“My ancestors died for my right to vote” is starting to sound like “my ancestors died for me to continuously give away my power.”
It’s no secret that Black Americans in this country are left to take care of ourselves. Many African Americans of voting age grew up hearing the age-old trope that “my ancestors died for my rights to vote.” We hear it every 2-4 years depending on the election at stake.
In fact, it’s become a staple slogan in our culture to encourage young people to opt into the political realm. However, it seems it’s just another rally of support for politicians who promise good for Black Americans but don’t deliver. More often than not, we pledge our allegiance to the Democratic party.
For years, the Democratic party has commissioned celebrities to solicit votes, even when they claim nonpartisanship. Music executive Jeff Ayeroff’s “Rock the Vote” campaign in 1990 is one of the earliest, most obvious pushes to get a Democrat in the White House. Bill Clinton even said the campaign made a difference in his election.
“1992 was the first election in decades where the 18 to 24 year old vote grew by double digits,” MTV’s former CEO said, adding, “But more than that, the convergence of a youthful President, young adult journalists and the most popular artists of the day drew a line in the sand that would change the tone and voice of political coverage, and who was invited to participate in it. RTV and MTV paved the way for many of the youthful news brands emerging today.”
Sean “P. Diddy” Combs’s “Vote or Die” campaign in the early 2000’s was another of the most prominent efforts. In regard to his initiative, Diddy said, “The same way we make a Biggie album, a Sean John shirt or a ‘Spider-Man’ movie, or a ‘Matrix’ movie hot, we’re going to overwhelm you and excite you with the urgency of our message.”
He continued, “We have the power to make things cool, hot and sexy, from the clothes we wear to the cars we drive to the bling we buy.” Despite the knowledge that hip-hop culture and black celebrities can determine the fate of the presidency, we’ve made little progress to make significant agendas for our people.
In her 2016 presidential campaign, Hilary Clinton pulled out all the stops with concerts headlined by Jay-Z and Beyonce. She even visited the culturally relevant Breakfast Club to solicit votes as well.
Flash forward to the 2020 presidential campaign, the Democratic party still used the same old tactics of recruiting celebrities while promising us the bare minimum.
Even with those bare minimum promises, we still don’t see action from the White House. How can anyone take this as less than a slap in the face?
Despite these stunts, many Black Americans feel cheated, used, and abused. We haven’t seen these overt pushes of culture from the Republican party though. That’s why it’s easier to have no expectations from them at all.
But when the Democrats get our emotions riled up every election cycle as if voting is some life altering decision, it gets old when we’re then left to dry.
Many Black Americans can clearly recall when we voted to elect Barack Obama twice. We were too swoon over having a “cool Black president” to take note of policies and hold his feet to the fire to provide for us.
However, as time has gone on, and after living through the Trump era as more fully realized adults, many of us aren’t having that “vote blue no matter what” rhetoric anymore.
At times during this last election cycle, we took our needs seriously and acknowledged that not being Trump wasn’t sufficient for getting Biden into the White House. Black icons such as P. Diddy and Ice Cube alluded to actions such as withholding our votes until we have a solid plan of action for Black America.
Diddy remarked, “Nothing has changed for Black America. In order for us to vote for Biden, we can’t be taken for granted like we always are because we’re supposed to be Democrats or because people are afraid of Trump,” he explained. “It’s business at this point. You know, we can’t trust politicians.”
Any mention of withholding votes was immediately met with backlash from Democrats. What other bargaining chips did we have besides withholding our vote? When does the slogan “my ancestors died for my right to vote” start to sound like “my ancestors died for me to give away my power?”
What is hindering tangible progress for Black Americans? What happened to the talks of reparations that were a hot-ticket item for the Democrats in 2019?
We’ve been the force behind electing Democrats for the last 60 years and our material conditions have not changed. Yet, with Biden in the White House and the Democrats in control of the House and Senate for the first time since 2011, we have to ask what is holding them back from giving us more?
Now that Donald Trump is no longer the “boogeyman,” what will they use to abstain from providing for Black America?
It seems like the only thing Democrats focus on is recycling how important it is to vote for the sake of voting. When they aren’t doing that, they’re criticizing voter reform bills the GOP pushes and labelling anything that they don’t agree with voter suppression.
That seems to be the only thing they’re interested in as far as African Americans are concerned. Even after the 2020 election, this is still a trojan horse for them. This is no longer the 1960’s and most African Americans interested in voting know how and where to do so.
This should not still be considered a social justice issue anymore, especially because many of these reforms are aimed at making elections more secure.
If African Americans don’t demand more from our leaders, even when it’s not an election year, we will suffer irreparable consequences. We’ve been warned on many occasions that this cycle cannot continue because our lineage will not be sustained.
Black Entertainment Television (BET) founder Robert Johnson said it simply, “I think Black Americans are getting a little bit tired of delivering huge votes for the Democrats, and seeing minimal return in terms of economic wealth and closing the wealth gap.”
We’re getting exhausted of the Democrats over-promising and under-selling our interests.
Luckily, younger generations are becoming more aware of just how awful the two-party system can be and they’re shaking things up for the Democrats.
Hopefully this continues, because we’re long overdue for a change.
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