Please do not assume that, as a Black woman, I am a Democrat.
Yes, I do like to discuss racial issues and disparities Black people face in America. Yes, I do discuss how the Democratic party can win the presidency in 2020 if the candidates would just shut their mouths about President Donald Trump — I have written about this before for The Temple News.
Despite this, I identify as an Independent because I don’t believe the Democratic party is for Black people.
Democrats do not value Black voters, as its historically anti-Black policies have shown.
The Democratic presidential candidates are the same ones that furthered the system of inequality for Black people.
Joe Biden signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which established mandatory minimum sentences, increased funding for prisons and expanded some death penalty provisions, according to BBC. This led to a disproportionate amount of Black men incarcerated, Vox reported.
Kamala Harris, as California’s attorney general from 2011-17, fought to release fewer prisoners, despite overcrowding in state facilities, Vox reported. This disproportionately affected Black people because they are incarcerated at five times the rate of white people, according to the NAACP.
This issue isn’t new. Democratic-led legislation has historically disregarded Black Americans.
Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, was the pioneer of social security, but to get Republicans on board, he excluded agriculture workers from the program. At that time, Black people made up a large number of agricultural workers, according to the Social Security Administration.
With the establishment of the Federal Housing Administration in 1934, FDR created redlining. Banks did not have to give mortgages to Black people, even though they could afford it at the time, NPR reported.
It’s important to recognize that Democrats have historically ignored the well-being of Black Americans.
“If Black people do not know how their history was constructed, then they will not know how to tear it down,” said Sonja Peterson-Lewis, an associate professor of Africology and African American studies.
We should not aim to hold candidates accountable by asking what they can do for Black people, but rather asking how they will solve real issues that disproportionately affect Black people. For example, homes in Black neighborhoods are devalued by 23 percent nationwide as the result of historically racist housing policies like redlining, the Brookings Institution reported in July.
By addressing this issue, and plenty of others directly affecting us, Black people may be able to afford a nice home, setting them up for a sustainable life — not for prison. If they choose to ignore us, then we should not vote for them.
But in Pennsylvania, Black people can only choose between overt discrimination from Republicans or negligent policy-making from supposedly liberal Democrats because of state voting law that doesn’t allow registered Independents to vote in primary elections. So, we are going to vote for the party that acknowledges our existence, which tends to be the Democrats.
“Black people do not benefit from the Democratic party,” said Timothy Welbeck, an instructor of Africology and African American studies and a civil rights attorney. “The Democratic party has been notorious for championing the issues Black people face and then disappearing after the election cycle.”
Brent Murphy, a senior political science major and political action chair of the Black Student Union, is a registered Democrat, but not because he believes in the party’s dedication to Black voters.
“I do agree that for a long time, the Democratic Party has been extremely exploitative of Black voters,” Murphy said. “As African American voters, we fall into what they call political capture in that in the two-party system, Republicans don’t need the Black vote because as far as their party base goes, they’re white men.”
“And then the Democratic Party, knowing that, already assumes that they automatically have the Black vote, so they don’t necessarily have to cater to issues that affect the African American community, which kinda leaves us sorted to one party that doesn’t really have our best interests at heart,” he added.
We need a candidate that actually practices what they preach, and we need to vote for them. Frankly, the Democrats aren’t doing this.
The answer isn’t simple. We could either vote for a third party, who isn’t recognized in the primaries, or demand more from the Democrats.
Don’t let your vote be dictated by party alliance, especially one that doesn’t care about the interests of Black people.
The 2020 presidential election could be the most important one of our lives. Don’t vote for someone just because they’re a Democrat, but critically analyze their policies and the impact they could have on Black people everywhere.