It doesn’t speak well of the supposed progress made by black Americans when, a half-century after passage of the Voting Rights Act, it is deemed “controversial” that a black man would dare to suggest that black Americans vote Republican during an election cycle.
The black man of whom I speak is sports journalist and television and radio commentator Stephen A. Smith.
I will acknowledge up-front that Smith is no stranger to controversy, having made headlines previously on such topics as the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the domestic violence incident involving recently-retired NFL running back Ray Rice and inferring that black voters are being taken advantage of by the Democrat Party.
In this case, however, to describe Smith’s remarks as “controversial” is not only inaccurate but sad.
Because in 2015, despite decades of struggle and sacrifice on the part of black Americans to obtain the right to vote, the mere proposition that we break from generations of electoral tradition and vote Republican for once, instead of Democrat, still engenders reactions that border on stunned amazement.
Now, correct me if I’m wrong but, for a while now, I’ve been of the understanding that as a citizen of the United States, though I happen to be black – and conservative, I possess the right not only to vote but to cast that vote for whomever I choose without regard to political party affiliation. Or has the Voting Rights Act been amended since 1965 and I missed it?
It is extremely disheartening that black Americans remain the only voting bloc that is presumed and expected to share a common political ideology based solely on the fact that we share a common racial identity.
This assumption is not only shared among non-blacks, but by blacks as well, many of whom will not hesitate to chastise you for exercising your right to not only vote as an individual, but also to think like one.
Trust me. Being a conservative who is black, I speak from experience.
Despite the fact that the vast majority of black Americans traditionally vote Democrat during major election cycles, to reject out-of-hand that a break with such tradition might actually be of benefit to black Americans, as Smith suggests, is not in keeping with the spirit of those who sacrificed so much to be viewed as individual human beings, created in the image of God, not monolithic robots programmed to instinctively think, vote and act alike solely on the basis of the color of their skin.
I appreciate Smith’s perspective, not because I concur with him necessarily, but because I’ve long believed that for one political party, in this case the Democrat Party, to be able to lay claim to possessing nearly 100 percent of black voter support is not healthy for the political process as a whole.
Corporate monopolies are never good. Political monopolies are even worse.
To suggest that black voters remain loyal to only one political agenda is nonsensical, myopic and self-defeating.
If black Americans are to truly benefit from our democratic (small ‘d’) electoral process to the fullest extent, we must be actively engaged in shaping the identity and agenda of both major parties – Democrat and Republican. That it still makes headlines when black voters volitionally decide to exercise their God-given individuality by debunking a stereotype (which, by the way, has gone unaddressed for far too long) is not progress.
What Stephen A. Smith has reminded us of is that when it comes to blacks and voting, it’s not only about providing access but changing attitudes (yes, even among blacks.)
We have a long way yet to go, folks.
A long way.