It’s been three days since you sat down with the co-host of the “The Breakfast Club”, Lenard McKelvey (aka Charlamagne tha God), and I’m still reeling from your comment that if he has a problem figuring out whether he’s for you or Trump, then he “ain’t Black”.
I’m aware that you had a call with Black business leaders recently and that you walked back on that comment during this call. I understand that you apologized and said (verbatim):
“I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy. I shouldn’t have been so cavalier in responding to what I thought was a anyway, it was. I don’t take it for granted at all and no one, no one should have to vote for any party based on their race, religion, or background. There are African Americans who think that Trump was worth voting for. I don’t think so. I’m prepared to put my record against his. That was the bottom line and it was really unfortunate. I shouldn’t have been so cavalier.”
The truth is that you weren’t being cavalier and this falls short of an authentic apology. What we witnessed was a classic “Freudian slip” case that gave us insight into what you think about Black voters.
I am a Black conservative woman. I was born in South Africa and am a proudly naturalized American citizen who loves this country. Before you even ask, I did not vote for Trump or Hillary in 2016 (that’s a different story) and have not publicly endorsed any candidate for 2020.
Here’s what I took away from this incident:
You took umbrage to the fact that the interviewer wanted to ask you more questions about your policies for the Black community. This was evident from your tone which was laced with such indignation and condescension as if to say: how dare he have more questions for you!
Would you treat White voters that way?
Rather than engage on how you might continue the dialogue, you said: “Take a look at my record, man! I extended the Voting Rights [Act] 25 years. I have a record that is second-to-none…”
In this same vein you also said that “The NAACP’s endorsed me every time I’ve run. I mean, come on. Take a look at the record.”
Yet the NAACP President and CEO, Derrick Johnson, recently said the NAACP “have never endorsed a candidate or a political party — we are not partisan. We may have individuals who are associated with the NAACP who are supporting Vice President Biden but this organization, we have not endorsed nor have we ever endorsed any political candidate running for presidency.”
So this claim fails on two levels. First, it’s just factually wrong. Second, do you really think the NAACP is the only organization that speaks for Black people and that Blacks have regard for today?
Young Blacks understand the importance of the Civil Rights movement, but are tired of older leaders (both Black and White) who think that actions taken decades ago justify voting for you in 2020. The younger Black voters that listen to Charlamagne tha God want concrete actions, not history lessons. Your repeated references to your “Record” suggest that you think the Black community should put you in the White House as some kind of lifetime achievement award (assuming you even deserve this) for past service. That’s not what elections are about.
2. Blacks vote on emotion, not facts
In the lead up to Nevada and South Carolina primaries in February this year, you said you had the “great honor of being arrested” with the UN Ambassador in 1977 on “the streets of Soweto” trying to get to see Mandela on Robben Island and that Mr. Mandela thanked you for this effort.
Vice President, I grew up in Soweto and I know that one can’t get to Robben Island through Soweto. Robben Island is 770 miles from Soweto. Was this part of your strategy to persuade Blacks in Nevada and South Carolina to vote for you? Why did you think that it was more appropriate to invoke Nelson Mandela using a story from over 40 years ago rather than engage Black voters in a meaningful way on concrete plans for the future? Why did you also think it was appropriate to claim that the NAACP has endorsed you rather than agree to engage more on your concrete policies and plans for Blacks?
Stop insulting our intelligence.
3. Blacks are a voting bloc, not individuals
Black people are not a monolith. We come from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, faiths, and experiences that have shaped who we are. Some of us are descendent of slaves while others (like myself) are immigrants with our own histories. Treating us as cardboard cutouts rather than people with our own experiences, goals, opinions, and dreams is disrespectful.
In fact, in my case it reminds me of how the apartheid government used to treat people of color in South Africa. I lived under apartheid for twenty years. Apartheid architects and racist Whites dehumanized people of color in various ways every single day. For example, rather than being called by their names, my grandfather (John Langa) and grandmother (Irene Langa) were called “boy” and “girl” in the heyday of apartheid. They were not accorded dignity as individuals but treated as just one of a nameless and faceless mass of Black people. Whenever racist White people wanted to know what Blacks thought, they would ask the one Black person they knew as if that person could speak for millions of other Blacks. This made total sense to those racist Whites who thought that all Blacks look and think alike and who didn’t expect Blacks to have any independent thoughts or aspirations of their own.
Mr. Vice President, I need you to understand that every Black person is entitled to think for themselves.
4. Black identity can be taken away
Lastly, your “you ain’t Black” comment tells us that you think that Blackness depends on our political allegiance. Mr. Vice President being liberal or conservative, Democrat, Independent or Republican, doesn’t make someone more or less Black.
This outlook just perpetuates the myth that there are “good” and “bad” Blacks; “self loving” and “self loathing” Blacks; or “true Blacks” and “Uncle Toms”.
Questioning Blackness is an old (racist) trick for dividing Black people and distracting people from talking about and addressing real issues. It needs to stop. Neither you, nor anyone else, has the right to judge my Blackness.
Mr. Vice President, I’m not angry — that’s another stereotype that strong Black women have to deal with on a daily basis. If anything, I’m happy your “you ain’t Black” comment slipped out because Black people of all political persuasions are finally starting to agree that new approaches are necessary.
For example, the NAACP President when asked for his reaction on this said that Black people are not a monolith, our votes shouldn’t be taken for granted, and that we have to focus on what you can do for Black people.
I could not agree more.
Yesterday Charlamagne tha God, when speaking to Joy Reid on MSNBC, said: “It has to come to a point where we stop putting the burden on Black voters to show up for Democrats, and start putting the burden on Democrats to show up for Black voters.” He has a point.
I’m thrilled to see that we are finally having a more robust discussion about developing policies and programs that actually serve Black interests. I’ll be paying even more attention to what’s put on the table on this front as we get closer to November.
A proud Black voter