On a warm April day in 1899 W.E.B Dubois — the great scholar and Civil Rights advocate — waned in lugubrious despair as he glared through the widow of a grocery store in Atlanta to see the detached knuckles of Sam Hose on display in a jar. Hose had been lynched.
In 1998, James Byrd’s body parts were found splayed across the roads near Jasper, Texas after a trio of white men dragged his body three miles while in molten states of racial hatred. Byrd’s right arm and head were severed from his body.
In 2015, Freddie Gray, a Black Baltimorean in his mid 20s, was pushed into a police wagon one bright Sunday morning by the city’s police on charges related to vagrancy. He would not survive transport to the local jail. Gray was yet another casualty of the modern Black Lives Matter Movement.
The sociological and cultural point here is incandescently clear:
Black men have had many reasons not to go to the polls this November in what many are calling the most important election in our life time. The bodies of black men have been historically relegated to the status of human fodder — of no particular value within the annals of American history. In slavery, Black men were deemed as mere breeders. During Jim Crow they were stigmatized as ignorant, lazy, aggressively brutal and brazen sexual predators. They were condemned to certain social death. In the post-Nixon reality Black men became the source of the nation’s crime crisis and deserving of the anti-black male carceral state.
Yet, what’s pivotal during this presidential election is Black male voter participation. Both republicans and and democrats know this. Last week the democrats danced to the tune of President Barack Obama’s outreach to Black male voters. Obama held a town hall with Black men in North Philadelphia where he sought to cajole them to the polls.
Obama told the Black men assembled this: “One of the biggest tricks that’s perpetrated on the American people is this idea that the government is separate from you. The government’s us. Of, by and for the people. It wasn’t always for all of us. But the way it’s designed, it works based on who’s at the table. And if you do not vote, you are not at the table. And then, yes, then stuff is done to you. If you’re at the table, then you’re part of the solution.”
But the republicans have also been vying for the Black male vote. President Trump has lured to his side icons of the testosterone-saturated Hip Hop nation — including Ice Cube, Lil Wayne and 50 Cent. Each rapper has praised Trump and has accused the democratic party of ignoring the needs of Black voters. The rappers have agreed with Trump on what they call the “Platinum Plan” which purportedly will boost the Black economy.
After a meeting with Trump, Lil Wayne tweeted: “Just had a great meeting with [Donald Trump]…besides what he’s done so far with criminal reform, the platinum plan is going to give the community real ownership. He listened to what we had to say today and assured he will and can get it done.”
In 2016, the overall turnout of Black male turnout fell off by the double digits from 2008 and 2012. That level of attrition can change the outcome in this week’s election.
Each rapper has praised Trump and has accused the democratic party of ignoring the needs of Black voters. The rappers have agreed with Trump on what they call the “Platinum Plan” which purportedly will boost the Black economy.
What’s clear for Black men across the nation is that they do not have the luxury of staying home on election day. What’s at stake for the Black community his momentous. Black men have the opportunity to sway the outcome on who becomes the next occupant of the White House. This means that their vote at the polls Tuesday can be transmuted in the national consensus.
In 2020, Black men deserve a seat at the table for their participation in the American civic saga. Historically, they have unnecessarily been scapegoated in American civil society. Now is the time for Black men to summon their power to serve as leaders in creation of a new democracy.