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Black Americans must stop voting as a monolith


Black Americans must stop voting as a monolith

November 9, 2004
OtherCulture & Society

So much for polls that had President Bush getting twice as many black votes as he did in 2000. In 2000 he got 8 percent of the black vote. This time, he got only 11 percent. Eighty-eight percent of the black vote went to John Kerry.

What's interesting is that no other racial group in America has a vote-skew anything like that. Latinos voted 53 percent for Mr. Kerry and 44 percent for Mr. Bush. Asians were 56 percent for Mr. Kerry and 44 percent for Mr. Bush.

Blacks get insulted when people say we all think alike. But then why don't we take our individuality to the voting booth?

For one thing, a great many black people associate the Republican Party with racism. This means that voting Democratic is often less about making a personal choice than voting on the basis of a group concern.

This is understandable. But it's also obsolete. It's time for the black community to start spreading its vote across the two main parties.

The Democrats have no reason to address our concerns in any real way, because we're a slam-dunk.

And that leaves black America powerless. Help comes only when someone decides to try something out of the goodness of their hearts, and then there is always the question of follow-through.

This is why groups with pull make the parties court their vote.

Not that all of us should start voting Republican -- that would just leave us with the same problem. We just need to reconsider the idea that voting Republican is automatically disloyal.

For the record, President Bush did not get my vote. I voted for John Kerry because that's what my personal take on issues and priorities led me to do. But a lot more than 11 percent of us might find that Republicans have important things to offer us as well. Faith-based initiatives come to mind, as does education reform.

About racism: Our progress will have more to do with a party's policies than how some of its members might feel about their kids marrying ours. In 1912, W.E.B. Du Bois endorsed Woodrow Wilson over Theodore Roosevelt. Mr. Wilson was a bigot, as was President Roosevelt. But Du Bois was interested in whose policies would allow blacks to make the best of the worst in the real world.

The civil rights revolution was four decades ago. Even President Clinton's Dialogue on Race is a fading memory. Soon Latinos will outnumber blacks. We're in a war in Iraq. The days when helping blacks was front and center on the government's agenda are gone. We have to start playing ball the old-fashioned way.

I know some think racism is the defining experience of being black, and that this means that our voting must reflect that. But must it, if this leaves us with no purchase upon national resources for our betterment? Must it, when Latinos are no strangers to racism, and yet they split their votes?

In that light, we have to ask: Does our voting pattern really represent the diversity among us in experiences, aspirations, values? Do we really want to give in to allowing racism to define us?

Because today, if we do -- if we vote as victims rather than as individuals -- we only perpetuate our victimhood. We become the Democrats' mascots, instead of a force to be grappled with.