Any meaningful attempt to reach black voters won’t begin with claiming that Democratic policies have all failed—as Trump obnoxiously said the other week, telling African-Americans their lives are so terrible they have “nothing to lose” by voting for him—because that’s simply not true. In the years before the war on poverty began, 55 percent of black Americans lived in poverty—a number that has since been cut in half, down to roughly 26 percent. Not only that, 71 percent of single black moms lived in poverty in 1959, a number that is down to about 37 percent. (Curiously, no conservative I’ve read has ever noted that while the much-discussed black out-of-wedlock rate has been climbing the past few decades the rate of poverty in single-female-led black families has been going down.)
The black poverty rate remains higher than the white and Asian-American poverty rates, showing there is still much work that remains to be done—but also that an enormous amount of progress has already been made. A good percentage of that progress has been made by the kinds of programs conservatives often demean and actively try to dismantle—programs Democrats have continued to fight to keep in place. Even the comprehensive sex education programs and policies that have helped reduce the black teen pregnancy and abortion rates to historic lows are in the cross hairs of Republicans who seem less interested in outcomes than an adherence to a strict ideology. (By the way, the black graduation rate is at historic highs.)
Here’s more context conservatives often ignore when talking about the state of black America: The current state of inner cities is largely a result of discriminatory housing policies (let us not forget the GOP’s current standard-bearer was sued twice by the Justice Department for housing discrimination); discriminatory welfare policies that initially left black people out of the safety net and even the benefits of the G.I. Bill, despite their sacrifices in war; and white flight.
What’s more, they cite stats showing the black unemployment rate twice as high as the white unemployment rate but fail to remind people that’s been the case for decades—in large part because of the discrimination many conservatives don’t want to confront or even acknowledge.
The black unemployment rate ballooned to more than 17 percent during the Obama era as a result of the Great Recession but has since been cut in half, while the black median income is back to roughly where it was when Obama first took the oath of office. The Great Recession hit black people harder than most other groups, in large part because of the group’s reliance upon building wealth through real estate—an industry whose practices helped cause the recession.
Democrats supported and passed legislation to curb those Wall Street-created problems that hurt those on Main Street—at the cost of an enormous amount of political capital—while the Republican Party put on a full-court press to keep those policies from being enacted.
Democrats also supported and passed legislation designed to help bridge the health divide, through the Affordable Care Act—while the Republican Party put on yet another full-court press to keep that law from being enacted.
Democrats are fighting to do something more to curb gun violence, knowing that communities of color feel overrun by the gobs and gobs of guns on America’s streets that always seem to end up in the hands of the wrong young men in their neighborhoods, causing great harm. How do Republicans respond? By cleaving itself to the National Rifle Association and making sure sensible, nationwide gun control legislation never sees the light of day.
In the minds of black voters, the GOP is hostile to health reform that is saving and improving their lives; hostile to Wall Street regulations designed to prevent a repeat of an economic downturn the American Civil Liberties Union calculates will be costing black Americans dearly for maybe another decade and a half; hostile to economic initiatives by the nation’s first black president; and pretend not to hear when communities of color scream that one of the most vital solutions to curbing gun violence is doing something about the guns themselves. When black people bring up any of these issues to many conservatives, they are either ridiculed, told that what they are experiencing can’t really be so, or that a simple adoption of conservative values and principles—whatever that means in the age of Trump—is the elixir for black people’s ills.
That doesn’t even include the Republican push for voter ID laws that affect people of color, the elderly and the poor more than others, and the reality that many Republican and conservative leaders are more concerned with staying in the good graces of the police than they are in solving one of the most vexing, emotional problems facing the nation, that of a perverse combination of under- and over-policing in our most needy neighborhoods.
Date Posted: Sunday, September 4th, 2016 , Total Page Views: 1152
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