Posted on November 30, 2020

More Black Men Went with Trump This Time. I Asked a Few of Them Why.

David Dent, Daily Beast, November 24, 2020

The number screamed at me and I actually wanted to yell back at The Washington Post exit poll, or, more specifically, those Minnesota Black male voters who comprised what, initially, looked like a glaring typo. In the state of George Floyd, which helped trigger yet another national awakening to the horror of police treatment of Blacks, 30 percent of Black male voters did the unthinkable. They voted for Donald Trump. It topped all the other states in the poll, with Nevada running second at 21 percent.

I looked again, shaking my head. Then I rushed to google “Black men in Minnesota.”

Chris Fields, an office manager of a law firm in Minneapolis, is part of that apparent 30 percent. {snip}


“My parents’ generation would not hear of voting for a Republican,” Fields told me. “Younger generations, mine, my nephews, they are open to hearing a different message. They are more tolerant of listening to different ideas. If you see 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, Ice Cube, all those guys do is they give people permission, if you will, to say ‘I’ll rethink this.’”

Overall, Biden won 87 percent of the Black vote. However, Trump also increased his share of the Black vote in notable ways. Nationwide, Trump won 19 percent of the Black male vote, up from 13 percent in 2016, and 9 percent of the Black female vote, up from 3 percent four years ago, according to exit polls.

The rising Black support for Trump in Minnesota could signal growing Black impatience with the perceived failures of white liberalism to rectify racial inequities. Minnesota’s entrenched liberal tradition runs deep. It was the one state—along with the District of Columbia—that Walter Mondale won against Ronald Reagan in the Republican landslide in 1984. However the dominance of the Democratic Party lives alongside the state’s notorious Black-white gaps in income and education. In Minneapolis, the median Black income in 2018 was $38,000 against $87,000 for whites. This $47,000 gap between the two was one of the largest in the country—second only to Milwaukee. A 2019 Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota study found the state had one of the worst achievement gaps between Black and white students when it comes to college readiness.


Thabity Willis, director of Africana Studies at Carleton College in Northfield, says when Black voters leave the Democratic Party out of frustration, they enter the GOP with lower expectations. {snip}

Willis says when Democrats fail to meet the expectations of Black voters, the GOP is ripe as a refuge with an “anti-status quo” figure like Trump. “Like white male Trump supporters,” he says, “some Black men might also find something attractive in Trump’s anti intellectualism, which resonates with extreme forms of toxic masculinity.”

The questions of how and why the minority of Black voters supporting a Republican presidential candidate grew in 2020 resonates beyond Minnesota. Is this just a fluke, or are the hopes of Fields and Davis unfolding into something that will threaten the Democratic lock on the Black vote? The answer to that may lie beyond Trump and be more about Biden and Harris. Will their pivots to broaden their appeals lead to sending the kinds of political gestures to whites or conservative Democrats in ways that alienates Blacks?

Vincent Hopkins, an entrepreneur who owns his own insurance and staffing businesses in Washington, D.C., sees Biden and Harris heading toward a “please everybody” route that will only produce failure. The result will continue, he believes, to erase some of the loneliness he feels being Black and an avid supporter of Trump and the GOP.

Hopkins actually has a lot in common with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. They were classmates at Howard University. Like Harris, he glows with excitement when describing the Howard experience. Yet Hopkins grew in a totally different direction from Harris at Howard, where his attachment to the Republican Party was born. It was then that he realized, he says, that he was the product of parents with conservative values that they abandoned in the voting booth. At Howard, he felt the freedom in the classrooms to argue with his professors that abortion is not just murder: ”It is killing Black babies.”


Unlike Hopkins, Mark Cameron, 54, who lives on the New Jersey shore and manages the service desk at an automobile dealership, is a registered Democrat and relative newcomer to voting for a Republican for president.


Cameron says he voted for Trump in 2020 to see him fulfill his agenda and because Biden and Harris were turnoffs. “Though I’m a Democrat, I’m not really all that liberal. And quite frankly, there were some statements Biden made that I found a little surprising and could be interpreted as a little racist. {snip} I almost feel, from my standpoint, that he’s taken the Black vote for granted.”


The resistance to seeing the relationship between racism and Trumpism also appears to shape the perceptions of Trump supporters in Minnesota’s large community of African immigrants. Minnesota has the largest Somalian community in the nation, in addition to more than 10,000 Ethiopian immigrants in the Minneapolis-St Paul area. While the exit polls did not differentiate between immigrants and native-born African Americans, both professors Brewer and Willis suspect that the Black immigrant population may play a role in the spike of Black voters for Trump. {snip}

Ayano Jiru, a Trump-backing Ethiopian immigrant in Minneapolis, says he was the lone voter for Trump in 2016 among his family of 21, which includes his siblings, parents, cousins, and uncles. He has spent the last four years promoting Trump in his family and community. In the family group chat on election day this year, he discovered the results of his lobbying—16 of the 21 family members voted for Trump.