SHAUN KING: Stop reducing Black voters to one simple, unanimous group. That’s racist.
It’s an election year. And so, like clockwork, we are seeing and hearing something that happens every single election year - the offensive reduction of Black voters to a mysterious monolith that looks, thinks, acts, and votes alike. It’s racist. And dumb.
Let’s just think about white voters for a second.
It’s widely accepted that white voters in rural Mississippi have a very different set of life experiences than white voters on the upper east side of Manhattan. Yes, they are both white, but they might as well live in two completely different countries. Their income, employment situation, and net worth are likely to be totally different. Nine times out of ten, their voting history and political preferences are going to be like night and day.
White voters in downtown Seattle are going to be vastly different than white voters in strongly conservative districts throughout Texas. We know this. It’s common knowledge. We have data to back it up. All white voters are not the same. They track differently down the fault lines of income, education, and zip code.
And guess what? White people don’t have some special superpower that makes them different from one another! That’s not some uniquely white trait. Yet, if you listen to the news on any given day, you hear a constant stream of who and what “Black voters” do and do not support. It’s a farce.
The political preferences of young Black voters are often more like those of young white voters than they are Black senior citizens. That’s because all Black people aren’t the same. If you were born in 2002 like my daughter Kendi, who will vote for the first time this year, you see the world radically different than anyone, including someone Black that was born in 1932, 1942, or 1952. Their life experiences are just so damn different.
As you likely know, South Carolina just voted, and Joe Biden performed really well there with the single largest bloc of voters in the state - older African Americans. But to conclude from that voting result that he will also crush it with young Black voters in Brooklyn, or Los Angeles, or Houston, is a mistake. To even conclude that older Black voters in those cities will support him, as they did in South Carolina, is a mistake. Consequently, it’s factually wrong to ever say “Black voters support Joe Biden,” or “Joe Biden has the Black vote,” just because one segment of Black voters in one single state supported him. By doing that, you are erasing the millions of Black voters who would never support him and have chosen other candidates. I struggle to name one single Black focused civil rights organization that is backing him.
For that matter, the same is true for young Black voters who widely support Bernie Sanders. While it’s likely that young Black voters will support Bernie everywhere, it’s not some universal truth. Young Black voters also support Elizabeth Warren and you’ll still find some young Black voters backing Joe Biden. So many variables are at play with how those decisions are made to reduce Black voters, or even a segment of Black voters, to thinking and feeling one certain kind of way is a mistake.
I actually love that Black voters in the 2020 election are not all unified behind one single candidate. It’s forcing all of the campaigns to actually fight for, and earn, each and every vote. It’s forcing them to not take Black voters for granted and assume that everyone will simply get in line. It needs to be this way from this point forward.