win our votes. And the wrong way is to exploit stereotyped cultural markers.

Step forward, Donald Trump. His effort was to read a scripted text in a black church.

Hillary Clinton did no better. She gave a shout out on a morning urban radio show to say that she also carries hot sauce around with her. Just like us!

This nonsense infuriates most African Americans. And it insults the political intelligence the Republican and Demoncratic candidates both assume we don’t have.

The stereotyped black church is the go-to for many white politicians looking to woo our votes. The perception that all a white politician needs to do is merely show up the Sunday before election day is a hackneyed campaign strategy in 2016. Worse, it’s a clear indication that politician has no clue about our lives, nor any sincere concern for the parishioners they are addressing.

When Donald Trump spoke at a megachurch in Detroit with native son Dr Ben Carson in tow, it provided a good optic for a brash candidate. His pitch to us a week before – at a predominately white rally – was remarkably unfiltered and unapologetic:

‘You live in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?’

Hillary Clinton’s more measured approach to the African American community doesn’t paint us as an urban blighted monolith. But she is plagued by her past. In particular the creation of the 1996 ‘super predator’ myth to depict black youths caught up in Bill Clinton’s crime bill.

That precipitated mass incarceration of black youths and is still felt today. It makes her appeal, especially to African American millennials, dead on arrival.

‘What am I supposed to do if I don’t like him and I don’t trust her?’ a millennial black woman in Ohio asked. ‘Choose between being stabbed and being shot? No way!’

Clinton acknowledges the death penalty is used too frequently and in a way that discriminates against people of color. But she doesn’t want it abolished. That just adds insult to injury for the African American’s troubled relationship with the country’s penal system.

‘I think there are certain egregious cases that still deserve the consideration of the death penalty, but I’d like to see those be very limited and rare.’

Clinton, a former attorney, knows that many poor people spend countless years in jail for crimes they did not commit because of ineffective counsel and poor legal representation.

She knows there is the presumption that African Americans and Latinos are more culpable of a crime because of the color of their skin.

It all makes her campaign pitch to Black Lives Matter activists – prison reform is a key tenet of their platform – ring hollow.

Excluding minority votes

Since the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Voting Act there has been ongoing tactics to suppress minority voting. These underhand ways to stifle our vote have included changing polling locations, changing polling hours, eliminating early voting days, reducing the number of polling places, packing majority-minority districts, dividing minority districts, and the notorious voter ID laws that disproportionately disenfranchise minority voters.

NC’s 4th Circuit Court of Appeals just recently overturned the requirement to show photo ID because it was instated ‘with racially discriminatory intent’.

These ongoing tactics, along with candidates like both Trump and Clinton, will catch a few of us swimming upstream.

But both presidential candidates would do enormously better pitching a consistent campaign message. A message that’s heard at every one of their pit stops.

That’s got to be more effective than giving African American voters a wink with a tepid appearance at a black church or a ‘sistah’ shout-out about toting hot sauce.