Black women are widely referred to as the “backbone” of the Democratic Party, however, the same cannot be said of Black male voters. Some estimates have placed the support of President Trump from Black men as high as 25% this cycle, which is a notable increase from the 15% he enjoyed in 2016. What exactly is attractive to Black men about this particular Republican Party, a party that has shown itself to be dedicated to the advancement of white supremacist fascism, when that should be more than enough to keep us away from it?
In a conversation hosted by the African American Policy Forum entitled Black Men for Trump? The Overdue Conversation of Patriarchy and Misogynoir in Black Politics Wade Davis, former NFL player and author, activist, and speaker, names one of the problems as one of ownership. Davis says during the live stream that Black men who have an issue with the leaders of the BLM movement being Black queer women really just want to have power. Davis also goes on to speak about the idea that the Black men supporting Trump have a narrowly defined conception of masculinity which in turn drives them to support his campaign in the 2020 election. These are common themes when discussing Black men who are voting or are actively considering voting for Trump.
This is the active seduction of the system of patriarchy.
Most of us know from our own experiences that this system does not protect us in the same way that it protects white men like Donald Trump. But for just the mere perception of power over others, some of us are still willing to vote for the man, scratching for patriarchal power which has never been fully granted to us in this country. Still, ideologically, there are many different camps that Black people in this country fall in, and the same can certainly be said for Black men.
Patriarchy Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story
In a review of The Black Community: Diversity and Unity, Earl J. Ogletree writes, “[James E.] Blackwell’s major theme is that the ‘Black community is a highly diversified interrelated aggregate of people’ whose relative unity is a defensive reaction to white oppression, discrimination, and prejudice.” This sums up a great deal of the negative reaction to O’Shea Jackson’s work with the Trump administration, but there is also the question of how to reconcile the Black men openly advocating for this administration with this idea of Black unity.
Jackson, known to the masses as Ice Cube, by his admission just started paying attention to politics in the past year, The 51-year-old rapper, director, and actor began touting his Contract With Black America (CWBA) in June and parlayed his celebrity status into a presentation of those ideas to both major political parties. As others have noted, Jackson’s approach leaves quite a bit to be desired, but he makes a few good points about the insufficiency of the American political approach to not just Black men, but Black people in general. Even in his interview with Rolling Stone’s Jamil Smith, Jackson consistently maintains that in his view, Black people in this country are caught in the middle of two parties who either do nothing for Black people or don’t do enough for Black people.
Jackson is far from the only Black man who thinks that way if the attitudes match the polling. According to The Conversation, roughly half of Black people under 30 do not feel like the Democratic Party is welcoming to Black Americans, and just 43% trust Democrats in Congress to act on behalf of Black people in America. Even though young voters are generally not bankable voters in most elections, it is their attitudes towards electoral politics that matter the most in these polls.
Ideologically, there are many different camps that Black people in this country fall in, and the same can certainly be said for Black men.
In her critique of Jackson’s actions for the Guardian, Malaika Jabali sums up the issue succinctly: ”If Ice Cube wants to reduce the Black agenda to a mere election-season transaction – without considering the more fundamental relation between Black liberation and anticapitalism – he should at least get his basic business sense right. There are some parties you just don’t negotiate with, because the starting terms are too far apart.” Ironically, Jackson’s stated philosophy of working with whoever is in power highlights the largely transactional nature of political engagements with Black Americans, and his efforts are unlikely to change this arrangement.
The high profile courting of Black men like Kanye West, 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson), and Ice Cube has been useful for the Trump campaign, even if the specifics of each man’s association with the Trump administration are not homogenous. Some Black men are willing to point to the coziness of Trump’s relationship with West as evidence that the administration is not all bad. Some are willing to point to Trump’s much-publicized clemency efforts which resulted in the freedom of Alice Johnson as evidence that he does not actually hate Black people, even though his policies and political rallies frequently contain a racial animus. Ice Cube has repeatedly declared that he has neither met with nor endorsed Trump, but that has not stopped the president’s team from creating optics that suggest the opposite.
Though he adamantly opposes the viewpoint that he has been used by the Trump campaign, the sad reality is that Ice Cube has been consistently manipulated to benefit the Trump re-election efforts, and particularly as it pertains to Black men. 50 Cent, perhaps even more than Ice Cube probably best explains why some Black men of a certain income level would vote for Trump or really any other Republican candidate.Those Black men—after being misinformed as to the specifics of the tax plan of the Biden campaign and generally preferring the tax plans of Republicans—are voting with their wallets.
These diverging points of support are emblematic of the varied reasons why people would support the Trump administration; yet, if the analysis surrounding Black men’s voting patterns are any indication, it is easy to forget that we are still talking about a small percentage of a minority of the U.S. population, not the totality or even the majority of Black men. So, while it is certainly an easy shorthand to declare that Black men are the white people of Black people, especially given our choices in this election, it is not a nuanced analysis.
It’s Time For A Political Reckoning
Even among Democratic-leaning Black people, there are serious departures of an ideological nature. Moderates and liberals traditionally have differing ideas about where to take the Party next. And those who do not tow party lines are discussing and organizing around the abolition of structures which allow Black people to be brutalized underneath the weight of American empire. This is even more true under this present administration.
On the other side of the aisle, there is Kentucky AG Daniel Cameron, who used his office to cover-up yet another extrajudicial murder of a Black woman during a no-knock raid; and Herman Cain, who literally sacrificed himself trying to foolishly prove COVID-19 was a hoax. There is also Eugene Scott, who occasionally breaks with his party, still is a predictable conservative within the party of Trump.
In a historical context, putting some of these opposing or diverging viewpoints into relief often looks like a set of binaries. The early versions of Martin Luther King Jr. vs. Malcolm X or Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. DuBois or even John Lewis vs Stokely Carmichael. King, Washington, and Lewis in summation all wanted to work within the constraints of America to either make it nicer or in Washington’s case particularly, to make Black people more palatable to white America. Malcolm X, DuBois, and Carmichael were much more concerned with exposing the various hypocrisies of America and building up the idea of Black Power, particularly later in their lives.
Most of us know from our own experiences that this system does not protect us in the same way that it protects white men like Donald Trump.
There is no real ideological unity among Black people either now or at any point in our existence in this country. We have always had ideological divides and it would be irresponsible to pretend like we are united even as the current struggle against this American fascism experiment continues to rage on.