The time has come, election week is here, and we're kicking off November to find out more about voting on What We Don't Know; Getting Black Men To Vote. Mondale Robinson, the Black Male Voter Project founder, joins us to discuss his work to get Black male voters to the polls. He is an advocate and political director that has made appearances on NPR, FOX, Democracy Now, and ABC. Mondale gives us first-hand insight into how Black men in America feel about voting, the obstacles, and betrayals that have led to the discontent and cynicism of many minority voters for over 100 years.
Mondale Robinson is one of 13 children, was raised in poverty, and is no stranger to African Americans' plight in society. His father and grandfather both worked as sharecroppers in the very racist south. Robinson states in an interview with Men's Health, "My dad, for instance, earned a felony when he was a young boy for defending his mother against white supremacy. Knowing that his struggles were all too common for Black men and watching America snuff out his greatness were my marching orders and the reason I fight for the betterment of my community."
Robinson was determined to get to the root of inequality. After spending time in the Marines, Robinson founded The C Institute, which assisted people of African descent with various issues in select countries. He formed Free Born Blacks, which led 125 campaigns globally.
Since 2000, Black voter turnout was increasing each election but dropped by 7% in 2016. In this very divisive campaign year, politicians are not underestimating Black and brown voters' power. Biden fulfilled his promise of appointing a Black woman as his VP with Kamala Harris. Both have started "Shop Talk," public talks geared towards Black men to discuss inequality issues, specifically police brutality. Trump not only has a strategically placed Black woman nodding in agreement behind him but has gained a group of followers known as Black Voices for Trump and has gained recent support from famous Black celebrities like Ice Cube and 50 Cent.
Leading up to election day, more states than usual took advantage of early voting opportunities, which has allowed the nation to observe voter turnout as it unfolded before election day. Unlike the overwhelming support Obama had in 2008, this year is proving to be unclear when it comes to the Black vote.
To look at American democracy's history, it all seems diplomatic with its progression decade after decade. Still, the hard truth is that America has an ugly history of disenfranchising minorities that continues today.
After the Civil War's hardships, where many Black Americans fought and died, freed slaves gained citizenship, but their new rights remained unclarified, with voting rights excluded. This second-class citizenship allowed Black people to be turned away at the polls, often with violence and aggression, especially in southern states. Congress finally clarified voting rights in 1870 with the 15th amendment reaffirmed voting rights to Black men but excluded Black women.
Still, things in writing don't always give a clear picture of reality. Whites continued to intimidate Black voters. In 1873 a group of white militia murdered over 100 Black men in what is known as the Colfax massacre in response to a contested election. While various acts of violence typically went on without consequence, they were illegal, but prejudice would find a way throughout the 1880-1900s with ballot fraud, literacy tests, and poll taxes. Georgia started its poll taxing in 1871 and reduced Black voter turnout by half. These taxes went on in many states until the Supreme Court abolished it in 1915.
Click this link for more about the Colfax
As many already know, the civil rights movement made the most change with leaders like John Lewis and Martin Luther King's march in Selma, but It wasn't until 1964 that the poll taxes ended. Just to put this in perspective, people born in 1964 are only 56 years old today. The 1965 Voting Act followed and gave women of all non-white ethnicities a right to vote. Before 1965 only 23% of Black people registered to vote, and after, it rose to 61%.
However, we know that the reality is amendments haven't solved all of the problems as evidence of intimidation, corruption, and misinformation still plagues us today.
Then And Now
Since the 1970s, Black votes have been on a slow incline with each election. It's no surprise that the most massive spikes were seen in 1984 when Jesse Jackson ran for office and again in 2008 with Barack Obama. While politics and policy are essential, representation is vital for anyone. It is no different for Black communities, but Mondale believes that personality isn't as important as Black men's interest in how policy affects them. He says that it's essential to understand the details of the issues and not rely on what the polls say. "If you look at the '94 crime bill, you would believe that 80% of Black people wanted more cops," Mondale explains, "What they really were saying is we want to be policed like white people are policed."
By the 90s, it became clear that the Black vote was essential to politicians, but the pandering was also apparent, especially during this election season as BLM gained popularity. The very fact that we talk to concisely about the "Black" vote speaks volumes to its weight prompting Trump to claim, "I have done more for Black Americans than any other president." as Biden rides the wave of Hope that Obama set. Black Americans are merely becoming disenchanted.
When Trump won in 2016, the white liberal, progressive, and democratic world felt as if the sky was falling, and sure, in a way, it did, but many African Americans thought it would be just another day for them. Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle bring humor to the sentiment in the "Election Night" skit on SNL showcasing white liberals shocked over Trump's win while Chappell and Rock appear unphased.
This reality of the Black voter perspective continues, which prompts advocates like Robinson to break down the walls of discontent in Black men by bringing the issues that are important to Black men into focus. Not only to honor ancestors before who fought for the right but also to understand how real change is achieved by addressing "basic needs," as he says. Black voters want to talk about policy changes, often not being discussed by politicians.
Watch this video about how the push for to Black voters is different than in 2016
'Brothas Be Voting'
Mondale Robinson's Black Male Voter Project, BMVP, eliminates skepticism and brings Black men back to the polls they have not revisited in the past five elections. He does this by sending relatable text updates and touching on Black men's real issues in various communities. BMVP is more than just getting Black men registered, but it educates and mobilizes to get them engaged.
The Black community can't always wait for the next most relatable candidate; they need to be involved with the issues. It's not about voting for the candidates; it's about voting on the best policies. BMVP lays it out clearly to his "brothas," uncles, cousins, and friends with an all-Black male attended event called Brothers Be Voting. These focus groups sift through the popular political talking points like clean energy, student loans, and fracking to get to what Black men, who are often marginalized and struggling, are more concerned in discussing.
Mondale finds that many Black people's primary focus is simple; proper food, work, and housing. He jokingly refers to it as "the white experience," but this 'white experience' is an all-too-real distinction between Americans and is the root of a voter being motivated or not. Black Americans tend not to be as moved to wait in long poll lines and miss work while their fundamental rights are still trampled on as with police brutality. Robinson helps put these concerns into practical voting strategies.
Watch Mondale Robinson discuss Black Male Voter Project
Robinson's work helps change the perspective of a very important demographic whose voices have been stifled for too long. He sees positive change happening now and for the future.
"When I think about the primaries in 2020 in Georgia, Kentucky and New York." Robinson reflects, "We were able to turn out 134 thousand Black men who were already registered to vote who had not voted in a primary since 2008."
To learn more about The Black Male Voter Project, visit https://Blackmalevoterproject.org/
Follow the hashtag #AllAction to follow Mondale's campaign for protesting resources and information.
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