The Glover Report: Democrat First, … Or Black First?

Every morning, my German Shepherd awakes with the highest expectation of one thing and one thing only; and that is going outside for his morning run. He lives for the outside. It’s apparently his purpose, even …   

By Doni Glover, Publisher 

(BALTIMORE – February 20, 2019) – As Bernie Sanders has now joined the growing list of other well-noted Democrats vying for the nomination to represent the party in the 2020 presidential elections, I gotta be honest. To tell the truth, I seriously question how politics is benefiting the African American community overall. This is not at all to negate important accomplishments like the list of federal judges appointed under President Barack Obama nor the historic Civil Rights legislation of the 60s passed under Lyndon B. Johnson nor the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln. While some black communities are doing well today, no doubt, I also think that many black communities across the nation resemble the often forsaken parts of East and West Baltimore where Democrats rule 9-to-1.

I am sick and tired of my community being overlooked – beginning here in Baltimore and then extending nationwide. So, if a politician is going to get my support – and I don’t care if they are running for dog catcher, they had best understand that I have high expectations for our community. I don’t know about you, but in this new era marked by a fresh cadre of dynamic, young leaders who are emerging onto the scene locally and nationally, they, too, must be lucid about the needs of the black community and should expect to get unseated if they do not help produce the necessary results. The black community is long overdue. Our voice must be heard. Our needs must be met. We voted you in, and we will vote you out!

Time and time again, our needs are glossed over. We become a part of somebody else’s narrative. At the end of the day, we are left looking like a prostitute in need of a cigarette.

I have seen countless campaigns over the years of individuals who claim they want to represent the people. And I’m talking mostly about black politicians. I have heard the 30-second spiel, I have been to the fundraisers, I have witnessed the inaugurations with all of the pomp and circumstance, and yet, I have to question how all of this actually translates into true representation of my community and how it fulfills the community’s needs. Really, it seems like it’s more about being loyal to the Democratic Party before being loyal to the black community.

When an African American runs for office, there is typically that dichotomy of being both African American and American. W. E. B. Du Bois said, “One ever feels his twoness.” Put differently, politics has a way of changing a person – not always for the betterment of the community. While this is across the board, again – I’m talking specifically about our African American candidates and elected officials. Too often, our politicians fall for the okie doke and begin to sip the Kool Aid. Too often, they are lulled to sleep and find themselves serving everyone except the people who put them in office.

But this is a new day. The game is ever-changing and the broader black community is awakening to the games being played on us. What we use to fall for, we’re not anymore. Increasingly more melanated people are coming to see the possibilities that await us if we come together, learn together, and work together.

For too long, we have become soft and have fallen for the sultry words by people in fine clothes who only seek our vote. We no longer hold fast to the ideals of our parents and grandparents. We find ourselves compromised, even as the children are watching us.   

In another sense, maybe too much is being expected of our black brothers and sisters once they get into office. Certainly, not enough black folks contribute to campaigns, and money is the lifeline of most any successful politician. Thus, candidates and elected officials sometimes bend to the hand that feeds them. So, this same person who used to be the President of the Black Student Union back when they were in college – who used to be the first one on the picket line and the first one at the protest – is now … refined, somehow. This person who used to have that fire in their belly is a tad more … reserved.

I think what happens many times to black candidates and officials is the same thing that happens to whites and Asians and Latinos. I think they become indoctrinated into party politics without ever realizing they have possibly turned their backs on their constituents who put them there in the first place. Politics, to be fair, is a balancing act where one can never please all of the people all of the time. However, one should never forget who took them to the ball!

I also do not think it is necessarily intentional. It just happens. I do, though, put a part of the onus on us, the constituents. Too many Americans of all races are under the notion – and this is just my personal belief – that it is simply enough just to go the polls and pull the lever. I am reminded that this is only the beginning of the engagement process necessary for any community to get its due from a given politician’s tenure. And that is something I think many of us are guilty of: Not being engaged to the extent that we actually give these elected officials some kind of report card and hold them accountable. We complain about them, yet we have not once gone to hear them speak in the General Assembly or at City Hall. Nor have we visited their office. So, how can we expect anything out of them when we have failed to one, engage them, and two, we have not presented them with a list of our needs?

This is our fault, and ours alone.

I’ll tell you something else. No one in Maryland can say that we are short in having a strong number of African Americans in elected office. Percentage wise, African Americans have a solid number serving in local, state and federal offices. However, the question is not the number of blacks we have in office. The question becomes just how that translates into investment dollars specifically for our communities – just like the Jews operate in Upper Park Heights. Best believe, they are about the empowerment of their community and don’t care what you think about it. I love it! I just want to see my community empower itself to do the same damn thing. We matter, too! So, we need to act like it. We keep missing our mark because somebody is trying to sell us something that means nothing for our community. And it’s got to stop!

The truth of the matter is we could have 85% black elected officials, but if the black community looks the same as it did in the 60s, if there are no planned developments specifically for the black community – then that means that these officials have really and truly failed the black community.

It’s not enough just to have a black in office. We need blacks who actually represent black issues. Otherwise, what’s the point? A white guy could serve just as well.

I think the black community’s bar of expectations of black elected officials has fallen tremendously. I also think our new emerging politicians do not fully understand power and how to use it. Back in the day, we had black elected officials in Maryland who were also leaders. State Senator Clarence Blount and Delegate Howard “Pete” Rawlings were two men who were both. They were bosses who understood power and how to use it. You know this because they consistently brought home the money to the community.

Now listen, I’m not asking for any Malcolm X or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.-types to come out of the woodworks. I’m not asking for anyone to go out there and start a revolution. We know that doesn’t happen without a lot of bloodshed. What I am saying is that we, as a community, must raise the bar on our expectations from the political process. Too many times, we are settling.

Every election, the black community is expected to go along to get along with the Democratic Party while never, ever, ever making any demands from people seeking our votes and from people we put in office.

Truthfully, we often only see them once every 2-4 years. Yet, we keep voting for these same individuals over and over as if we are addicted to their brand. We fail to raise questions because we are afraid of being frowned upon by those we think we admire. I am reminded here that insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result; to do so is to be delusional.

For me, it’s just not enough that a candidate or an elected official be black. We need deliverables, just like other communities who have better navigated the political realm. Too often, the black community is playing checkers while the mainstream is playing chess. I think that too often black people fall for the feel-good stuff, but in terms of the billions of dollars in investment we deserve and need, we are too often overlooked. We fail to make demands. We have not learned the art of holding out until our list of demands is satisfied. We buckle and we drop the ball. We let opportunities get away from us because we are too often playing defense and spending very little time on offense.

Yes, sir! Yes, m’am! The Black Community deserves far better than what we are getting. We have become far too content with little to nothing, and I say, enough is enough! 

In terms of navigating American politics, the Jewish community is quite possibly the best to ever do it. I’d also have to add that I admire how the Korean-American community uses its strengths to better advocate for themselves. And, we can’t forget the onslaught of Latino-Americans into our nation’s political fabric. Latino-Americans, as well as Americans with roots in the Middle East, are changing the face of Congress. But, what about my people?

This is not to put down the black community. That is the last thing I’d ever do. I have far too much respect for our collective struggle and I was raised better than to do something so foolish.

I am perpetually reminded of the progress made by black elders and ancestors in years past. I think of Ralph Bunche and his impact half-way across the world. I think of Adam Clayton Powell in Harlem. I think of Marion Barry in Washington, D.C. and Maynard Jackson’s powerful reign in Atlanta.

I also think of  Thurgood Marshall, Clarence Mitchell, Judge William Murphy, Judge Joe Howard, as well as the Goon Squad right here in Baltimore, a group of African American professors and preachers who helped etch in stone the legacy upon which others stand still today. I think of Shirley Chisolm and Barbara Jordan and Fannie Lou Hamer and Willie and Victorine Adams. I think of strong people of the darkest hue who stood up boldly and effectively brought home the bacon. In a nutshell, these patriarchs and matriarchs from the African American community understood the game and how to play it.

Today, I am afraid that too many blacks in office have no clue as to the blood, the sweat and the tears that opened the doors that they get to enter today. So many suffered, went to jail, were beat up and threatened and had crosses burned on their front lawns in the middle of the night by hooded horsemen. So many people were killed and raped and lynched, and so, if we are to truly honor the legacy of those before us, then the community must hold today’s black leadership to that same level of accountability.

Too often, I see my community all up in the middle of an election, but when it is all said and done, things appear the same; the black community gets further and further marginalized until blacks are pushed or lured out of Baltimore City altogether. Slowly but surely, I see the City of Baltimore catering more to white millennials requesting bike lanes than to the indigenous peoples with multi-generational roots in East and West Baltimore. Although black people were once the majority, I see us being removed from every tier of progress. And if we do have a black in a key position, my question becomes just what this means for the rest of us. If it is simply more of the same, then what is the point? If this is just one successful black man in contrast to 5,000 disenfranchised black men, then who cares?

We, as a community, are not leveraging our political power and parlaying it into economic development. That is my issue, plain and simple. And that has to change. Otherwise, the campaign parties and knocking on doors and the mailing out of campaign literature all adds up to nothing.

Too many of us get into politics only to become caught up in the semblance of power.               

It’s long been known that the Democratic Party takes African Americans for granted. In what will be the most expensive presidential election in the history of this country, what will Democrats pitch to black folks? More of the same? Nothing?

Will the Democrats figure asking Jay Z to come out for their candidate in the 11th hour again is enough to gain black people’s support? Or will they go and get another ‘sitdown’ with Mary J. Blige? Surely, someone from the party will reach out to Beyonce, right?

Getting celebrity endorsements is all part of the game. I get it. However, the people of the darker hue deserve so much more.

This is not to put a political onus on any noteworthy entertainer. However, when it comes to the African American community, I, for one, need to hear a lot more as it relates to my community’s progress.

It is disingenuous to only set minimal goals for outreach to the black community. Last time around, Hillary Clinton didn’t even send money to the black preachers for a GOTV effort. This pisses me off to no end as I see signs on major thoroughfares throughout the city that read: “Vote for the Democrats”.

Is that it? Is that all that has to be done to get the black vote – even in the upcoming 2020 presidential election? Is that all that we, as a community, expect? Why do we accept so little? Don’t we have more options than this? Is anybody listening?  

Personally, I need to see a hell of a lot more out of my Democratic elected officials. As the 188 Maryland state elected officials near the midway point in the current Maryland General Assembly session, I need to see more accountability.

In my state, it’s typically the same old song: We need more money. What is never heard is: We need more accountability. We also hear that the Republican is the boogie man. What we don’t hear is that most of the issues in Baltimore City have developed under Democratic rule.

In conclusion, I am all for the black candidates and elected officials who have found their way into politics. Go for it! At the same time, please don’t bullshit my people. When I see a black politician trying to pull the wool over my community’s eyes, I have a problem with it. Politics should never be about the individual but the community for which he or she represents. We need leaders – selfless, public servants who seek to work on behalf of the black community and beyond – but first on behalf of the people who put them there.

We have too many of us in office who are more concerned about PR stunts than doing the actual work. At the end of the day, the black community has a litany of issues that have to be healed and healed now. We’ve waited long enough.

Lastly, if a black politician isn’t talking about ex-offenders, you need to ask, why not? If a black politician isn’t talking about black business (not simply MBEs, but black MBEs because blacks get lost in the “minority” sauce a lot of times), you gotta wonder, why not? Isn’t small business the backbone of America? If a black politician isn’t talking about pre-natal care and substance abuse recovery dollars, then we should become very alarmed. If a black politician is not talking about public education and black-owned economic development once in a 4-year stint, then why – pray tell me – would we ever vote for them again on this side of glory?

Folks, we need an agenda. This is what I suggest …

In my book, “Unapologetically Black” (2015), I note that while African Americans are 13-15% or so of the American population, we are half of the country’s inmates in a nation with 25% of the world’s inmates. Therefore, reducing mass incarceration by any means necessary and increasing comprehensive ex-offender services must be a critical part of the black agenda; no excuses. This disaffects countless black households and must be immediately addressed with the staunchest of prioritization.

As for black businesses, including black media: Any black politician worth their salt and with a modicum of political understanding knows that these are key components to our success. These black-owned businesses must be supported at every level. Period. Additionally, to not have their support is suicidal. Why? A huge reason is that black businesses hire black people at a higher rate than any other employer. I ask you, who else can best understand another black man or black woman’s struggle?

As it relates to public education, such as the case with the Baltimore City Public Schools, we have 100% failed our children. Hence, we need visionary men and women to replace everything that moves at school headquarters. Nationally and statewide, we need black legislators who know how to not only bring home the money for public education, but who also are smart enough to follow up and make sure the money is being spent appropriately on the local level.

Baltimoreans have witnessed first-hand the destruction of a school system by people who do not have our children’s best interest at heart. If the majority of these students were white, we would not see what we have today in Baltimore, including 13 high schools where zero students are proficient in math and where the State of Maryland recently reported that 46% of our schools get a 2 out of 5-star rating. Brothers and sisters, this is simply unacceptable!           

No longer can we, as a community, afford to sit back and watch business as usual. Black constituents must step up. And Black elected officials have to do the same. One hand washes the other. However, this undying loyalty by African Americans to the Democratic Party must be tempered with a fierce and passionate loyalty to black issues … of which we have no shortage. The time is now! Fear is useless! Do the job or get out of the way!