A Letter To My White Progressive Friends The Day After The 2014 Midterm Elections

Dear Progressive White Allies,

Your family and friends let America down once more. It wasn't low turnout by black and brown voters in urban communities. It wasn't bad messaging. It wasn't gerrymandered districts. It wasn't the hundreds of millions in dark money spent. It wasn't the manipulation of voting rules and procedures. It wasn't the negative ads turning off voters. It was the voting behavior of your friends and relatives. You know these people. You talk to them daily. You spend holidays with them. You work alongside them. You are next door neighbors to them. You work out at the gym with them. You cringe but mostly look the other way after one of their racist, sexist, and homophobic comments. It's time you talk seriously to them about the future of our country.

I remember after the 2000 presidential election being a part of a conversation with mostly white activists and organizers from around the region in January 2001. Leading the discussion was a respected black labor leader, George Springer, from the American Federation of Teachers. George sat patiently as progressive people from around the northeast complained about the outcome of the election. They could not believe that so many people could vote for George W. Bush. They could not believe that the Supreme Court got it so wrong. They could not believe that more people didn't turn out for the election. They were mad at Ralph Nader and blamed him for losing Florida. George raised his hand, and said "black people got it right" - the overwhelming majority of black people voted for Al Gore. The room went silent because no one was sure how to respond to that basic truth.

I don't know many poor and working-class blacks who vote against their basic economic interest the way many poor and working-class white people do. I don't know many middle-class black people who complain about big government, want tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and cuts to the social safety net, but want to benefit from any government handout that helps them like tax breaks for middle-class homeowners the way many white people do. I don't know many black people who believe that they have more in common with the super-rich than they do with working class and poor people the way many white people do. I don't know many black people who want to impose their conservative religious views and social values on the rest of the country the way many evangelical and fundamentalist white Christians do. I don’t know many black senior citizens who oppose spending on education while demanding more money for Social Security and Medicare the way many white senior citizens do.

I do not have to look to know that every exit poll from every state that every candidate progressive's favored, whether they won or lost - governor or Senator - an overwhelming majority of black people voted for that candidate. I know my people.

Bilal Dabir Sekou, Ph.D.


And by the way my friend, I am pleading with you. No, I am begging you to open a dialogue with your sons, your daughters, your brothers, your sisters, your mother, your father, your uncles, your aunts, your nieces, your nephews, and your cousins. People of color are not the problem! Don't blame us for being insufficiently motivated to turn out and save America from itself.


Jason Schulman said…
Proof that Nader didn't cause Gore to lose the election: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/12/06/1260721/-The-Nader-Myth

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