The world is watching as the people of Alabama prepare to place their ballots today. Their vote will determine who will be one of America’s newest Senators, namely Republican Roy Moore or Democrat Doug Jones, in a race that will shape critical U.S. policies. And while some pundits may believe Black people should summon their magic to keep an accused misogynist and proven racist out of office, it is not the sole responsibility of Black Alabamians to ensure the winning vote. Democracy is a project for all, especially those who need to do all they must to loosen their longheld and tight grip on the type power that has harmed Black people in the U.S.
The differences between the candidates mirror the divisiveness present in national politics. The candidates’ positions are opposite ideologically and practically. Moore is a white supremacist, and alleged sexual harassment perpetrator (and child predator) who supports a blatantly sexist, anti-Muslim, and homopbobic agenda. In 2004, when a bipartisan coalition sought to symbolically erase Alabama’s constitution of its segregationist language Roy Moore was the effort’s Staunchest Detractor. In stark contrast, Doug Jones is a civil rights activist who has advanced progressive transformation in the criminal justice system throughout his career. His most notable action as a prosecutor involved convicting the three white domestic terrorists who bombed the 16th Street Church in Birmingham during the 1964 crime that has been linked to the Klu Klux Klan. Four black girls were killed and the nation was morally injured.
Keeping Moore out of office may appear to be the easiest way to advance Black communities in Alabama, but Black people are not the majority bloc upholding or supporting Moore as if he is Christ’s chosen leader.
Given the stark differences that color the candidates’ careers, media outlets have been discussing voter behavior in terms of the Black and white vote. For example, this week’s stories in the New York Times, NBC, and The Los Angeles Times promote the idea that if Roy Moore wins it will be because Black Alabamians did not show up to the polls—as if Black voters, and not the white voting bloc that bolsters Moore’s career, are to blame.
Moore is Not Black People’s Responsibility
The idea that Black people must carry the burden of this country’s failure to exercise democracy is a notion that reminds me of a quote from Richard Wright. In Black Boy, he writes “My life as a Negro in America had led me to feel . . . that the problem of human unity was more important than bread, more important than physical living itself; for I felt that without a common bond uniting men . . . there could be no living worthy of being called human.” Here, Wright notes that political discourse in the United States always places Black people in the position of responsibility. Black people, the thinking goes, must always place the principle of national freedom before our collective needs as a people. But, nah.
The National Urban League’s (NUL) 2017 State of Black America report lists various gains made by Black people under the Obama Administration, along with the prevalence of enduring economic, educational and health disparities between Black and white America. In the report, NUL President Marc Morial discusses what is needed to secure and advance these improvements. The report outlines the effects of a long history of systematic oppression that continues to prevail and remains in tact through the actions of political leaders like Moore. And that is why Black people’s focus should be on prioritizing the security of their households and communities and not an unpromised concept of freedom.
Media Must Point Out The Real Problem, And Black People Aren’t It
Keeping Moore out of office may appear to be the easiest way to advance Black communities in Alabama, but Black people are not the majority bloc upholding or supporting Moore as if he is Christ’s chosen leader. Black people, to be very clear, are not lending their vote to a man accused of sexually harassing several women when they were girls, a white man who also believes the days of chattel slavery in the U.S. had glorious moments.
During the GOP runoff, Black people took note when the the Los Angeles Times documented Moore’s most historically inaccurate and offensive quote this year. The LA Times reported, “In response to a question from one of the only African Americans in the audience — who asked when Moore thought America was last ‘great’ — Moore acknowledged the nation’s history of racial divisions, but said: ‘I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another…. Our families were strong, our country had a direction.’”
If Moore wins it will be because white people elected him.
Moore seems to forget that Black families were destroyed during enslavement, but one must first be aware of history to no longer remember it. Either way, it seems safe to say that the descendants of enslaved African people will not support a candidate whose willful ignorance echoes that of a treasonist Confederate.
Voting, however, can be an act of self care and harm reduction. Black people have shown overwhelming support for Jones. Polls for today’s race in Alabama show that he has 93 percent of the Black vote and just 33 percent of the white vote. This makes sense given Moore’s record on civil rights and the actual needs of Black people in Alabama.
What remains most shocking, if only because it is to be expected, is the support that Moore receives from white constituents. The decision to operationalize the ideals of an American democracy, one that supports the participation and livelihood of all people, depends on the support of the majority of citizens. Here in the U.S. that majority is comprised of white people. As is the case in most special elections, there is an expectation for low voter turnout today. For this and many other reasons credible pollsters are unable to predict today’s winner. This is a tragedy that white people must own, but therein lies the problem media refuses to center on: if Moore wins it will be because white people elected him. Moore is white folks’ candidate and his support is their acknowledgment that white interests will always trump democracy and national safety.