The year is 2020. The month is August. And we’re in one of the most troubling times ever seen or experienced by Americans in modern history!
This year, most of the United States has endured some form of shut down due to the corona virus, aka Covid-19, or the China Virus as stated by #45.
The current unemployment rate in the US is above 10% with some economists predicting the true unemployment numbers could get higher than the great depression that hit a high 24.9%. As of this writing, there has been over 180,000 deaths in the United States and over 700,000 worldwide. The deaths are predicted to continue rising.
The horrific killing of yet another unarmed black man named George Floyd by the police has sparked protest all across America and the world, arguably the biggest wave of protest we have ever seen.
And then there is an upcoming presidential election.
I have been an active participant in the voting process for at least a decade, but I believe this is different than any other election year experienced in my lifetime. I know we say this all the time, but the growing divide in this country is growing with every election.
The US is a country very divided on so many issues including personal freedom, race relations, religion, climate change, role of government, U.S.’s role in the world, and so much more.
One major factor that could push this election one way or the other is the way African Americans will vote or choose not to vote. Being the second largest minority, with around 13% of the population and holding the largest share of electorates for any community of color, the way African Americans choose to cast their ballots in this country in 2020 will have huge implications!
First, let me say: We’ve got to vote!
Since we have been granted the right to vote, we have stuck together to vote in one way or another and it has been an effective strategy for the most part.
The question is, who should we vote for?
This year, there appears to be more discussion about which political party is and has been actually better for blacks. For the 2008 election of Barack Obama (D) vs John McCain (R), African Americans knew who they were voting for and there was no doubt amongst the majority.
Blacks have been voting for the democratic party since 1932 with the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt. This year, there appears to be more division within the black community. You have celebrities like Kanye West trying to convince blacks to vote Republican initially and then independent (or for the Birthday Party, where he is the candidate).
We have outspoken conservatives like Candice Owens trying to make a push for African Americans to vote for Donald Trump.
Confession: I’m a registered Democrat
Although I consider myself a moderate liberal, I’ve been open to listening to Black conservatives.
At first, I was quick to try and defend the party that I have voted for my whole adult life, the Democrats. I grew up aware of how President Richard Nixon and President Ronald Reagan devastated the black community with their war on drugs.
I’ve seen how President Trump denied knowing about the existence of the KKK as he also referred to athletes as “sons of bitches” for peacefully protesting. And trust me, I’ve listened to those who told me, don’t listen to his tweets, just look at his action. I’ve looked and I don’t like what I see.
Regardless, I promised myself to do extensive research on American presidents before the election arrives. I needed to know if I was just perpetuating talking points that I’ve been taught by Democrats all my life.
Was I a victim of just following what other generations of Africans Americans had done before me? I had to know for myself.
I really didn’t know in detail what policies and laws either party had put in place throughout history to help or hinder African Americans. Were the policies meant to help us, really hurting us?
Should I be casting my vote for Republicans or sticking with Democrats?
I took a quick trip through my history to find out why I felt the way I did. I needed to find out why there is still so much racial inequality and disparity in this country. This journey will mostly focus on executive branch policies and not local policies by either party.
As you can see, this is a lengthy examination of policies towards Blacks by American presidents. Come with me on this journey if you dare!
1619 – 1861 – A little history leading up to the Civil War. (In this period, I would have voted for no one because I wouldn’t have had the right to vote!)
In 1619, the First Enslaved Africans arrived in the British Colony of Virginia. This would be the start of the two and a half centuries of slavery in North America and marks the beginning of around 450,000 Africans arriving in the United States.
As far as policies go from 1619 to 1863, there was not a lot done to benefit African Americans in the United States. There were a lot of oppressive laws that regulated how African American should act and behave, but nothing was done to help them in the political arena.
During this time, we saw the American Revolutionary War, the writing of The Declaration of Independence, 16 Presidents, and the beginning of the Civil War.
By 1860, there were 4 million slaves. In the south slaves made up 1/3 of the population.
On April 30, 1778, George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States and didn’t proclaim to be part of any political party. He actually didn’t like the thought of political parties stating “[Political Party] agitates the community with ill founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against the another; torments occasional riots and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption which, finds a facilitated access to the government itself through channels of party passions…. “
George Washington was followed by five presidents that set some of the ground work for the parties we have today but really didn’t attribute their beliefs into clear political parties. Their disagreements were mainly surrounded around what the role of government should be.
Should there be a strong central government or a government that supported a stronger state government? The second President, John Adams, was a called a Federalists (strong central government) and the next four (4) Presidents, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams were called Democratic Republicans or Antifederalist (supported stronger state government).
The Birth of the Democratic Party
It wasn’t until Andrew Jackson (7th president) in 1829 that a political party was established: the Democratic Party. This Democratic Party is nothing like the one we have today, but we will get to that.
Jackson hated big government, recommend suppression of “incendiary publications”, and damned abolitionists “wicked attempts: to incite a slave rebellion.” He stood on a platform that wanted democracy for all white men and tried to eradicate Native Americans.
Jackson is the president known for the Trail of Tears or forced removal of Native Americans. His opposition called him a “jack ass” and he liked it so much he used it as his mascot. This is where the donkey comes from for the Democratic Party.
After Jackson came Martin Van Buren, another Democrat who said in his inaugural address that he would be an “Inflexible and uncompromising opponent of every attempt on the part of Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia against the wishes of slave holding states, and also with a determination equally decided to resist the slightest interference with it in the states where it exist.” Van Buren referred to slaveholders as “sincere friends to the happiness of mankind,” and he described abolition as a “vicious device” of evil. Van Buren even published a pamphlet opposing the abolition of slavery.
In 1841, America would see the first president that represented the Whig Party, John Tyler. The Whig party was comprised of a mix of individuals that represented a wide range of view points including left, right and center. The party was centered around a hate for Andrew Jackson. Whigs were pro tariff, pro taxation, supported infrastructure, public schools and roads.
The Whig party only had three presidents before splitting up after their last President Millard Fillmore who got the Fugitive Slave Act passed. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was part of the Compromise of 1850. The act required that slaves be returned to their owners, even if they were in a free state. The act also made the federal government responsible for finding, returning, and trying escaped slaves.
This would spilt up the party causing some to leave for the Democrats and other going on to form a new party called the Republican Party.
The lead up to the Civil War
From 1841 to 1861, the United States would see four Whig Presidents and three Democrat presidents. During this time, African American and abolitionist received one blow after another.
First it was the Fugitive Slave Act, a law that stated any runaway slave needed to be returned to their owner. Then Franklin Pierce, the 14 President (Democrat) signed the dreaded Kansas Nebraska Act. This repelled the Missouri comprise and allowed residents in states to decide if a territory should be a free state or a slave state.
Another huge set back to African Americans during this time was the Dread Scott Decision of 1857. This Supreme Court decision stated that the Constitution was not meant to include citizenship for black people, regardless of whether they were enslaved or free.
This means the rights and privileges that the Constitution confers upon American citizens could not apply to African Americans. It also stated that blacks had no rights under the federal government, and slave states no longer had to honor “once free always free”.
This decision would send shock waves throughout the United States and give rise to the election of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. It’s with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that blacks finally received freedom in this county.
This is where I will start my timeline
Going through history and learning about what each President has done to help or hurt African Americans in this country has been an enlightening experience.
I got to see how each political party came into existence, what they originally believed in and how those views have changed over time.
Now it makes complete sense to me why African American left the party of Lincoln and made the slow transition to the Democratic Party.
What I draw from all of this and what I am 100% sure of, however, is that blacks should not fall into the trap of fighting over one side or the other.
If we split our vote and half of us vote for Democrats while half of us vote for Republicans, our power will be washed out. It’s almost like we cancel each other out, making us almost non-existant.
When they say the “Black Vote”, we should be proud of that instead of thinking that we are monolithic because we continue to vote one way. It’s ok for all of us to vote together (more than ok, it’s essential) as long as we are moving with the times and holding the party we vote for accountable.
“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” – George Washington
We must, as a group, find leaders that we trust on issues we believe in and use their judgement to move between political parties when the time is right. The same way Fredrick Douglas told us to support Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King told use to vote for John F Kennedy.
African American should join together to follow movements and agendas and not necessarily political parties! We are only 13% of the population and if we allow someone or something to cause division among us, our voices may not be heard.
So what should I do in November 2020?
Should I follow Kanye or Candice to the Republican Party?
As of now, that’s going to be a no.
I’m definitely sticking with most of my African American brothers and sisters and voting for the Democratic Party. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid to change political parties if warranted. But for now, today in 2020, I believe the Democrats are doing a better job of listening and trying to fix the problems in the black community. The proof is in the timeline I put above.
More Democratic presidents have earned Green (mostly good) and Yellow (mixed) faces than Republican presidents in my assessment.
I’ve done my homework and I’m not convinced to switch.
Is the Democratic Party perfect? Absolutely not. However, the Democrats are the only ones that are even trying to help us out. And as for the argument that the government should just stop helping us out because that’s where the problem is, tell that to white America that has enjoyed plenty of government assistance to push them further and further ahead of us while the same government held blacks back.
The modern Democratic Party has given us Civil Rights, desegregation, the most blacks appointed to cabinets and courts, the most congress people and senators (because, yes, representation matters. If it’s our own people in positions of power not working on our behalf, we should hold them accountable. But the fact that we’re getting them in there should count for something), fair housing laws, and more.
If Republicans want our vote, they need to show us first that they will give us policies that will help our community. They shouldn’t expect us to come to them first and then hope they’ll do the right thing after we vote for them.
True, Donald Trump has given us criminal justice reform. But President Obama had already done so much for criminal justice reform. The timing was just right to do an even bigger reform, and activists like Van Jones pushed for it like never before.
They surely can’t expect blacks to now run to the Republican party over two things: criminal justice reform (which has mixed results) and record low unemployment rates (but Obama brought black unemployment from 16.8% to 8% compared to Trump’s 8% to 5.5% pre-pandemic).
Republicans would have to offer something else, and a lot of it too, first before we should abandon the party that has given us the most in modern times. I am not switching because few black conservatives get on stage and tell me I should think for myself. I am thinking for myself.
I am sticking to the Democratic party because facts don’t lie. And facts don’t care about feelings, right?
Please make the right decision and make our 13% count in November 2020!