the Black Vote

The day After Super Tuesday I essentially awoke to this video.

Which was bad enough and then I noticed the news articles being shared with thinly vieled racism blaming Black voters for the turn out. After seeing it and other salty posts I figured it’s a good time to put the blame back where it goes.

Guess what? It’s not Black People.

Voter Suppression.

This is a fancy term for illegal shit. For as long as Black people have been free there has been a large push to take that right away. Prior to emancipation only White men and some Free Black Men were allowed to vote.

Both White and Black Republicans helped get the 15th amendant was passed, with it it signaled a shift. 20,000 men suddenly had the right to vote and run for office. Through part pride and part the power of Black wives, men signed up to vote in droves. there a time when many Black men heald office during the reconstuction. They established full control of congressional elections, and strove to protect Black Voting. With the support of the then republicans, by 1888 they had full control of the house, senate and presidency. It was the Negro’s Hour.

It was brief.

Meanwhile the Dixiecrats (future democrates) were attempting to find ways to block the 15th amendment from passing. Additionally there was a great deal of push back from white women who felt it was their time. The Dixiecrats in the south were looking up North for a solution to their Black voter problem. In Mass. they found it.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

15th amendment

The problem was, it said nothing about other ways to deny someone from voting. It was in the north that voter suppression began, but, the south had the bigger population and more outright racism. It was in the south that the idea of voter suppression by any means nessaray became a thing.

Jim Crow

We all know the basics of Jim Crow. I hope. White people were fustrated by the increase of Black power and so created not only laws but etiquette around how the races should act and relate to each other. This set a precident of power around voting. Voter suppression became a bigger problem. White people of the time decided that they wanted to focus on discouraging Black people any means necessary and used the power of the Jim Crow laws and violence to do so. With the power imbalance it became easy for other ways of restricting access to voting such as;

  • Fines
  • Reading tests
  • Impossible questions
  • Residency requirements
  • Record-keeping requirements
  • Threats of violence
  • Death

“If they couldn’t slave the nigger back like he used to be, disfranchisement was pointin the nigger in that direction,” Alabama tenant farmer Ned Cobb said. Poll taxes, intimidation, fraud, and grandfather clauses all played their part, but the enduring tools of registration and the Australian ballot worked their grim magic, too, and made voters disappear.

And it worked! Black people stopped voting in mass and it still is felt today. Althought many of the clearly illegal things have stopped the feeling of it being pointless remains in a lot of people. Those who continue to vote often do out of a feeling of obligation more than anything. Lets talk about why.

Numbers Create Conservatism

Black Americans make up 13% of the country. I was unable to find exact stats but currently one about half of the americans we have are of voting age. So that means ~7% of eligable voters are Black. A non insignificant portion of those votes are uneligable. Why? The prison system. A large portion of Black People are in jail and therefore unable to vote in most states. Once they are released many can not vote until parole ends. Meaning a good portion of our population can not vote, and this isn’t including those who are illierate or struggle to read, those who are disabled, imporverished and therefore unable to take time off work and many more factors.

That really makes an impact on our % of voters. and with that brings a feeling of helplessness that, I don’t even like to acknowledge. It gives you a certain edge knowing that people voting in your best interest is small. Then even if you believe that there are white folks who’d vote in your best interest too, it’s hard to believe that it will be enough.

It’s even harder to beleive politicians and the government cares about you or will do what they claim. As a community we’ve been used and abused so much by both, a certain amount of pragmatism, and skeptisim kicks in. It makes you wary of pipe dreams and big promises. It makes you hesitant to believe the hype. because the track record doesn’t lie.


This pragmatism often creates a certain amount of conservatism. Many Black people I know wait much longer to back a candidate and are flexible on that position up until the day of voting. We are swayed more by action than smooth talking. dispassionate debate brings up the assumption of them hiding something, and therefore are less trustworthy. Many people want to see the effort to connect, to show up and be a force that can be believed in. It’s how our culture works often.

This really impacts how we as a culture vote. In the 60s there was a political shift that occurred. some may know it as when the parties “switched” how they felt about Black people and Blacks became democrats in general. As we closed in on the 60s there wasn’t a great deal of difference between the parties. Within the Black community there was a split occurring too. There were those who wanted to trust that the government could support and care about Black communities, and those who did not. As white rebulicans became more concerned with big business (and the changing climate around that) they slowly shifted from promoting social progress in response to the democrats doing so. Those Blacks who didn’t trust the goverment following the Black power moment and wanted to pursue community success through Black means voted republican, and those who felt that recieving help for what was wronged voted Democrat. This is a generalizaiton and there are clearly more factors at play

But! What is means to be a Black conservative and a white one, aren’t a one to one match. Same on the side of being a liberal. What is considered progressive, hopeful and even daring, is very tame by white standards. Why? Because Black Culture in politics takes a pragmatic vs ideal approach. we focus more on what is not what should be.

An example:

Universal healthcare. It sounds great, it is even the way things maybe should be. But it feels very far away and not very likely to actually happen. What IS happening is that systems are being cut back and expenses are going higher and it’s impacting the Black community A LOT. (this is besides the well deserved distrust of the medical community by the Black community which doesn’t help) If (DEM) Black folk need to choose between what feels like a idealized pipedream, and something achievable, many will pick the achievable. Since we have always lived in this country as less than, we don’t have the drive to get what we “deserve” but are motivated by getting what is better. When the country you live in doesn’t value you what you deserve can’t be motivating. This only gets even more of an issue the more minoirty statuses you have. You weren’t cared about before and now you have an addtional struggle? It is best to be a bit more conservative in choices or lose everything to chasing what is deserved all at once. The risk is bigger and so the hesitance is bigger too.

We, of course are not a monolith but this is a factor for many of us even those who are republican. What feels like it’s the most realistic thing to happen? What is a step towards having things be better? Many Black folk are simply farther over of the scale of conservatism when you view it through the white version.

I made a very oversimplified generalized version, but is my perception of how the scales are different. Take it with a grain of salt, I am not an expert. Sometimes we use the same words to describe very differnt things. But majority of Black in Americans are not conversative but also our scale isn’t a one to one to the white community either. Our center is a lot less clear because for many being a Democrat or a republican isn’t an identity. You vote for what seems the most real and aligned with your goals. It just happens for many its the DEM party even if they are more conservative than that party as a whole.

So, How Does all This Come Together?

Politics and governement have never been kind to the Black community. There is a lot of jaded feelings, so many don’t vote. There is a lot of voter suppression even happening today, like prison, ID checks, (25% of Black voters don’t have an ID thaat counts!) closing of polling places in Black areas and ending early voting so people didn’t need to miss work at all, contribute to it being hard to get Black voters. Those who are able are often older and more cynical around voting and want feels like realistic changes. There is a pragmatism and conversatism that comes from our history and influences our voting practices. and worst of all, our % of the population of voting age is small.

If you are disappointed that Black Voters didn’t vote for who you backed, I urge you to look at these details and ideas. Thinking “they don’t know what’s good for them” and that’s why folks didn’t vote for your candidate, means you should take a look at that racism. If your candidate isn’t reaching the Black community right now even with their good ideas, it is because they do not understand what this population wants and how they want to talk about these things and issues. We all can see that and feel that, and that’s why regardless of how individuals felt they voted Biden. It’s not set in stone for many I’m sure, but until a candidate really start connecting with the Black community, the vote will go to whoever who gives the most rights AND seems grounded in reality.

THAT’S why if you candidate lost it wasn’t us who lost that for you. As a culture we are too pragmatic for good reason, our youth, who’d be considered less conservative, are having their votes suppressed, and our population percentage is too small. White people, instead of blaming Black folk look at your fellow White American. Majority of them have way less to lose than we do and can be steered away from voting on what seems most realistic. As a majority in this country it’s ridiculous to blame a minority for your issues, you have the power, use it.

Resources used for this piece

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