The United States of America is 244 years in the making. In these 244 years, the country has witnessed a lot — the enslavement of Black Americans, the rigid caste system that was based upon it, the genocide of indigenous peoples, a pandemic, apartheid and another pandemic. There have been elections where, if the vote fell one way or another, the freedom to live, and to know that you have agency as a human being, was at stake. There have been other elections where, when the American masses were suffering, a vote one way or another would decide whether the constituents of this “great” country would be able to eat.
The fate of the American people, and even the fate of people who have never lived in America, has many times seemed contingent on which person is chosen to run this supposed “land of the free.” And many times, the material conditions of the people living within the country have never changed.
The 2020 United States presidential election, depending on who you’re listening to, has been dubbed the most important election in American history. Which is said of most elections, although this one may hold a certain weight, considering that it is occurring in the wake of more than 200k Americans lost to a global pandemic. It is an election that affects all constituents that aren’t the elite, and yet, the person that is being hassled the most to vote is the Black American.
LeBron James has launched a campaign to combat voter suppression (which is noble). Presidential candidate Joe Biden has released a campaign advertisement featuring a rap battle, in an attempt to win over Black voters. A director from Georgia enlisted the help of exotic dancers in Atlanta to put together an ad that attempted to “woo” Black males into voting. There are most definitely many other repulsive techniques and tactics that have been employed to try and mobilize the Black vote, but I will save myself the implicated anger in seeking them out.
None of these techniques, as you may have noticed, are related to policy. Maybe we just need more Black political strategists, or Black political strategists that possess backbone, but it seems that no one has considered that perhaps (just perhaps) Black Americans are enthused by policy. But even with this considered, it is not like Black voters are going through some apathy crisis. Maybe this was the case in 1992, but not today.
In 2008, according to U.S. census infographics, the proportion of Black voters that voted in the presidential election exceeded that of their white counterparts. In 2012, the same thing happened. And in the election that followed, there was a higher proportion of white Americans that voted, but only by a slim margin. And this is all considering the voter suppression that plagues Black communities. It is objectively racist to carry the notion that Black people don’t vote.
But even in the case that we didn’t, Black Americans should not bear the weight of holding this American empire that has never recognized their humanity, afloat.
At the end of 2018, there were 465,200 Black men in state or federal prison, and Black women were three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated. The net worth of the average white family in the United States is $171,000, almost ten times as large as the average net worth of $17,600 in Black families. And sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, the schools of America are still segregated.
This is not Black America’s fault, and it is not Black America’s responsibility to fix it. These conditions have been created by the American empire, maintained by the American empire, and will continue under the American empire.
It will take more than a vote to transform the American ideal.