Black Women Rock the Vote. Black Men Mock the Vote?: An Election Day Story

5 Nov

The first presidential election in which I was old enough to vote was the 2000 Gore-Bush contest. On Election Day, my mother called me and said simply, “I wanted to make sure you voted today. Your great-grandmother (born in rural North Louisiana in 1903) took great pride in voting. You do the same.”

  My great-grandmother Daisy, made sure that one of her granddaughters came during every Presidential election to take her to vote. Even though she didn’t walk well, because of a physical disability from her youth. Even though she signed her signature with an X.

 When I got to the polls adjacent to Howard U’s campus as I headed in to vote, I ran into an older man named Lawrence Guyot. He was gentle and called us eager young voters up to him one by one to explain that he was running for election to the City Council (I think) on the Green Party ticket. I obliged him politely, albeit probably a bit impatiently.

 And then I went in and cast my vote for Al Gore. I may even have voted for Mr. Guyot. I can’t remember now.

We all know how the story ended. The Supreme Court disregarded the will of the people in Florida and stole the presidency for George W. Bush.

And today, we find ourselves still reeling from the economic and geo-political results of that decision.


It would be years later, when I was in graduate school, before I came to know who Lawrence Guyot was. As director of Freedom Summer in Mississippi in 1964 and as chairman of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, he had literally been beaten and arrested for my right to vote. We know the MFDP because it put Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer on a national stage, as the MFDP moved to unseat the state Democratic Party at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.


When I walked in and cast my vote that day, there was literally someone there who had fought for me to be able to be there. And he brought along the presence of the ancestors, my great-grandmother, Fannie Lou Hamer, and so many others who understood the value of the vote.

The thing that staggers my mind today is how easily history had moved to forget Mr. Guyot. I think about how I didn’t even know his name until I was privileged enough to go to grad school, something most Americans will not do.

 I think about how easily the battles and struggles to get here are forgotten.

 We have re-learned this lesson this year as the GOP has waged a veritable war on Women’s Rights. And voting rights, too.


Despite these lessons, this history, I have seen a profusion of young radical brothers and old school radical cats declaring brazenly that they will not vote.

Over and over again, I saw in my FB feed, them reposting an excerpt from a 1956 W.E.B. Du Bois speech in which Dr. Du Bois declared:


“The present Administration is carrying on the greatest preparation for war in the history of mankind. Stevenson promises to maintain or increase this effort. The weight of our taxation is unbearable and rests mainly and deliberately on the poor. This Administration is dominated and directed by wealth and for the accumulation of wealth. It runs smoothly like a well-organized industry and should do so because industry runs it for the benefit of industry. Corporate wealth profits as never before in history. We turn over the national resources to private profit and have few funds left for education, health or housing. … It costs three times his salary to elect a Senator and many millions to elect a President. This money comes from the very corporations which today are the government. This in a real democracy would be enough to turn the party responsible out of power. Yet this we cannot do.” — W.E.B. Du Bois, 1956 


He could just as easily have been talking about 2012 as 1956. And yet, it was after he said this that Martin Luther King marched, that Fannie Lou Hamer got beaten, that Malcolm X demanded “the ballot or the bullet.”

 How do we reconcile our history of Civil Rights, our deep belief and investment as a people in the franchise with today’s legitmate disillusionments?

I know that many of us who tend toward the radical left in our politics cannot help but see the problems with the kind of imperialist, capitalist, deeply racist and patriarchal politics that continue to structure American society. We do not want to keep co-signing the madness for the sake of “tradition.”

And certainly, it goes without saying that President Obama governs just slightly to the left of center on his best days. On his worse days, he could be an actual Republican.

And yet, statistics show that in 2008, Black women were the single largest voter demographic of any group. Is it that Black women are politically naïve, that Black men are more politically visionary? Does Black women’s support for President Obama suggest a reckless disregard for life of people of color everywhere else?

Of course not.

It was Black women like Jessie Fauset and Anna H. Jones, who organized the Pan African Conferences that Du Bois is so famous for. It was Black women who started the International Council of Women of the Darker Races in 1922. It was Black women who started the Third World Women’s Alliance in the early 1970s. We have always had a global perspective.

 And unlike, Du Bois, (and James Baldwin and Richard Wright), we didn’t quit the country.  Sisters as wide-ranging as Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells, Pauli Murray, and Angela Davis, have journeyed abroad, found racial conditions much more livable there, and still chosen to come back home and fight for the lives of Black folks in the U.S.

Black women have never had the luxury of disillusionment. While brothers have gathered in elite organizations and institutions to hash out Black people’s political future, to engage in a lot of intellectual dick politicking and pissing contests, sisters have done the community organizing and voting that has held the racial body politic together. We have voted for the candidates that would make sure we could have a job, put our kids in safe schools, and put food on the table.  

We have clawed and struggled for every meager gain we have gotten in this democracy. And sisters have the broken nails and bloodied knees to prove it.

Far from being short-sighted, we have what Stanlie James and Abena Busia call visionary pragmatism.


I know it is not only Black men who have problems with President Obama. I know plenty of radical left sisters who are fed up with the utter ineffectiveness of a two-party system.  Black women, in fact, have a long history of defying the two-party system. Charlotta Bass ran for Vice President on the Progressive Party Ticket in 1952. In 2008, Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente ran on the Green Party ticket. And in this election a young sister named Peta Lindsay is running on the Socialist Party ticket.

And while I will be voting for President Obama, despite my varied disappointments, I can understand voting for a 3rd party candidate. But not voting is unconscionable.

Brothers can tell themselves that not voting is fine, because they by-and-large don’t have to worry about the cost of birth control. Good condoms cost what? $7 a pack. Birth control pills? $25 a pack with good insurance! Brothers by-and-large don’t do the care work in our communities. The care of the elderly is deeply gendered work.  So they can tell themselves that withholding their votes serves a greater good even though the choice to do so might make life a hell of a lot harder for the elderly folks they hold so dear, not to mention continuing to place an undue economic burden on women.


In many cases, I do believe in drawing lines in the sand. I do think we have to take a stand for what’s right, that sometimes doing what is convenient in the short run will short-circuit our ability to change things for the better in the long run. But as a Black feminist, a Hip Hop Generation feminist, I also fancy myself a both/and kinda girl.

 Can I hold in tension the fact that my vote simultaneously eases tax burdens and healthcare costs on the poor and the middleclass in the U.S. while also going to fund wars I don’t believe in and capitalist trade practices I don’t support? Can I hold in tension the fact that President Obama has arrested and deported more Brown folks than the Bush Administration, greatly expanding the operation and reach of the Prison Industrial Complex, while also being reminded that his is the first administration to reduce the crack vs. cocaine sentencing disparity that had disproportionate effects on communities of color?

 Can I hold in tension the fact that every single brother I know who says he’s withholding his vote in pursuit of a revolutionary future is an academic at a fairly elite institution?

Consider this recent editorial in the NYT as one such example of Black male academic disillusionment.

Though Professor Frederick C. Harris does go so far as to reject voting, he writes among other things: “Whether it ends in 2013 or 2017, the Obama presidency has already marked the decline, rather than the pinnacle, of a political vision centered on challenging racial inequality. The tragedy is that black elites — from intellectuals and civil rights leaders to politicians and clergy members — have acquiesced to this decline, seeing it as the necessary price for the pride and satisfaction of having a black family in the White House.”

Professor Harris also decries the decline not only of a political vision centered on challenging racial inequality, but also a decline in the Black prophetic tradition, particularly that, which grew out of the Black Church. While I agree with his critique of the ways that Black religious cultures have become depoliticized in the wake of the rise of the prosperity gospel, I continue to be totally disappointed by all these Black male academics who construct their notions of the best of Black political visions around a procession of Great Race Men.

 Of the paltry number of Black women mentioned, only Ida B. Wells is celebrated. Like many of his contemporary Blackademic male colleagues, Harris dismisses Melissa Harris-Perry as “all but an apologist for President Obama.” 

 Moreover, since it is Black women by-and-large who voted for President Obama, he reduces our political decision making to a desire solely to see a Black family in the White House. This assumes that we don’t see beautiful, functional Black families in our lives every day. Moreover, it shows a real myopic understanding of the political pressure put on Black women to maintain the Black family as a viable political and cultural institution, particularly while academic elites like Harris proclaim the decline of Black political leadership a la Harold Cruse. Even if it were true that Black women voted for President Obama solely out of a sense of loyalty to Black male race leaders –and there’s no denying that this is a part of our thinking, but not the whole of it—to dismiss that as a kind of fantastical naivete is to engage in a kind of willful ignorance about the ways in which racial patriarchy compels Black women’s loyalty to Black men, particularly when they are as impressive as President Obama.

 What I’m really trying to get at is this sort of Black male political and intellectual arrogance, this smugness with which Black men levy these political critiques and the ways in which Black women either disappear from the histories that undergird their perspectives or become  dismissed as unthoughtful apologists for a broken system.

But if your prophetic and political tradition starts with Maria Stewart and Sojourner Truth, moves through Ida B. Wells, Anna Julia Cooper, and Mary Church Terrell, takes a gander through Claudia Jones and Flo Kennedy, stops by the house of  Fannie Lou Hamer,  Shirley Chisolm, Barbara Jordan and Fran Beale and doesn’t forget Angela Davis, Elaine Brown, bell hooks, Patricia Williams, Donna Brazile and all the nameless faces of sisters that can’t be named because they were never doing it for the spotlight, then it would be harder to see Black prophetic traditions as being in decline. It would be easier to see that what’s really in decline is a Great charismatic Race Man model of leadership. (You should check out Erica Edwards fabulous new book Charisma and the Fictions of Black Leadership for more on this point.)  And even though Black men know all the limitations of that model, in many ways the world of Black politics feels safer with Strong Men running it. We are in a world deeply in need not only of new political models but also new leadership models. And based on Black women’s long history of staying connected to the pulse of Black communities, I’d say that the places where Black women put their political energies are a good bet for all of us.

As for tomorrow, I’m sticking with the President. I hope you will, too.



Below feel free to share your thoughts on voting or not voting, how you do or don’t reconcile a radical politic with a choice to participate in tomorrow’s elections, or your general thoughts on Black leadership.



29 Responses to “Black Women Rock the Vote. Black Men Mock the Vote?: An Election Day Story”

  1. a black man November 5, 2012 at 10:03 AM #

    Sister, it’s disheartening to see you addressing all black men on the basis of those in your circle who have disappointed you.

    Let’s build up, instead of tearing down.

    Don’t take the disappointers as representing black men.

    And let’s move on into a brighter future that we create.

    • s. mandisa moore November 6, 2012 at 2:41 PM #

      Brother, it’s disheartening to see you accuse crunktastic of tearing down “all black men” when what I read her do is offer necessary social commentary based on what she knows (both personally and academically) AND recommendations for moving forward together-all in an honest, non-judgmental way.

      It is such a common tactic of dismissal and avoidance to accuse a writer of “generalizing” or “saying all when really it is some” instead of critically reflecting on what the writer is actually saying. I too want that brighter future you mention-but I strongly believe it happens when, among other things, black men such as yourself move off of the defense when black women, black queer people and/or black trans people bear witness to our experience or share our thoughts/concerns. Why can’t black women share our truths without the constant accusals of tearing black men down? Why cant you read this article as a black woman’s truths instead of an attempt to tear you and other black men down?

  2. sexNspirit November 5, 2012 at 10:35 AM #

    we do know, right, that radicals don’t get elected by the masses except in times of chaos, like revolution? and then thereafter, the new leader must establish order, stability, etc., even if it is new? perceived as lacking radicalism by the left and perceived as being too radical by the right, obama struggles to lead full throttle. so if he were more left, he truly would’ve accomplished nothing, if he’d made it through the 2008 democratic primary at all.

    maybe it’s not all we’d like it to be (when is it ever), but it is progress. and we can’t blame one man for the strongholds of a centuries-old, entrenched system. i’m thankful for his wisdom and choices – if he was gonna play the game.

    • nzinga November 6, 2012 at 10:05 AM #


  3. radicalprogress November 5, 2012 at 10:35 AM #

    Reblogged this on RADICAL PROGRESS and commented:
    I’ve been meaning to post something dealing with the racial politics surrounding this election, but the Crunk Feminists have posted this fine essay that captures the complexity far more insightfully than this old white boy. Not that I don’t have a few disagreements, they’re ultimately minor.

  4. Anna November 5, 2012 at 11:45 AM #

    “Black women have never had the luxury of disillusionment.” — what a powerfully true statement.

    I am moved to anger every time I hear someone say that they won’t vote because they don’t believe in this or that … as if inaction coupled with complaining will make change.

    I would add that brown women and single mothers of all colors are likewise denied the luxury of disillusionment.

    It is, of course, dangerous to make sweeping generalizations about any group — but that does not deny the importance of calling out those who would suggest to people that they shouldn’t vote.

    I also support President Obama, but I hope everyone will vote — whatever their hearts, conscious and life suggests to them.

    Just vote.

    • sexNspirit November 5, 2012 at 12:21 PM #

      yeah, i get angry too about the not-voting protest. sure, it’s a form of protest that we have a right to exert, but how effective is it, really? whatever the protest is, there are much more effective ways to be involved in the system to work for change . . ., but, oh, that’s work.

      • Jaye November 6, 2012 at 12:25 AM #

        There is absolutely no power in not voting. The same folks who feel the need to shout from the rafters how pointless it is to vote will only continue to sit in their armchairs doing nothing about the issues while organizers and voters make things happen. AND some of these non-voters collect a government check each month – the nerve.

  5. hmmmmm November 5, 2012 at 12:00 PM #

    Good post.
    Black men and women live in the same America but can often times see it in different ways. And we are very skeptical of each others motives. A people in trouble.

  6. counterftnoire November 5, 2012 at 1:07 PM #

    Reblogged this on Nerd Noire Undercover.

  7. MDR November 5, 2012 at 1:48 PM #

    While I disagree with you generally, I think you raise some points that I’ve failed to wrestle with. I was also struck by your account of how Black women have often done that labor (including voting) from which Black male radicals have profited (for lack of a better term). I agree with much of it.

    However, I found a few things curious about your piece. The first being that although you mention Black men at elite institutions being the most vocal about not voting, you failed to point out how it is Black elites (political, academic, and religious) who ask us to pledge unconditional support to Obama. I would venture to submit that there are more Obama supporters in the academy than those who oppose who (from the Left). It is the Black middle-class and the elites who have done a lot (but not all) of the ideological work to help fortify Obama’s seemingly unassailable position from the radical among us. Indeed, in the economy of Black political thought, it is much more advantageous for folks to ally oneself with Obama than to oppose him or not voting altogether. You’d be hard-pressed to find elite machinery or organizations that advise folks to not vote or vote third party. Pro-Obama organizations are legion.

    Also, while mention how the political system in this country is intrinsically unequal and allude to the importance third party options, you still end up championing Barack Obama (head of an administration that is killing Black and Brown women abroad). I understand this is your choice but I’m having difficultly wrapping my mind around it considering you’re a “both/and” woman. I can only speculate but it seems that many of the women you mentioned would push to think outside of conventional politics and perhaps vote 3rd party — not for 4 more years of the “more effective” evil.

    • crunktastic November 5, 2012 at 2:10 PM #

      Thank you for your comments, MDR.

      To be honest, I haven’t been privy to this unequivocal support of Barack Obama in the Black Academy. Of late, I’ve seen a lot of critique, much of which I agree with. But yes, on the whole Black institutions support him unequivocally. And yes, I’m not arguing that support of Barack Obama is a disprivileged position. It clearly isn’t.

      But given the shenanigans we’ve seem with attempted voter suppression in the GOP, this election could come down to a few hundred votes as did the election of 2000. And in that world, I am wondering about this phenomenon of disaffected radical Black men, most of them with multiple academic degrees, and a good many of them under 35, who have decided not to vote. I’m asking those men to consider what a Romney Presidency would mean to sisters who are trying to hold it down in middle and working class communities.

      And yes, I have to sit with the impact of the U.S. policies on women and children abroad, most of them Black and Brown, for sure. It’s not a contradiction that I will even remotely suggest that I’ve resolved. But I would A.) take issue with the notion that I “championed President Obama.” I think that’s an overstatement. And B.) I’m not sure I buy that all the brothers who aren’t voting are doing so because they care so much about people of color globally. If they can’t see their way clear to think about what is at stake for the sisters they know right here in their own families and communities, then why should I buy that there is some noble pull to protect Black and Brown folk abroad?

      c.) I’m voting for a candidate whose policies I think will make quality of life better for Black and Brown children in this country. And to the extent that we have huge immigrant populations, that extends to the families of these Black and Brown women in other countries. I also think it bears pointing out, that participating in the franchise is always some level of endorsement of American imperialism. That fact can’t be escaped. But my both/and is that Black folks have never been able in the U.S. context to live lives or become political actors outside the shadow of American imperialism. And compared to our white counterparts we haven’t benefitted in any sustainable way from the project of American imperialism, so I’m not sure that our votes can be seen as endorsing the same kind of power structure as that of our white counterparts, since we don’t enjoy the same kind of power they enjoy and that their votes shore up for them. Moroever, the choice to disengage is not the same thing as the construction of something new. A lot of it is useless sanctimony. A lot of the folks on the Black left want revolution, but given the lack of political energy spent theorizing about how to build something new rather than merely rhapsodizing about how what exists is broken, sometimes I find it hard to take my own folks seriously.

      I’m also curious as to why there is a move for kind of radicalism from the Young Black Left during this Presidency. Why not under Bush? We were all old enough to have some serious political critique under the Bush II Regime.

      I guess this is what it feels like to me, in short: it feels like a lot of the Black left stridently rejected the Barack Obama-is-Jesus narrative in 2008. In fact, these folks were so clear about the vastness of the challenges he faced, about the evils of the system, about the incremental nature of what he would be able to accomplish, and yet many voted for him anyway. So now four years later, we are so clear that Barack is not a savior. It seems like even though the young Black left (and the old Black left) knew that in 2008 and voted, they are disillusioned that they weren’t disproven. In other words, I think they are holding this President to a higher standard, without taking into account the forcefulness of the backlash against him. Anyway, those are my impressions.

      • sexNspirit November 5, 2012 at 5:51 PM #

        nicely conveyed!

      • s. mandisa moore November 6, 2012 at 2:49 PM #

        CHURCH!! *snaps in appreciation*

        Esp for this paragraph: I’m also curious as to why there is a move for kind of radicalism from the Young Black Left during this Presidency. Why not under Bush? We were all old enough to have some serious political critique under the Bush II Regime.

        Esp b/c when Barack won in 2008, HE SAID “Im not going to be able to do this alone-this will take time” and it seems to literally have went in one ear and out the other.

        Also, can we have a conversation about the higher standards we have for our own people and the harm that can cause and how complicated it is not to have those standards? You brought us there!

  8. Tonygivinglip November 5, 2012 at 2:06 PM #

    1. First, no I’m not voting tomorrow. I voted two weeks ago. Tomorrow I will be giving rides to the polls as I can and watching various news outlets for the scandalous ways that one party will continue to try to illegally steal this election.

    2. Not voting is sacrilege. It isn’t noble. It isn’t indicative that one has a more profound understanding of political forces at work in our country. It is an act of foolhardy cowardice, because even if you choose to write in your very own name for whichever political offices for which you are voting (as we can do in Georgia), then at least you are not idiotically perpetuating your own disenfranchisement. So, while I’ve seen DuBois’ statement on my timeline, too (even from 2 Black women), and have been frustrated by it, I don’t believe than such an opting out is anything more than people in the electorate giving those who don’t want people of color to exercise this right exactly what they want. They don’t, by the way, care why DuBois or all of those who steal his eloquent, if wrong-headed, words don’t vote. As long as they stay away from the polling place, it has just become that much easier for them to continue to engineer the results that they want in our elections.

    3. I am deeply offended by his arguments for why Black women choose to vote for President Obama. It’s insulting, it’s dismissive. It’s the patriarchy line. Angered, but not surprised.

    4. The good part:

    Ok, just read his article. Honestly, and a lot of black people would be very angry for daring to speak these words where non-blacks can read them, but here goes. I’m not surprised by his opinions. I don’t agree with him that the Obama presidency marks a decline in challenging racial inequality. But the reason that I’m not surprised is that far more black men in my personal circles, with an intellectual orientation, have NEVER supported Obama. Now, their reasons may vary, but none of them have ever supported him and have only ever been critical of him. They were fine as long as he was just some guy running for the senate who gave a great DNC speech, but the venom immediately began spewing when he announced that he would run for the presidency. At first, I was shocked and saddened by this consistent reaction –from those on the far left to those who are conservative, they all banded together in their hate of him. Then, a few years ago I realized that for them, his successes, his intellectual brilliance, his ability to be embraced by white America is painful for them because they feel that these things are out of their own reach. I don’t want to dismiss it as jealousy, but let the truth be the light. I think that he represents a so many things that other Black men actually embody the antithesis of or the stereotype of the embodiment of these things is imposed upon them by society –he’s exponentially well educated, he’s married to the mother of his children, he is a present and loving father, and he’s done all of these things without “selling out” or being seen as a figure who’s had to ass-kiss the white, male establishment. And it doesn’t make it any better that he has risen to such heights having come from childhood/family circumstances that were as dysfunctional/imperfect as theirs might have been. AND, further, how dare he not be bitter at the raw hand America has always dealt him simply because he’s a black man? I don’t AT ALL attempt to dismiss the challenges black men face in this country. But those whose entire being can’t let go of their victim-hood for just a few moments to try to make a way for themselves LIKE BLACK WOMEN DO EVERYDAY AND HAVE FOR CENTURIES are and will continue to be the most pitiable and immobile demographic in this country. You can’t get anywhere when all you concern yourself with is finding new ways of saying how this or that and him and her and them are all blocking your way to achieving full humanity. Yeah, it’s gonna be extremely hard, trust me, I know. It’s hard to be a woman. It’s harder to be a black woman. It’s hardest being an unapologetically opinionated, well-informed, well-read, in the middle class all-on-my-own, intellectual, single black woman.

    So, this new means of criticizing our president — that he hasn’t done enough to bring about racial equality, so is the greatest disappointment to the legacy of abolitionists and civil rights fighters — is just a new strain of a general dislike of President Obama, presidential candidate Obama, and plain old Barack Obama — a pretty solid (translation: not feckless or paralyzed by a persecution complex, however true the persecution may be) Black man.

    All that to say, that the dirty little secret is out: there are indeed a number of Black men, of various political party affiliations or independent status, who, believe it or not, hate President Obama as much as racist whites do. And further, I believe they want him to fail because if he does, then their lamentations about the impossibility of this country allowing their individual success and finally acknowledging their humanity, and treating them accordingly, will be proven true. They want and need and lust after the idea that he hasn’t/won’t fulfill “The Dream” the way that his supporters in this country and abroad want/hope for him to. If anything, the last four years have shown me that both sides need to seriously re-calibrate themselves, right?

  9. Brownbelle November 5, 2012 at 3:48 PM #

    Lots of good points in this article. I voted, but I’m sad to report that my SO did not (he recently relocated from out of state and was late sending in his application for an absentee ballot). Honestly, I think the voter gap can simply be put down to privilege. Black women are at the bottom of the social hierarchy in so many ways, and while black men are by no means lauded in this country, they are still men and benefit from that privilege. The same stereotypes that make them more likely to be harassed by the police, also make them less likely to be harassed by anyone else. And so many of the current political issues are attacking women, not men–punishing us for daring to embrace sexual pleasure outside of marriage (the way men do) and also for daring to demand equal pay for equal work. Black women tend to support black men on political issues but there’s definitely a lack of reciprocity.

  10. z.bediako (@LordeAlmighty) November 5, 2012 at 4:12 PM #

    I had this long reply, but just decided to write something myself on it.

    I do appreciate you for helping me make a choice with a difficult decision.

    “See, I can’t seem to bare the tensions that crunksista speaks of holding onto. Yes, Obama’s presidency may ease tax burdens and aid healthcare reform but it makes it no less easy for me to feel compelled to vote for a candidate that will support the of funding of bloody, furious, unethical wars and covert killings. Is it okay when children and innocent people fall victim as long as it to an “lesser evil”?
    True, we can have an appreciation for the decline in the crack vs. cocaine sentencing disparities but how can we celebrate this as a victory when a steady perpetuation of the prison industrial complex hurts us just as much. And anyway, I could consider praising the Obama administration for this if I believed it was intentional, or if there was a public statement, apology or reparations for the disparity but of course not. Lives have already been affected by this and a decline doesn’t do much to the social fabric already colored with the deaths, ruined lives, and torn homes this disparity has caused”

  11. Sista2sista November 5, 2012 at 4:14 PM #

    Look, I need you reformist academics to simply state your agenda and elitist politics…they are neither deep or relevant to everyday Black and Brown people’s struggle.

  12. Let The Brothers Speak For Ourselves November 5, 2012 at 9:43 PM #

    I ran across this piece earlier and could not help, but to shake my head at the awful points made throughout this article. As a Black man who does not care for either Obama or Romney, I feel that the Black Feminist who wrote this article is being somewhat hypocritical in that she is speaking “for” Black Men as to why some of us do not vote. How she has come to her conclusion on how Black Men think in regards to our thoughts towards this presidential race is beyond me.. Comments such as ”

    “While brothers have gathered in elite organizations and institutions to hash out Black people’s political future, to engage in a lot of intellectual dick politicking and pissing contests, sisters have done the community organizing and voting that has held the racial body politic together”

    are off base for several reasons, particulary in regards to Obama. For starters there have been only a handful of Black intellectuals (men or women) who have mustered up enough courage to criticize Obama, mostly out of fear of the backlash that they might receive for committing such a “horrible act.” Most of these Black men who do not come out to the polls are not sitting up in the Ivory Towers discussing the latest piece on critical race theory. They are your Black men who are jobless, degree-less, impoverished, imprisoned, and flat out ignored. ….You mention Black men not coming out to the polls as much as Black women, but could the reasoning for that be, because we simply aren’t having any of our problems addressed? You bring up issues, such as abortion rights (which have not been ignored by either candidate and is obviously important to you not only as a Black Feminist, but as a woman) , yet the only time the president has addressed me directly as a Black man is when he is calling me out for being a bad father. When watching the town hall meeting a couple of weeks ago, I was disgusted to see how just about every interest group (white middle class, college students, women, immigrants, etc.) could have their issues brought to the national stage and discussed, except for Black people (and since we want to make this a gender issue…Black men specifically)I was left to watch a Black man get up and fumble through an obviously scripted, moronic, soft ball question that had nothing to do with my concerns. The fact that we don’t show up in large numbers to the polls is not an indication of our “arrogance,” as much as it is a failure of the United States to address the needs of Black men. You could never see it this way though, because from your point of view, we aren’t showing up because of our supposed “privilege” in the matter…………smh

    I am tired of giving my vote to candidates who do nothing for me in return. I refuse to be irresponsible and do so anymore. In 2004 I voted Cynthia McKinney, because I felt that she represented the ideals that I envision in regards to progress and change. This go around I will probably vote Green again……….

    • crunktastic November 5, 2012 at 11:02 PM #

      Actually, I’m not speaking FOR Black men. I’m speaking as a Black woman and a scholar about historical trajectories of Black participation and how Black men figure in those trajectories.

      Yes, when it comes to issues like poverty, the disproportionate unemployment rates in Black communities and among Black men, the Prison Industrial Complex, etc, President Obama has done very little. And many of these issues have great effects upon Black men. Though you should note, that it is not only Black men who are disproportionately affected by lack of jobs, by incarceration, and by state violence. Moreover, Black motherhood is always being adjudicated in the public sphere under the guise of talking about “welfare” and the need to reform “welfare.”

      So you have every right to be disillusioned with President Obama’s handling of these racial issues. Who isn’t? But the idea that these issues are uniquely yours as a Black man, as opposed to uniquely ours as Black people is short-sighted. Single Black women have the greatest wealth disparities among groups. When Black men are unemployed, this means an undue economic burden to support Black families falls on Black women, which is why the fact that we make something like less than $.70 cent on every dollar a white male becomes even more stark. It is why there is a disproportionate amount of Black women and children in poverty.

      However, Black men get offended and disengage when they are not talked to specifically, even though I haven’t seen President Obama give a speech yet extolling the virtues of Black women (other than his wife and daughters.) And be clear that the denial of abortion rights is all about forcing white women to have children and repopulate the country. No one wants Black and Brown women having more babies.

      Black women get in where we fit in. We make space for ourselves. Many Black men feel the entitlement to do just the opposite, the race be damned. When y’all feel misrecognized, you say fuck it all. And while that’s justified, you are able to do so, because you know there are some sisters who will make sure to the extent of our power to elect local and national leaders who make sure children can go to school, elderly folks can get medicare, everybody can go to the doctor etc. And we do that, even though Brothers never think about why Black women’s ability to afford birth control is an economic help to Black men, too. Black men never think about the fact that Black women are the fasting growing rate of incarcerated persons. Black men never think about the fact that Black women have the highest rates of new HIV infections, which is why healthcare is a critical issue. Our issues don’t even matter to the vast majority of you. But I guarantee that Black women know and care about and vote concerning Black men’s issues. I wish y’all would reciprocate.

      That said, if you’ve voted for a 3rd party candidate, as I indicated in the post, that’s a respectable move. Peace.

      • Jaye November 6, 2012 at 12:33 AM #

        Great post. Too many black men have taken a very selfish position in this election. They don’t seem to really care about what’s at stake in real terms and yet again black women must make up the deficit while they sit at home complaining. I’d respect the position of these anti-voters so much more if they came equipped with solutions rather than just constant complaints.

  13. Mildred November 6, 2012 at 1:10 AM #

    Some of the confusion has to with defining political participation solely as voting. While the franchise is crucial, to move forward we’re going to have to reengage the notion of struggle. Organizing. Running for office at every level — What if electoral commissions were packed with progressives? Would they have bought voting machines associated with Bain Capital? What kind of books would your public library have if you were on the committee? The day to day, unglamorous ongoing work to secure goals combined with long view is what it will take. It transformed the landscape for once marginalized conservatives. It could do the same for African Americans. The question is are we in it for the long haul?

  14. radicalprogress November 6, 2012 at 1:39 AM #

    I’m voting for another Black man, Stewart Alexander of the Socialist Party USA. Illinois is a safe state for Obama this election and I am registering my criticism. If I was simply one more of the overwhelming majority who voted for Obama in Illinois, then my voice would disappear. To read a solid analysis of Alexander’s proposal for a new socialist economy, read this:

  15. Let The Brothers Speak For Ourselves November 6, 2012 at 5:42 AM #

    “Actually, I’m not speaking FOR Black men. I’m speaking as a Black woman and a scholar about historical trajectories of Black participation and how Black men figure in those trajectories.”

    Yes… actually are, because you are imagining up in your own mind, as to why we do not vote (although those are clever semantics you used there). Your analysis is lacking the perspective of the very people you are criticizing here, which is Black men who do not vote (which makes your opinion seem like a baseless blog rant, which ended in the reasoning being because of our arrogance) . Every brother who I have forwarded this article to (this includes those who do and do not support Obama, as well as those who will and will not vote) agrees that your argument is one sided and not inclusive of our thoughts and feelings (which is funny considering that you are a Black Feminist and would flip out if a Black man were to do the same for Black women)…..Any group of people who feel that they are not included on some level will “disengage” (I have problems with this terminology as well) naturally. These Black Men are not thinking (consciously or subconsciously) “buck the system….the Black woman has got us at the poll anyway” as much as they are thinking, where do I fit into this discussion? Your article is borderline victim blaming and really solves nothing at the end of the day, except for your need to lash out at Black men for the political failures of the Black community. Talk about carrying a load…….

    And although Obama hasn’t built his entire campaign around reproductive rights, you’d have to be lying to yourself to say that this has not been heavily discussed through news media outlets, pressers, on the respective parties campaign trails, etc. I’d be willing to say it is what many would consider to be a “top” issue, because abortion is a political hot button in itself. From your words in your post and in your response, this seems like one of main reasons that you are voting for Obama. This means that on some level (although you refuse to acknowledge it) you are having a very important priority and issue, at the very least “mentioned” in this political election and no matter how much you think Obama hasn’t fully addressed the subject, he seems like a much better choice than Romney on the matter of having control over your body . Similarly, a lot of Black women that I know are also voting for Obama for the same reason, which is fine and understandable.

    I cannot say as a Black man that either campaign trail has spent any time addressing any issue that would catch the attention of Black men. This is not to be twisted or misconstrued (as you tried to do so) as to make it seem like Black men are somehow oppressed more than our counterparts (I am not interested in playing the who has it harder game that you may be trying to bait me into) or that somehow our immediate concerns are more important than yours, or even that your concerns are not something that we should not be concerned about ourselves. However sister, you still fail to realize that the main reasoning as to why we do not vote, which are not for any of the reasons that you have conjured up. My advice to you would to be stop pointing fingers at Black men who do not vote and to instead direct that energy towards the “reasons” as to why this is the case (one glaring dynamic left out the discussion is the small number of Black men who receive college educations and we all know how important a college education can be in regards to people who show up at the polls) , or else you will find yourself 30 years later writing the same hackneyed article blaming Black men for the political short comings of the Black community. You write from a position of privilege and are seeking to speak for a group of people who you have excluded from your bold “scholarly” analysis……I’ll leave you to continue on with this misguided discussion….I think I’ve given this website enough hits for the day….

    • crunktastic November 6, 2012 at 8:31 AM #

      You make a lot of claims here, most of them based on a mischaracterization of my argument. But just to be clear:

      You can’t suggest that I’m speaking for Black men and then claim that my position is one-sided because I’m only speaking for myself. For the record, I am only speaking for myself and my perspective. I didn’t claim to represent your perspective or to give an objective and balanced view. This is not a newspaper, and I don’t believe in objectivity.

      I have some views about why Black men aren’t voting, and it isn’t just based on speculation. It’s based on a long historical view of Black politics, and that view comes from years of academic training and diligent study of how Black folk have participated in the political process since the late 19th century.


      I’m also not victim blaming, because I don’t see Black men as victims, as endangered species or any of the rest of it. And I think in my first reply to you that I fully acknowledged as legitimate many of the issues that you suggest are so dear to you. And of course, I think Black men bear some responsibility for the state of Black communities. This is not to discount the wide range systems we battle against, but Black men have dominated race leadership and political strategizing, and have actively excluded and silenced women in the process. You can’t keep running shit, and then get mad when folks call you to account for what you have created.

      I do hear you on the need to be recognized, to be heard, to have the President actually think about the issues of Black men and address them. I conceded that by-and-large he has not. What I also conceded was that the same is true for Black women. And by that I mean, the reproductive rights debate affects us, but in public discourse, the battle largely played out amongst powerful middle-class white women, not everyday sisters. When our reproductive rights and motherhood are adjudicated in the public sphere, it is usually in conversations about welfare queens. When Mitt Romney dog whistles about the President ending the work requirements for welfare, white folks conjure visions of poor Black women with too many mouths to feed.

      Further, the notion that you have been utterly disfranchised because Obama hasn’t appealed to you as a Black man denies the realities of male privilege itself. Power in this country is all about shoring up masculinity. And if you want to make the case that just because men are being talked to and about, it doesn’t mean that Black men are being talked to and about, then you must concede the converse for sisters: just because women are being talked about doesn’t mean Black women are being talked about.

      And that brings me back to my original point. The discussion on women was largely adjudicated over the concerns of white women, not Black women. But sisters got in where we fit in. Brothers (the ones I’m talking about and to –not for– here), not so much.

  16. Sora November 7, 2012 at 11:36 PM #

    I came to the party late! Congrats to all Obama voters who’ve, as OP says, held in “tension” their reservations with some Obama policies as well as their support for others.

    I didn’t vote for the O man, but I agonized over whether I, too, could hold my views regarding his administration in tension as many others surely have. I decided that I could not (and voted for Jill Stein). At the outset, I felt certain “deal breakers” would keep me from casting my vote for Obama, and while this proved true, my vote for Jill Stein involved compromises reluctantly made.

    The central question to me wasn’t whether an issue (or issues) could be considered a deal breaker. The central question was rather were there issues present in this election that were indeed deal breakers vis-a-vis the Obama/Biden ticket? For me the answer was yes.

    Many people reject this line of reasoning. They’d submit that every election decision is predicated on a lesser of two (or three, etc.) evils analysis. A kind of utility calculus. Other objections to the “deal breaker” analysis might hold that those who espouse it are posturing, self-absorbed, or are insulated from the most painful costs threatened by the greater of two evils.

    Where I come down on this is: it depends. What are the reasons for espousing a “deal breaker” analysis? Are they good reasons? Do the reasons given smell of radical conceit rather than principles? How can you tell?

    This was a particularly vitriolic and insensitive election cycle. My own journey helped me realize that I could no more sit in judgment of those who chose the lesser of two evils than I could of one who decided that the deal had been broken. That is, I couldn’t sit in judgment absent a pretty detailed set of facts about why each person chose what they chose.

    At a certain point, I considered not voting for any presidential candidate and instead focusing on down-ballot issues in my jurisdiction. Having espoused the “deal breaker” analysis, it seemed fairly straight forward to me that one could possibly look at the entire ballot of presidential candidates and find that they’d all broken the deal. In my case, I decided that they hadn’t, but I’m reluctant to say that someone else couldn’t come to that conclusion.

    I believe that voting is an important right for many of the reasons OP discusses. For me, the right to vote is inclusive of the decision not to vote. Whether doing so is justifiable, IMHO, is a nuanced, fact-driven judgment. If all the presidential candidates offer platforms with “deal breakers,” it seems to me entirely possible that declining to vote is justifiable. One might even say that declining to vote because of certain “deal breakers” is entirely consistent with the aims of those who fought and died to secure the franchise for our brothers and sisters.

    In my case, I voted for Jill Stein because my “deal breakers” with the Obama/Biden ticket were directly informed by the struggles to recognize the dignity and human rights of all human beings. I can’t see why declining to vote, based on similar such “deal breakers,” is a difference worthy of distinction.

    • MsNaturalSoul November 9, 2012 at 10:40 AM #

      You wrote: “Having espoused the ‘deal breaker’ analysis, it seemed fairly straight forward to me that one could possibly look at the entire ballot of presidential candidates and find that they’d all broken the deal. In my case, I decided that they hadn’t, but I’m reluctant to say that someone else couldn’t come to that conclusion.”

      Except that one can always write in a candidate, even if it is her/himself, who hasn’t ‘broken the deal.’ To me, this seems like the better/more effective/more principled action than total disengagement. But thanks for sharing your perspective as it gave us another angle with which to look at the issue of voting vs. not voting.

  17. Annis Rachel Sands November 26, 2012 at 10:25 AM #

    Hi Crunk Feminist Collective-

    Would you mind writing a follow-up on Lawrence Guyot? This post prompted me to learn more about Mr. Guyot and it would be really inspiring if you considered writing a follow-up post that helps motivate members of the younger generations to continue the legacy of the 1950s and 1960s Civil Rights leaders.

    Thank you for providing thought-provoking post in the most critical of moments.

    Annis Rachel Sands
    Dartmouth College
    Class of 2013


  1. the receipts: notes on voting abstention « The Crunk Feminist Collective - November 12, 2012

    […] with which ancestry is sometimes deified, such that blackqueer atemporality troubles binaries of rocking or mocking votes. The interruption that is black power, that is black feminism, that is the blackqueer aesthetic, […]

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