By Cleo Manago
NNPA Guest Columnist
To explain the very low turn-out of Black (and Brown) people or Democrats during recent elections, President Barack Obama said,“…[Black people, etc.] have this congenital disease, which is in mid-term elections don’t vote at the same rates.”
From a Black perspective, or at least a perspective held among Blacks, the recent non-voting response does not result from “congenital disease.” But, from a perception of the president’s apparent lack in usage of his own [Black] “gonads,” so to speak.
Prior to Barack Obama’s 2008, presidential run, it had been decades since Black people turned out in great numbers to vote. That extraordinary Black voter turnout for Obama was an anomaly, a gamble, a desperate investment in the concept and hope for change. The mantra, “Yes We [Finally} Can” was taken very seriously. But, never was there clarification made on what specifically it was we could finally do. For too many Black people what was simply desired was to see a “Black” president in the White House.
However, once Obama was in office, Black people rarely held him accountable, Black presidential knight in shining armor. White gays, White women and immigrant did. Apparently, these groups never expected to be rescued by Obama. Instead, they executed plans that work for them. Overall, the descendants of enslaved Africans in the U.S. did not do the same.
Many African Americans were so enamored that they could not get past it to put Obama to work for Black people.
President Obama’s lack of a powerful and clear position on Black “community” challenges (i.e. racism, the murder of unarmed Black youth, social determinants to poverty and or criminalization, etc.), along with Black people’s apprehension to demand that he did, – unlike other groups – makes it appear that Obama did not do right by us. This unfortunate perspective and assessment of Barack Obama recently sent Black voting interests – local, national or otherwise – back to pre-Obama mindsets. Back to low voter turn-out.
This is indicated in a conversation I had last week at Morehouse College, with a group of voting- age Black youth. When asked, “Did you vote today?” most, somewhat self-consciously, said, “Naw.” Many expressed being unsure about who or what to vote for. Many were confused about continuing with their taken-for-granted loyalty to the Democratic Party.
One, among the young men old enough to vote for Obama in 2012 election said, “We thought, after four years in the White House Obama would at least throw his peeps a bone. Everybody else got one.”
Most of them appeared stunned by that revelation. One particularly animated young man said, “We ain’t saying we need the bone, but we did need to know that [Obama] cared. We wanted to see that.”
Black people remembered that Michelle Obama was sent to Chicago during momentary focus on the killing of Black youth there. Black people remembered that in contrast the president personally showed up to Sandy Hook following a school shooting in Connecticut.
A number of Black people were emotionally and psychologically depending on Barack and Michelle to make their vote matter – for Black people. And that never happened. Using attitudes had among the Morehouse youth as a gauge, unfortunately, many Black people think voting for the president, the “Top Dawg,” and other Democrats was a waste of their time. Thus, back to the familiar state of perceived, relative powerlessness and, displaced pain and disappointment. I do not agree with that mentality, but I understand it.
So, now, we have South Carolina Republican Tim Scott becoming the first African-American senator to win an election in the South since Reconstruction. And, Republican Mia Love winning the race for Utah’s 4th Congressional District. Tim Scott said the Democratic Party have failed the Black community – with disastrous results –and neglected their allegiance to the party for over 40 years. That fact may have gotten Scott some Black votes. Yet, Scott represents the same Party that Bill O’Reilly just said is “afraid of Black people.”
Hopefully, at some point, more Black people will realize that Black symbolism is irrelevant without Black accountability.
Cleo Manago is a socio-political analyst, behavioral health expert, researcher and film documentarian. He is also CEO and founder of Black Men’s Xchange – National, a human rights, educational, anti-oppression and advocacy organization.