I have spent my life as a Democrat which probably isn't that surprising considering that I am African-American. One of the things that always attracted me to the party were the ideals of equality, fighting for the little guy and our openness to differing opinions, but lately I have seen my party take a turn that makes me uncomfortable. Somewhere along the way we stopped fighting for the little guy and became the party of the smug, educated elites who look down on those with less education and deem them unable or unworthy of being able to make personal decisions for their own lives.
Over the last few years we have made incredible strides in diversity and inclusion, from the election twice of the nation's first African-American President to the legalization of gay marriage, all things that I have loudly and happily cheered for and felt were a long time in coming. As an African-American professional from humble beginnings, I know firsthand the importance of giving everyone an equal opportunity to access the American Dream. I don't take lightly the opportunities I have been given or the fact that many people, black and white, fought for and sometimes died for me to have these rights. I also have serious concerns about the lack of progress that I have seen for many African-Americans and I blame some of that lack of progress on ineffective liberal policies that are based upon wanting to help those in need, but in many instances end up causing more harm than good.
Although many African-Americans have made incredible strides in educational attainment we are still lagging behind in key indicators of success such as net worth, poverty rates, high incarceration rates and, as such, have some of the highest unemployment numbers. In addition we seem to be victims of a disproportionate amount violence. All of these issues are some of the most serious problems we face as a people and our culture of political correctness and liberalism has not only not solved them, but I believe has made them worse. I know many liberals who do incredible work to make the world around them better, and that's not who I am talking about. I'm talking about the cocktail party liberals, the elites, who wear the cloak of liberalism to protect themselves from criticism and so they can keep a clear conscious.
My problem with Liberalism is that it's more concerned with policing people's language and thoughts without requiring them to do anything to fix the problem. White liberal college students speak of "safe spaces", "trigger words", "micro aggressions" and "white privilege" while not having to do anything or, more importantly, give up anything. They can't even have a conversation with someone who sees the world differently without resorting to calling someone a racist, homophobic, misogynistic, bigot and trying to have them banned from campus, or ruin them and their reputation. They say they feel black peoples' pain because they took a trip to Africa to help the disadvantaged, but are unwilling to go to a black neighborhood in the City in which they live. These same college students will espouse the joys of diversity, but will in the same breath assume you are only on campus because of affirmative action or that all black people grew up in poverty. My personal favorite is declaring with surprise how articulate a black classmate is despite the fact that we are attending the same institution of higher learning as they are.
The White Liberal culture encourages talking about diversity and shaming others for their alleged racism, but many times they themselves work in environments that are mostly white. When questioned they'll defensively state that they promote strictly on merit. Black people aren't suggesting that we want someone unqualified to get the position, but I find it telling that they assume that we are not qualified. These same Liberals are quick to be against school choice, while their kids go to private or well-regarded public schools. Leaving poor black children behind in underperforming schools and providing less opportunity to improve their lives is inconsequential to keeping true to their white liberal politics. Many people are quick to espouse the political values of liberalism without having to live with the often harsh reality of those policies.
Race, gender, religion and sexual orientation are such difficult discussions to have, and many of us don't get it right, but my problem with some white liberals aren't that they sometimes get it wrong, it's their profound lack of self-awareness coupled with the smugness and self-righteousness that they use to lecture to others.
White Liberals have hijacked the conversation about diversity, political correctness and what topics we should be outraged about. When a terrorist attack occurs the media and liberals rightly remind us that it's unfair to judge an entire religion by the actions of a small minority, but I haven't heard similar unequivocal statements made in the media about the African-American community being unfairly judged by the negative actions of a few. The media lectures about intolerance of the Right, but is the first to show the mugshot of a young black suspect while showing the much more positive yearbook photo of a young white suspect. In fact the criminalization of African-Americans, especially men, has been turned into public policy in large part because of our negative portrayal in the media, which is predominantly filled with white liberal voices.
For so long, as a Black American, I have been told that the problem is Conservative Republicans. While I'll admit they may have done little to try to improve African-American lives, they also don't promise to every election season like the liberal elites. Instead we have given our loyalty and votes to Democrats, who paternalistically tell us they want to help us, but we have little to show for it since blacks started voting Democrat back in the 1960's. I have never lived in a city as an adult that was run by Conservatives or Republicans, but I live in the biggest poor city in the country, Philadelphia. A city, for decades, run by liberal insiders.
The City of Philadelphia is going through a Renaissance thanks to the demand of young White millennials who want to live in vibrant urban areas. We have a thriving higher education community, one of the country's best restaurant scenes and home values and rent prices are going up while 10 year property tax abatements make owning new and renovated homes in the City an attractive financial investment. We are an unapologetically liberal city and you cannot be elected in this City without black voters. But why is it that the black community is not benefiting from this same Renaissance as their white liberal counterparts?
While the children of our liberal contemporaries attend expensive private universities, how many black men are getting pulled into the prison system because of stop and frisk searches in these supposedly liberal cities? How many so called white liberals have really fought for those civil rights violations to be ended? My own city has a stop and frisk policy in place (even after promises of stopping it), but is also a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants. It's ironic that the liberal elites proudly proclaim the inhumanity of deportation which could break up the families of these immigrants, but they are more than happy to justify the need to send black men and women to prison for minor infractions, thus separating the families of American citizens. Where is the outrage for our families? Oh yeah, you can take the African-American vote for granted, so you don't need to do more than pay lip service to our concerns.
White liberals posting on Facebook about #blacklivesmatter, white privilege and supremacy are not cleansed of their hypocrisy and elitism because they use the right hash tags. I would urge these same people to get off their iPhones and look around to see the issues they ignore in their own lives. If you're one of these people, before you cry out in offense, ask yourself where you chose to live and how many of your neighbors, that you know, are people of color. Where do your kids go to school? Who are your friends and colleagues? Who do you see next to you while you're in your meeting at work? What have you done to change those inequalities? Have you recommended a black friend for a job at your company, or told them about a house for sale in your neighborhood or recommended a talented black child go to your child's school? Answer these questions honestly and you'll realize that you might not be who you think you are when it comes to racial issues in this country. Are you are part of the group I'm referring to as smug white liberals and you don't even know it?
If I were to ask what issues of the Democratic Platform from this Presidential Election would address the issues of the African-American community I'm assuming most liberals would point to criminal justice reform. However, the push for criminal justice reform is coincidentally occurring parallel to the epidemic of opioid abuse in white communities. I would argue this is what is actually driving the policy shift from incarceration to treatment, because the sweeping tragedy of drug abuse that has gripped the black community for the last 30 years, is now affecting the same liberal elites that referred to our family members as predators and criminals rather than addicts deserving of compassion.
Suggesting that blacks stop being Democrats or Liberals would be a waste of my time, but what I am suggesting is that we require white liberals to do more than pat us on the head and tell us they know better. Free programs aren't enough, nor are they actually free for African-Americans. How many stories have we heard of African-Americans being excessively fined for minor civil infractions or misdemeanor criminal matters? Those fines are used for running a system that not only doesn't work for our community but many times exposes us to a criminal justice system that causes us to become unemployable or financially decimates our families.
Remember Eric Garner, the man in New York that died from a chokehold for selling loose cigarettes? That enforcement order was created during Democratic Mayor and Democratic Governor's administrations. I'm sure that they believed that the revenue generated by the cigarette tax would fund important programs for the poor, but there was a real cost to African-Americans in the community who were fined, harassed, incarcerated and, in the case of Eric Garner, died over a tax. Let's not forget the 10 year tax abatement that brings wealthy white liberals to the City, but increases the taxes for many poor home owners of color making it prohibitively expensive to stay in neighborhoods where they may have lived for decades. We need results not more empty promises. We need to take a serious look at the policies that will truly make it possible for blacks to attain better job opportunities, stronger families, safer neighborhoods and better schools. If we continue to align ourselves with liberal elites that lecture about the evils of discrimination, but don't want to see us as their boss (or even colleague), competing for opportunities against their children, or as their neighbors, then we need to look at what other groups can offer the African-American community in terms of opportunities or effective policies that will allow us to prosper.
If the only conversation we're requiring them to have about us is about keeping us out of prison or getting less jail time, then we are so far behind that I am not sure that we will ever catch up. We must take control of the narratives about our issues because white liberals are talking about things that may make you feel better, but are not improving the quality of life for your family or our community. Anyone that would tell your children to do something that they wouldn't tell their own child is not your ally. While these conversations, driven by the elites, are seemingly sympathetic, they will only keep our children at the bottom, and uncompetitive to their own children.
The truth is that Liberalism is about making elites feel better about themselves and their lives without requiring the underlying action of significantly improving the lives of African-Americans. Hillary Clinton rightly says that it's not about what you say about problem, but you should be judged by what you are doing to solve the problem. In this election, let's take her at her word and take a deeper look at what Liberalism is really doing for us.