Black Political Isolationism: Cutting off our nose to spite our face.

In 2016, targeted voter suppression, combined with many Black voters rejecting the Democratic Presidential nominee has made a demagogue the President Elect. And so, barring a benevolent miracle, Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States in under a month. The 2016 Presidential election has exposed surprising weakness in the Democratic Party’s hold on working class whites and the once ‘reliable’ Black vote.

Rumblings are heard election cycle after election cycle about how Democrats take Black votes for granted. 2016 though appears to have been the watershed and Black voters abandoned Hillary Rodham Clinton en mass. The choice of candidates is a personal matter. And even if I disagree with your choice, I respect that you acted on your conviction and took part.

But 2016 also seems to be a year more Black folks than ever just didn’t vote. Yes, the Republican party mounted targeted voter suppression campaigns wherever they could get away with it. In North Carolina for sure, this campaign of disenfranchisement turned the state from Democratic blue to Republican red. But a lot of eligible Black voters just didn’t bother to vote.

The reasons Black voters give for abstaining in 2016 are familiar. Many follow the line that until the Democratic party (or any other party) respects us and responds to our wishes, we will withhold our vote entirely. I find that logic ironic since it’s been the political process that’s provided the many advances in human and civil rights we have today.

A second line, reflected by many in the American polity as a whole states that since the whole system is rigged, why bother. And to the point, there is validity in this assessment of American politics! Powerful interests hold too much sway on American politics. But the second irony here is that one pathway to power for these powerful interests has been voter apathy! My concern though is only with the impact of these lines of thinking on Black political power.

For Black people in America, not taking part in the political process is isolationism that renders us irrelevant. The 2016 election highlighted the power and impact of our participation in the political process. Our vote is so vital that Trump put Blacks who didn’t bother to vote on blast. For me the thought of an open racist “thanking” Black people for NOT voting is an insult. For in his statement Trump reduces every courageous ancestor who endured pain, suffering or death to meaninglessness.

Black political isolationism will guarantee that powerful interests will continue to suppress our vote, legislate us into the margins and reduce us into a second-class citizenship not seen since the days of Jim Crow. We have then a responsibility to come up with workable, real world solutions for flexing Black political muscle.

So Black people, what do we do? It’s up to each of us to decide. What we cannot do is sit on the sideline waiting for conditions to be just right, and voilà, we vote. We have to do the hard work and make the hard calls. Do we stay with a Democratic party that needs a massive overhaul? Do we find a third party alternative? Or do we create our own political party, joining forces with others IF their interests and goals match our own?

Whatever happens, one thing I know is that if withdraw from participation, we will surely be “sold down the river” by other people’s actions.

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