Michael Harriot, The Root, September 29, 2021
There is an open secret that most of your favorite activists know, even if they never mention it during their television appearances:
Black people are on their own.
When Americans spilled into the streets during the summer 0f 2020 to protest the murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin, it was unlike anything we had seen before.
To be fair, blatant racism may not be the sole reason for white people’s inaction when it comes to equality. Many don’t even believe systemic racism exists in policing, criminal justice or financial institutions. In 2016, three out of every four white people believed police used the right amount of force in situations and treated different racial and ethnic groups equally.
But 2020 was different. After witnessing a state-sponsored murder from multiple angles in high definition and surround sound, a multiracial, multi-ethnic coalition of protesters took to the street to end the scourge of police violence. The New York Times noted that “many white Americans were showing up for the cause of justice for Black Americans.” High-profile celebrities and corporations who were previously silent about social justice began to use their voices, money and platforms for change. This rainbow coalition collectively promised that they would not rest until there was meaningful reform. They had seen what injustice looks like and now there was no turning back…
Until they turned their backs.
According to a Pew Research report released on Monday, while most Americans still support the Black Lives Matter Movement, white support has severely declined from an all-time high during the Woke White Summer of 2020. In June 2020, 45 percent of white people supported the Black Lives Matter movement. By September 2020, that number had reached 60 percent before it returned to 47 percent, where it has stayed for a year.
Black America’s unwavering loyalty to the Democratic Party is as much a function of the conservative racism as it is a belief in the values and ideals of the Democratic Party’s platform. We might not express this apprehension publicly (because why would we give that ammunition to the opposition party?), but we know what white people are going to do. We remember how white abolitionists fought against slavery while stiff-arming full equality for Black Americans. We remember how they supported integration±but not where their kids attended school.
And when it comes to problems that face the Democratic Party’s most loyal base, we know the party is more than willing to compromise our rights for their power. In numerous conversations with The Root, high-level staffers and members of the Congressional Black Caucus have expressed frustration with the Democratic Party’s apathy or lack of urgency on police reform, voting rights and other political issues important to Black America.
No, Black people are not devoted to the Democratic Party; Black people are devoted to Black people (Candace, Kanye and Jason Whitlock excluded).
But the 2020 election was different.
When the Democratic Party campaigned and told Americans to roll into their polling places to vote in the 2020 election, it seemed as if they had finally gotten their shit together. After witnessing a decline in Black voter turnout in the 2018 election, the party finally decided to pay attention to Black voters. Candidates touted policies that addressed systemic inequality without cloaking them in the euphemism of “economic disparities.” They had an open discussion on school segregation, criminal justice, reparations and policing during the primary debates. Even white candidates actually said the words “white supremacy.”
Just like the Caucasian outrage over police violence, the promises lobbed at Black America during the 2020 election season have now dissipated into thin air. The attempts at passing voting rights protections have stalled. So has police reform. Immigration reform, too. While the GOP’s obstructionists agenda may be the reason for some of these failures, The Democratic Party must also bear some blame.
After trying to pass a $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill, the party compromised by removing all the stuff that addressed the economic needs of Black America and putting it in a separate piece of legislation that might pass through reconciliation—but only after they get the other stuff done. After working at the center of the police reform bill, the demure Cory Booker revealed that he has no trust in the moderate wing of his own party or the reconciliation process.
The Democratic Party would have the most loyal part of their base believe that their hands have been tied by their Republican counterparts. However, the truth is that the Democratic Party is not as willing to fight for Black voters in the same way that the GOP will stand on the edge of hell for its white constituents.
There are some who would say that anyone who condemns the Democratic Party’s approach to governing is inadvertently aiding the opposition. But the Democratic Party is simply the political tool that Black America uses as protection against the party of white nationalism. And what good is a tool if it doesn’t work when you need it?
Just as activists aren’t suggesting that there is zero need for some form of law enforcement, no one who criticizes the Democratic Party is suggesting that Black Americans should switch parties or stop engaging in the political process.
Here’s an idea: What if, instead of denying the disparity in the way Black people are treated, what if we stopped listening to white people and reformed policing?