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OPINION | By Nehemiah D. Frank
How do African-American families logically decide which political party to support during the 2018 mid-term elections?
To all appearances, Republicans strike African Americans as being anti-black progress. As for the Democrats, issues around raising African-American student achievement becomes invisible to a party that remains too dependent on receiving campaign funding from teacher unions. Needless to say, white American elites on both sides of the political aisle have been fighting one another on various ideologies since the conception of this nation. And both political parties have ignored the needs of African Americans, a marginalized group that has historically experienced little to no policy say-so or political influence. Even African-American politicians have jumped on the bandwagon and engaged in illogical white racial groupthink — as if they had a seat at the table as an influencer, expressing their oppositions to public charter and partnership schools. Notwithstanding, if public charters and partnerships are African American led, the fact remains the same in most cases that African-American politicians are generally opposed to school choice.
Regardless if a state permeates through blue or red ideas, African-American students are still performing poorly. Studies indicate that the academic achievement gap between white and black students shows very little to no difference in closing since 1992. Legal scholar Michelle Alexander notes that during the Clinton years, “Generations have been lost to the prison system; countless families have been torn apart or rendered homeless; and a school-to-prison pipeline has been born that shuttles young people from their decrepit, underfunded schools to brand-new high-tech prisons.” Moreover, red states like Oklahoma have become notorious for the privatization of the prison industry. Today, the Sooner State witnesses a proliferation of for-profit prisons. Lobbyists who advocate more funding for these prisons suck the funding out of public education by marching the halls and shaking hands with Oklahoma lawmakers. The consequence is a mass teacher exodus and a swell in the state’s prison population due to poorly educated citizens.
Photo courtesy of the Black Wall Street Times
So, who gets the African-American vote when both parties have a track record of failing African Americans? One group thinks that affirmative action is “reverse racism,” and the other wholeheartedly believes that public charters and partnership schools are a pathway to racial re-segregation. I must add that the Founding Fathers architected America on segregation, and the cultural supremacy of the dominant ethnic group continues to segregate this nation via de jure even today. Consider this: Even Americans who dwell within the same economic class are less likely to reside as neighbors with a person of a different racial cohort. Nevertheless, even poor white kids are outperforming African-American students. Furthermore, the argument that academic performance has more to do with level of income than with race falls on deaf ears when middle-class white students still academically exceed middle-class African-American students in both red and blue states.
African Americans are not performing well academically in areas highly populated with democratic voters. Moreover, Democrats continue to ignore the data indicating that African-American public charter school students typically outperform traditional public school students, regardless of income. Most educators recognize that charter schools are not the end-all solution to closing the achievement gap between black and white students, and neither political party should expect African-American parents to send their children to failing schools that factually increase the probability of their black children landing in a prison cell. Leaders from both parties should canvass neighborhoods and ask those African Americans who are on the ground and live paycheck to paycheck how their neighborhood schools are performing and what they can do to ensure that African-American students aren’t left behind.
The Republican party needs to stop listening to the professional lifetime politicians on the left and start doing the real work required and meet African Americans in their neighborhoods. If they feel or get rebuked by the African-American community, they need to suck it up and try again. They also need to be humble in understanding that black people living in America have validated reasons not to trust any candidate from either party, regardless of that candidate’s ethnic identity. If they can’t get through to the African-American constituency, then perhaps they need to consider whether they should be running. And if they can’t get at least half of the African-American vote, then perhaps they need to work on improving better race relations at the micro level with their African-American neighbors who live on the opposite side of town. Maybe then they’ll understand why black voters shade the idea of an affirmative action ban.
The Democratic Party needs to widen their perspectives concerning the needs and wants of everyday African Americans. For instance, African-American parents must have equitable choices equal to white families. And as regards casting a vote this coming November, African-American families should not have to choose between the lesser of two evils. Rather, they should be able to vote with the option of knowing that whatever political party they cast their vote for, they should have the confidence that both political parties are devoted in improving the life chances of African-American children.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and executive editor of The Black Wall Street Times. He graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL, and earned a political science degree from Oklahoma State University. A rising voice in America and an emerging leader in the education reform movement, Nehemiah frequently travels for speaking engagements around the country, is a blogger for Education Post, and has been featured on NBC as well as in Blavity and Tulsa People. Nehemiah is also a teacher at Sankofa School of the Performing Arts in Tulsa, OK, a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation honoree, a recipient of the 2017 METCares Foundation Community Impact Award, and a 2018 Oluko Fellow. He gave a TED Talk at The University of Tulsa in the spring of 2018.