So you want to be president.
In America, reaching the pinnacle of any career doesn’t usually require the consent or approval of black people. In fact, it is possible to lead one of the most profitable companies in America; govern the state of Alabama; determine whether or not America has talent or run a sports league built on black labor while displaying disdain and contempt for black people.
But the presidency is different.*
Becoming the Chief Executive of the United States requires, at the very least, the appearance of pretending to care about black people.** Although the complex endeavor of courting black voters is a must*** for any presidential hopeful, many candidates have gone their whole career without having to appeal to black constituents.
Hawaii Senator Tulsi Gabbard represents a state whose population 2.2 percent black. Former three-term mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, made his police officers stop and frisk any non-white person who looked like they wouldn’t vote for him. Tom Steyer, Marianne Williamson, and Andrew Yang have never even held an elected position. Sen. Bernie Sanders enjoys widespread black support from three-fourths of Vermont African American voters—James, Renee and Sheila (Tyrone Jenkins, from Burlington, is a libertarian “free-thinker”).
To help the current crop of potential presidents, The Root decided to publish this manual offering guidance on this particular issue after receiving this email:
Hey I have a question? I saw your interview and you said [Presidential Candidate Pete] Buttigieg needs “to learn how to talk to black voters”.
One. Wouldn’t him talking differently two groups of people based on color be racism?
Two. How exactly does one “talk to black voters”?
I want to learn so I dont offend anyone. So please tell me how you “talk to black people” how exactly do you do that?” I cant wait to hear your answer.
*Does not apply to Republicans.
***Or candidates who collude with Russia.
A “black voter” is a black person who votes with black issues in mind.
Contrary to popular belief, every black person who votes is not a “black voter.” I know there’s someone right now screaming “Black voters are not a monolith!”, but please calm down, Candace Owens.
“Black voters” is the same as any other demographic moniker. For instance, I once lived within walking distance from Darlington International Speedway, so nearly every black man from my hometown dreamed of one day becoming a professional stock car racer. Reggie Primus, who grew up on my block, eventually achieved his dream. But I know him...
He is not a “NASCAR dad.”
Black voters are not a monolith, nor are they exclusively beholden to the Democratic party. On the contrary, the Black Futures Lab’s Black Census Report shows that African Americans vote Democrat because they dislike the Republican Party (minus 67 percent approval rating) more they love the Democratic Party (plus 43 percent approval). However, regardless of age, education, geography or ideology, black voters share common interests and concerns regarding a number of issues.
Because if you’re a Democrat, you can’t win without black supporters.
No other demographic unfailingly supports the Democratic party like black voters. Ninety percent of African Americans who cast a ballot in the 2018 midterm elections voted for Democratic Party candidates while most white people vote or lean toward the GOP.
Well, not really.
But it’s not just Democratic candidates. No presidential candidate has won the popular vote without winning at least a double-digit percentage of the black vote since Ronald Reagan mollywhopped Walter Mondale in 1984. (George W. Bush and Donald Trump both won the presidency but lost the popular vote.)
You must be white.
Or, at the very least, you must be Candace Owens.
Every successful politician tweaks their message for a specific constituency. Specifically addressing black voters is no different than going to Kansas and talking about farm subsidies or visiting a factory and talking about outsourcing. It’s called politics.
Also, politics is racist.
In a country where whiteness is the default, every political platform is meant to mollify white voters. Do you think Republicans rail against affirmative action and the Mexican border because so many white kids are being shut out of Harvard or prevented from pursuing a lucrative career in lettuce-picking? No, it’s an appeal to white voters.
There’s nothing wrong with doing the same for black voters.
Black voters want what everyone wants: A country that offers opportunity, equality and growth.
Like all Americans, we want a strong economy, health care, education, and affordable housing. However, black voters have concerns that white voters—even white Democrats—tend to overlook.
Sixty-seven percent of African Americans think the police are too violent and treat blacks unequally. Seventy-seven percent rank it as a major problem. There’s no need to address police violence with white voters when three-fourths of whites think police treat everyone equally. Black America is also more concerned about the wealth gap, school funding, criminal justice and racial discrimination than white America.
We also care more about global warming and the environment. That’s why we save our plastic grocery bags and conserve fossil fuels by not participating in the snowmobiling part of the X-Games. Studies show that 12 percent of the ozone layer was depleted by white people burning their Nikes.
Whiteness is destroying our planet and we know y’all are gonna leave us behind when you colonize the moon.
Black voters have different hair, like different seasonings and worship a different God, so the best places to find a black audience are:
Seriously, the black God is different.
White people’s God writes their prayers and songs down in hymnals while Black God passes our worship material down through deacons, praise leaders and the Holy Ghost filled saints who have reserved VIP seating on the front pew. And the melanated Almighty doesn’t separate church and state. They organize protests, help the needy and allow politicians to visit once every four years just so they can clap on the wrong beat before asking for your vote.
White Jesus appears on stained glass windows and requires all choir members to sing in a one-note, bland, alto octave.
I know what you’re thinking: “Why don’t these politicians come to black places every week?”
It’s for our benefit.
Everyone has been in a church, barbershop or a black business when a white person visits. Everything gets quiet, the jokes are less funny and everyone starts concentrating on pronouncing their consonants. It’s the absolute worst.
And if any of this sounds harsh, you must remember that we didn’t create redlining, segregation or two separate and unequal Americas. White people did that. It’s not that we don’t want white people around, it’s that we don’t want them in our spaces. Black people’s entire existence is an exercise in navigating a white world that is foreign and openly hostile to us.
We need “safe spaces,” too.
Being in a black space when white people visit is like masturbating with your grandmother sitting next to you.
Nah, I’m just kidding.
I know the relationship between honesty and politics is as incongruent as an affair between Donald Trump and Maxine Waters. Just talk to us like you you would talk to anyone else. We don’t need your pandering. We need policy and plans. Tell us what you want to say and let us get back to our chicken wings, low Caesars, and church announcements.
In case you were wondering, here is a list of things that you must include in any address to a black audience.
- Have a black person introduce you: It must be a person who is trustworthy, like a pastor or a community leader. If neither of these is available, you must find a black man over 60 or a black woman who serves on a state-sanctioned usher board.
- Your youth: Be sure to talk about your one black friend growing up or that one time you witnessed racism with your own eyes. Tell them that Corn Pop gave you street cred if necessary.
- Your hard-working parents: Mention how you were raised by poor, middle-class sharecroppers who raised you on bologna and hot dog water. Tell them about your parents’ divorce if necessary.
- Relate: Mention your favorite gospel song or take a photo with Jay-Z and Beyonce. Play the saxophone. Do the Electric Slide if necessary.
- Education: Explain how you got here through education and hard work. Leave out the part about your lily-white, $8,000-per-year private school.
- Talk about how you fought for equality: Don’t mention your role in mass incarceration, enabling corporations or your relationship with police. Tell them you marched with MLK, if necessary.
- Promise big shit: Tell the audience how you will erase college debt, end the war on drugs, fight police brutality, outlaw racism, tax the rich, make it rain on the poor and stop white people from dialing 911. Don’t mention that you’ve haven’t previously advocated for these policies. For God’s sake, don’t reveal how much your plan will cost taxpayers or the likelihood of these policies passing through Congress. You’ll worry about that when you’re president.
- End with a black quote: “If I am president, I will make sure that our children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but the hot sauce we carry in our bag (swag)!”
Will this make them vote for me?
We know you’re lying. Although the inimitable poet and entrepreneur O’Shea Jackson once said, “You ain’t gotta lie to kick it,” if there’s one thing black people can count on, it’s that white people will bullshit us.
When black voters go into the voting booth, we make our decision based on a number of factors. In the end, our final decision comes down to the same question we’ve asked for 100 years:
“Which one of these white people is the most likely to fight against white supremacy?”
If truly you want to be president, there is one foolproof way to get black people to fight for your presidential campaign:
You have to fight for black people