A group I’d rather not contribute internet traffic to has a clip making the internet rounds that tries to make the case for why black people should “get off the plantation” of voting Democrat. Its main point is that we should not trust the motives of the white people who contribute to liberal political organizations, because white people don’t have black political interests at heart and they want our families decimated so we keep depending on them and voting for them. I agree 100% that just because white liberal people are liberal, that does not mean they necessarily care about black lives. Depends on the people. I agree that we should look at the motives of white people who want our agreement and our votes. I have witnessed, over and over again, white liberal people being paternalistic, racist, and ignorant. But that’s where we stop agreeing, and I’m going to state my disagreements point by point.
In this video clip, a young black man in an audience full of white people says that Black Lives Matter is “white liberals in blackface,” because they care about feminism and LGBT issues. I imagine this may alienate this guy, since he is a man, who we are to assume is straight. So we are now supposed to think that men should not care about societal oppression of women, and that straight people should not care about societal oppression of gay or non-gender-conforming people. Or that if black men and/or straight people do care, it’s not because they personally care about how other people are treated, but it’s because some white person with money told them to care. That’s basically saying black people don’t think for ourselves. Here’s a hint – the way to get me to hear your point of view is not to start by telling me I’m too stupid to know when someone is running a con on me.
In language clearly intended to speak to our resentment of slavery, he repeats, “I’m off the plantation, bro.” Putting aside that I don’t know any brothers who talk like that, “bro,” I’ve heard that language before from conservatives who assert that black people use peer pressure to make us all espouse the same political opinions. I think to some extent, that’s true, not just of black people, but all subpopulations in this country. But I’ve only heard the plantation language in relation to black people, and I’m insulted someone thinks that black people who don’t politically align with conservatives didn’t come to their conclusions using thoughts of their own.
He calls “LGBT, women, non-binary, white feminism, [and] all that Hillary Clinton stuff,” “white people ideas.” First, tell that to all the black queer people in our communities, who “live with roommates,” never bring significant others around their families, throw themselves into church activities, or who live out and proud all without consulting a single white person about how to live their lives. Second, the irony that he’s saying this in a room full of white people who are nodding and clapping and laughing approvingly is not lost on me.
Now, BLM being started by lesbian women is problematic, he says, because it’s not supporting black families. Because they don’t mention black fathers on the website. First, a moment of silence for my frustration at this assertion. BLM is a social justice organization, which states on its website that black families are one of its priorities. But besides that, being lesbian is not in opposition to caring about black families and black fathers in any way, full stop. Black lesbians come from black fathers and black families, and many birth black fathers and raise black families. Many of the men BLM has stood up for are black fathers. Other victims of racist violence were born black males and killed because they weren’t gender conforming, and their lives matter no less than black fathers like Eric Garner’s or Walter Scott’s lives did. BLM – lesbians, gay men, straight people, an entire group of black and brown people – was there for justice for them.
So then this black woman on the panel in this video responds to the young man’s comment, talking about how liberals “[M]anipulate you by using a term that no one in their right mind would be against.” Then she goes on to talk about Planned Parenthood and how they kill black babies every day. Well, who wants black babies killed every day – who in their right mind would want that? She is doing for the conservative cause exactly what she is saying her liberal opponents do – we’re not supposed to notice that because we’re supposed to blown away by the revelation of what she’s saying as a supposed aside. (And we’re supposed to forget that most political conservatives don’t believe in funding comprehensive sex education or adequately supporting poor families because Reagan’s mythical welfare queen is black.)
She says when you do a deep dive you’ll see that BLM is an arm of the [liberal] Democratic party that wants to keep black people enslaved via their emotion and their anger. Because I suppose it’s black people’s emotion and anger shooting unarmed people in the streets, de-funding public schools, warehousing young people in prisons, ticketing and fining, nickel and diming us out of productive citizenship?
Well, I have questions. Enslaved and dependent to whom? The Democrats, of course. If we don’t vote for the Democrats, who should we vote for, the Republicans? Got it. Because they’ll talk about the things that matter, she says, like straight black men, and black fathers in the home. First, paternalistic much? Right in line with what most racists jump to first as the “problem with the black community,” this woman went straight for family values as opposed to the many societal injustices black people face. Secondly, when was the last time you heard a Republican or conservative talking about straight black fathers in the home or doing anything to keep black families together other than to scold black people for not doing it, as if 1) we don’t know any “better,” and 2) disinvestment in our communities by both private industry and Dem and GOP administrations haven’t led to high unemployment, low graduation rates, high crime, and high incarceration rates, which put pressure on poor families of every color, disproportionally affecting black families.
See, here’s the thing. Not all black people think alike. We differ on whether abortion is okay and whether homosexuality is acceptable. Some of us are religious conservatives. Some hate welfare and resent the people on it. Some resent wage wars with immigrants who will work for much less than we feel we’re worth. Some resent how Democrats are in political power in the cities where many of us live, and that seemingly has done little for us over the past 50-60 years. Not all black people, and in fact, I’d guess most black people, are not enthusiastically behind all liberal notions. There is no small number of black people who believe in supporting the economy by having business-friendly policies, in small government, in lower taxes, and in fiscal conservatism.
But we are intelligent people. We are capable of thinking with nuance. We don’t need white people – liberals or conservatives – to tell us how to think. We make the best political decisions we can given the choices we have (and there honestly aren’t enough viable choices). Conservatives seem to think that white liberals told us a paternalistic story about how we are victims of racism, we need a big government to take care of us, and that we are not responsible for improving our economic and social prospects in this country because whites are bad and guilty and owe us everything. Conservatives believe we lapped that up gratefully and that’s the reason why we vote with Democrats more often, because that’s what conservative media leaders tell them. Conservatives believe if they paternalistically tell us a counter story, appealing to the American propensity to believe conspiracy theories, and saying that we’re being bamboozled by liberals. They believe that their opening with us is to appeal to our well-known spirituality and our conservative religious beliefs. If we begin to focus on policing personal decisions of others, then we may defect from voting alongside (NOT WITH. ALONGSIDE!) white liberals and begin to support conservative politicians.
But it’s white conservatives who lied and said that separate was equal when it wasn’t. They didn’t want to integrate schools, workplaces, or neighborhoods. They started whites-only private schools and fought school bussing in the north and in the south. They didn’t support the Civil Rights Act or Affirmative Action. They disagreed with the categorization and special treatment of hate crimes against people of color. In revolt against the integration and civil rights progress of the 20th century, they defected from the Democratic party to become Republicans in response to appeals to racism by Nixon and Goldwater. They infiltrated and transformed the party of Lincoln into the mob of tiki-torch wielding racists who gave us the current president, making a deal with the devil so they could control the supreme court, roll back worker rights, women’s rights, affirmative action, civil liberties, start COINTELPRO-type monitoring activities against black activists and the press, strip retirement benefits from our parents and grandparents, return to the economics that squeezed us during the Reagan years, and strip away every accomplishment of the first black president that they possibly can. We know what “take our country back” and “make America great again” means. We know when they say, “law and order,” they mean, “lock ’em up.” We know that being forced to stand for a song that talks about liberties we still don’t have is the same stuff our soldiers had to fight against decades ago in Europe, just to come home and be told the GI Bill was not for them, and Jim Crow was God’s will.
We didn’t believe a story told to us by white liberals. We believe the facts of the lives that we live, the lessons we were taught from our elders, and the reality of what we see in the news every day.
We can hold conservative beliefs and still vote for people who won’t actively try to screw over the most vulnerable among us. And we do, time and time again, as if it’s a matter of survival. Because it is. Imagine the irony, the unmitigated gall, of people who knowingly harbor neo-Nazis in their political party saying that we need to beware the motives of white liberals and trust them instead. We’ve been watching our backs for over 400 years. We know what we’re doing, and we don’t need the help of transparent propaganda from people who would just as soon send us back to Africa if they could, since our lives don’t matter to them.