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Democrats: Please Stop Characterizing Black Voters as Outside Saviors for White America

Politics Features Democratic Party

This sentiment’s heart is in the right place, but it distills a complex problem into simple stereotypes that help maintain the barrier between America and our stated ideals.

It's really nice of black people to save America—after slavery, Jim Crow, and everything else.— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) December 13, 2017

African-Americans stopped a child molester from entering the United States Senate. One glance at exit polls proves this fact to be undeniable. No one was more critical to Doug Jones' victory than America's most subjugated minority.

Lotta positives from last night…but holy crap.— Jacob Weindling (@Jakeweindling) December 13, 2017

White America should be thankful that black America bailed us out of a situation where white supremacy tried to drive us into the ditch, but characterizing them as a group who swooped in and saved us does a disservice to the ongoing fight. Last night proved (yet again) that African-Americans are intrinsic to the Democratic coalition. We should be thankful for their efforts, but framing it the way Corn does above is inherently exclusionary. The logic (which is logical) goes: “African-Americans theoretically should have no desire to help a country that has murdered, plundered and outright discriminated against them for centuries, so the fact that they are still fighting to make America a better place is amazing and inspiring.”

And it is, but again, framing it this way puts African-Americans outside the Democratic coalition. Not to mention, it seriously downplays the effect that voter suppression has on squashing the black vote. Framing it the way Corn and other liberals have makes low black turnout look more conscious than it really is. Doug Jones' victory is an object lesson in to why the Republican Party is so determined to restrict the African-American vote. If Democrats want to keep winning, reversing years of GOP voter suppression must be a central plank on the party platform.

Too many people in my TL are saying white women don't deserve credit for Jones winning. It's not either/or. Blacks carried the load, but if white women had voted as white men did, Moore would have won. Everybody helped.— Will Saletan (@saletan) December 13, 2017
A very interesting piece of data from Alabama exit polls: While White women overall voted for Moore 63 to 34, when you break out evangelical vs non you get evangelical white women 76 – 22 Moore; non-evangelical white women 74 – 21 Jones!— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) December 13, 2017

Framing it as if African-Americans are the Avengers—swooping in to save white America from itself—also discounts the efforts made by white America to combat white supremacy. As dispiriting as the white vs black exit poll is above, this one contextualizes where those pro-child molester votes came from.

Pretty simple: a majority of older white Americans support white supremacy. The rest of us are more civilized.— Jacob Weindling (@Jakeweindling) December 13, 2017

It also discounts the heroic efforts of older white Americans like Nathan Mathis. People like this would otherwise be written off as a hopeless hick by coastal elites, but they are incredibly valuable to affecting change in areas where the concept of change seems like a fantasy.

Father, who says he's a local peanut farmer in Wicksburg, outside Roy Moore rally talks about losing his gay daughter at age of 23 to suicide. "I was anti-gay myself. I said bad things to my daughter, which I regret."— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) December 11, 2017

Characterizing this entire election as one solely saved by African-Americans also does not give credit to folks like this potential Roy Moore voter, who had a crisis of confidence as he stepped in to the voting booth.

This guy just voted for Nick Saban instead of Roy Moore or Doug Jones in the Alabama special election— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) December 12, 2017

Doug Jones would not be a Senator if not for the efforts of the Alabamian African-American community. They proved yet again that African-Americans are a vital portion of the Democratic coalition, and we should begin framing them as such—not as an outside group saving white America from itself—because the implication in that characterization is that we do not need black America in order to enact a liberal agenda when the Republicans are not an existential threat. Thanks to America's inherent racism and the GOP's embrace of our fascist nature, liberalism cannot exist without African-Americans. If we are to make good on this sweeping promise of a 2018 and 2020 blue wave, we must characterize African-Americans as the vital allies they are—not as an independent group operating on their own terms. The good news is that even though we have a ways to go in properly framing this dynamic, the DNC understands it from a functional perspective.

DNC Chair Tom Perez says all of the $1M the cmte spent on Alabama went toward African American and millennial turnout.— Sean Sullivan (@WaPoSean) December 13, 2017

Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.

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