There is a saying that “no good deed goes unpunished.”
My grandmother, a slight woman whose values still trickle down through four generations, and who radiated love and wisdom as if she were our family’s own self-contained solar system, once showed me the scars on her legs from being bitten by a police dog and instructed me to “trust a white man as far as you can throw him.”
While that ancient African proverb now seems like a bit of reverse racism, Alabama’s black voters, in all their egalitarian forgiveness and goodwill, ignored it this past December when they cast their ballots for Doug Jones, sending him to the Senate chambers to represent them.
Sure, he was a white man, they reasoned, but he wasn’t like the others. Even with his problematic campaign, he was one of the good ones. He would remember what black voters did for him. How could he not recognize that the only reason he is now referred to as “Sen. Doug Jones from the state of Alabama” is the black vote? After all, he’s a Democrat. How could he forget who put him there?
In return, Doug Jones and the Democratic Party, once again, have thrown black people to the wolves.
Politico magazine reports that on Wednesday, the Senate passed a bank-deregulation bill that rolls back many of the regulations imposed on banks and lenders. The bill passed with the support of the Trump administration, Republican senators and 17 Democratic senators—most of whom are considered to be moderate or conservative Dems. The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass.
For more than a decade I have been trying to push the idea that blackness has evolved past its murky racial and cultural definition. As a college macroeconomics instructor, I taught a class, Race as an Economic Construct, that advocated examining race through the lens of data and numbers. (The science of economics is not limited to the production and distribution of goods, services and wealth.)
One of the easiest ways to illustrate this point is with the history of black homeownership. Homeownership is the biggest builder of wealth in America and is still affected by the history of segregation, Jim Crow and redlining. It fuels every indicator of discrimination in this country and is one of the best examples of the manifestation of white supremacy.
Housing discrimination relegated African Americans to homogeneous, poor black communities with underfunded, segregated schools. Poorer schools create the education gap. The education gap creates employment disparities. Underemployment creates poverty and the phenomenon called “black-on-black crime.” Poverty leads to the inability to acquire affordable housing, which relegates black people to low-income communities, which leads to underfunded schools, which leads to more crime and so on. It is a vicious circle.
It is all about homeownership.
We have always known this. The Root has routinely reported on the difficulties black people encounter when buying a home. A recent report by the Center for Investigative Reporting, along with Reveal News, uncovered how U.S. banks systematically prevent blacks and Hispanics from becoming homeowners.
JPMorgan Chase paid $55 million in January to settle charges that it discriminated against black and Latino borrowers. In 2011, Bank of America handed over $335 million for making its minority customers pay more than its white customers for the same loans. A federal lawsuit against Wells Fargo alleges that the bank has discriminated against Philadelphia’s black and Latino borrowers since 2004.
It is an indisputable fact that many banks treat their black customers unequally. The only reason we know this is that banks are required to report demographic data on most mortgage loans. That data is publicly available to anyone who wants to look at it.
Among other things, the legislation passed by the Senate on Wednesday strips away for some banks the requirement to report the race, ethnicity and gender of their mortgage customers. Under the new proposal, only the largest banks will have to report demographic data, which means that it will be impossible to find out if the other banks discriminate. If the law passes, these banks will be able to deny black customers without fear of repercussion or lawsuits.
The Democratic Party could have singled out that provision to the public and made a fuss. They could have called it racist (because it is racist), which would have made the legislation lose support. They could easily have refused to vote for this bill unless that specific provision was stripped away.
Sen. Doug Jones from the state of Alabama voted for it.
This is the Democratic Party.
Let’s be clear: The Democratic Party is only a viable party because of the black vote. In the 2016 election, 88 percent of blacks voted for the Democratic candidate, while only 37 percent of whites voted for Hillary Clinton, according to exit polls by USA Today. Even before the most recent election, according to Pew Research, only 40 percent of whites identified as Democrats.
If not for black voters, there would not be a Democratic Party. Without the black vote, Dems would lose every election at the local, state and national levels. The Democratic Party’s leadership knows this. The Republican Party knows this.
Yet Democratic politicians repeatedly refuse to stand up for the issues that affect black people the most. They continue to confirm President Donald Trump’s federal court appointees, who will hear cases of police brutality and voter-ID-law discrimination, despite the fact that he has failed to nominate a single African-American or Latino judge to the federal bench.
They ignored the suggestion that they filibuster every bill until the Senate and House look at gun control legislation to curb the violence that affects black communities disproportionately. They caved on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals vote during the recent government shutdown. (We often forget how immigration laws disproportionately affect African and Caribbean immigrants.)
What is the solution?
As usual, all politics is local. Imagine if—at the local level, which affects us the most—black candidates ran on non-Democratic platforms touting issues that are supported by black voters. In Georgia, there might be the “Keisha” Party, which works on stopping freeways from catching on fire and collapsing. Chicago might have a “Top Gang Thugs” Party.
What if we supported valid third-party candidates who aren’t beholden to an agenda beholden to Democratic apologists? What if we—even in one single election—wrote in our own choices? What if we stopped participating in this antiquated, binary system of choices?
This would force the national Democratic Party to engage with and pay attention to black voters and black issues. It would also stop Democrat politicians from appearing in black churches and barbershops only during voting season, and pretending that black voters don’t exist in the intervening periods.
Of course, there is the argument that if black voters didn’t support the Democratic Party, Republicans would take over. Answering that question requires me to switch to all caps. Please hold on.
HOW THE HELL ARE WE WINNING NOW?
Republicans already control 32 state legislatures, 33 governorships, the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives and the presidency. They are already in control.
Even with that mostly white, Republican control, the Democratic Party refuses to stand by the side of the people most responsible for the party’s existence. Democratic politicians slither away whenever they are challenged, and compromise at every instance of Republican obstinance (not you, Auntie Maxine; we’re still riding with you).
And when it comes to Doug Jones, even though he received 93 percent of the black male vote and a whopping 98 percent of the black female vote, he has not demonstrated that he intends to do anything for black Alabama voters. Jones has supported Trump’s position on 60 percent of the issues since black voters sent him to the Senate.
Yet black voters will overwhelmingly vote Democrat in the upcoming midterm elections, after which we will sit back and wait for the Democratic Party to take over both branches of the legislature and begin hearings to impeach Trump and his anti-black agenda.
I’m betting it will never happen—not because I am a cynic, but because I know history. I am exhausted from being punished for the good deeds of black people. I have learned what happens when I place my trust in Democrats or good white men.
My grandmother taught me that.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to clarify that the largest banks will still be required to report their demographic data.