Democrats. You’re losing your audience. Literally.
Worse, you’re losing it to states virulently hostile to your audience, dripping with politics that run polar to what you preach.
In a great reverse Black migration, Brookings data says four of the top five states for Black population gains since 2010 are Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida. Black people are driving U-Hauls to Texas, Georgia and Florida despite voter restrictions. A new Republican majority on North Carolina’s supreme court is reconsidering redistricting and voting restrictions ruled illegal by the court’s prior Democratic majority. Florida banned an Advanced Placement African American studies course. Texas and Florida are ending diversity, equity and inclusion in state agencies, and limiting the teaching of race in schools.
Some observers, such New York Times columnist Charles Blow, cheer the migration in hopes that it alters red Southern politics to purple. That is a reason to believe that can happen, with Georgia voting a Democrat into the White House in 2020 for the first time in nearly 30 years and sending its first Black and Jewish senators to Congress. North Carolina voted for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008. Florida voted both times for Obama.
But fixating solely on that lets Democrats off the hook for not protecting, as they say in basketball, home court. The willingness of Black people to live in the crosshairs of conservative politics says a lot about what they fled in the so-called liberal North and West Coast.
On its website, the Democratic National Committee Party boasts of the decades it has “stood with the African American community.” It says Democrats will promote racial justice with “equitable” governing and public policy. The party says it will “push for a societal transformation to make it clear that black lives matter.”
But look around and all you see is Black people being pushed out of the bluest cities in the bluest states.
While Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida have gained 1.3 million Black residents since 1995, according to Brookings, New York, Illinois, California, and New Jersey are the top four states for losing Black people, to the tune of at least 1.5 million Black people. Recent stories in the New York Times and Washington Post, feature the massive declines in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
In those cities, the cost of living on top of the grinding structural racism in housing, schools, jobs and entrepreneurship, chews at Black people more than red meat Southern politics. The Democrats can talk all the Black Lives Matter they want, but the nitty gritty of a roof over the head and bread on the table is more important than a ranting Ron DeSantis in Florida, a curmudgeonly Greg Abbott in Texas, or a combative Brian Kemp in Georgia.
What matters is that Black unemployment is higher in California, Illinois, and New York than in Florida, Georgia, or Texas. What matters is that of the 12 most segregated cities for Black people, as measured by Brookings, 11 of them are north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Seventy years ago, my parents fled segregated Mississippi for Milwaukee. Today, Milwaukee leads the nation in segregation, followed by New York and Chicago. Wisconsin, while not hosting the largest of Black populations, nonetheless still made the top 10 states for loss of Black people since 2015. Based on how Black people are voting today with their feet, the Democrats had better hurry up to dismantle the structural barriers on their home court, before they are trampled by the exodus.
Derrick Z. Jackson is a former Boston Globe columnist and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in commentary.