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Democracy: Black America Never Had a True One to Begin With

There is a gross misconception about democracy and the possibility of losing it in America today. In fact, gross misrepresentation might be the better term to use in describing the issue of America’s democracy, Fascism, and Authoritarian rule, especially as those terms relate to American Black people. I came to the conclusion long ago that white people, whether considered allies or not, are under the mistaken impression that all Americans live in a Democracy today and the notion of an end to it is cause for Black America to intersect their collective body into the fray to discuss and debate the issue, both as an intellectual exercise and as a call to action. Now, this is not to imply Black America has no dog and pony in this show, quite the contrary. Black America has lived without a true democracy since the Enslavement, and especially since Reconstruction and the 13th through 15th amendments.

However, in order to understand the context of this essay it will be important to comprehend what democracy is considered to be in America. The “b” definition from Merriam Webster comes closest:

“…[a] government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”[1]

There are also the terms, “enfranchise,” and “disenfranchise.” Both relate to Democracy by conferring “the privileges of a citizen and especially to the right of suffrage,” which literally means the right of voting, or its synonym, franchise, [2] and denying “a franchise, of a legal right, or of some privilege or immunity, especially depriving the right to vote,” respectively. [3] The small portion of Civics or Social Studies we had in school taught us that the United States holds elections on a local, state and Federal level and in theory, the people are in charge. The reality is Black people have never really been in charge of anything political or relating to Democracy, even when we “elect” people for office in local, state and Federal venues.

Recently, I found myself in an online discussion with a white individual about Trump voters, Trump supporters and “Trumpers,” and how we should “listen” to Trump voters, whether we agree with them or not, implying there is a difference between the three types. I must say, the post intrigued me, and it was the inspiration for this essay, so I thank the individual who wrote it. Of course, the connotations behind the so-called differences in the three types didn’t escape my emotions. I immediately and defensively said, “Unlike you, I am neither willing nor interested in listening to people who I already know want me dead or in bondage.” This is where the distinction between the three types was explained, and of the three, the “Trumpers” where considered the worst, suggesting the “Trump voter” was the ideal type to consider hearing out.

I wrote this comment to him, and I am reiterating it here, why the idea of a discussion with a Trump voter is still ridiculous for a me as a Black person in America with a descendance bound to the Enslavement: I do not treat politics in this country the same way as my white counterparts, and therefore, have no use for the other side from the “Bud Lite” faction of Trump types. I have lived experience with the other side of all three types. The truth of the matter is white people have never experienced the kind of disenfranchisement experienced by my descendants and I over the generations. They would never relate to the subjugation and suppression in terms of opportunity and access to the vote despite the 15th amendment, and because of that, any discussion of politics and Democracy is experienced differently for me. For me, discussions on the climate, economics, health, medicine, housing, and other issues are always going to be prefaced by systemic Racism. To people who believe Racism is open to debate over its efficacy, and reality, or exists in a vacuum, is somehow only related to individual love and hate, or exists for both white and Black people as a shared experience, no, I will not be having any conversations to discuss the pros and cons.

For me, democracy IS enfranchisement, and until these same people stop suppressing my right to opportunity and access to democracy, then it will remain a gross misrepresentation to discuss democracy as though Black people have enjoyed it with the very people now so afraid to lose it.


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