DemWritePress Contributor Ken Mejia-Beal continues his series describing Trump’s America from his unique perspective.
In this volume of “Chronicles of an Outsider”, I want to touch on some of the issues that came up in July that, left unchecked, will greatly alter our democracy. I write in an attempt to give a voice to the voiceless and, after Volume I, I was encouraged by all the positive feedback. I’m going into Volume II with something that I didn’t think I would have: a support system of readers that so clearly want to create change.
12 Russians and Limited Black Female Voices
In July, the Justice Department announced indictments against 12 Russian nationals as part of the Mueller Investigation. All 12 members are part of a Russian federation intelligence agency called the GRU. The charges include hacking emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic Party. Right after this announcement was made on a Friday, I saw Twitter and Facebook light up.
People were angry, saddened, and confused. Trump Supporters blamed President Obama. While none of this surprised me, I did notice something peculiar. Many black female activists and political talking heads were radio silent that day, and I think that the reason for this silence is the real story here.
Black women have been warning us of the truth about this administration since the beginning. Black women have a radar for detecting foolery. When Donald Trump announced he was running for president, everyone I knew laughed and made jokes, except black women. They saw this as an immediate and urgent threat. In my social circle of political minds, no one took his announcement seriously – except my black female friends.
Many people believed that the election would come down to Senator Ted Cruz and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It was not until polls were released a couple of months later that the rest of us began to see Trump as a real contender. As the primary debates took off, I remember watching the first Democratic debate with a group of all black women in Chicago. We all thought Hillary did a great job, but then my friends told me something that’s been on my mind a lot lately.
“Bernie is going to cost us this election”, they told me. At the time, I didn’t understand, so I asked why. The answer I got meant nothing to me at the time, but sends a shiver down my spine now:
“He makes her look like an evil woman. She won’t be able to bounce back from that.”
I don’t think that anyone understands how easy it is to demonize a woman to the point of no return better than black women. Their ideas are stolen by male counterparts, their beauty is ignored by the media, and their talent is disregarded by employers. Over time, these slights can cause the average black woman to become angry. This anger is not undue or uncalled for, but fully understandable. The lead-up to that anger is largely overlooked, causing the unfair portrayal of black women as angry and difficult to work with. What the women I was with for the debate saw, that the rest of us missed, was a man demonizing and lecturing a woman for attempting to seek power on her own terms.
After Hillary was declared the Democratic nominee and named Tim Kaine as her running mate, black women were the first to do the forehead slap. I didn’t know much about Senator Kaine, so I asked my friends about him. They told me that he had a stellar record and was a great selection. My black female friends said something which, again, I still think about to this day.
“She should have picked Bernie. He is the disease and the cure.”
Once again, I didn’t see this, but black women did. After the first debate with Hillary and Donald, I thought Hillary had it in the bag, as did most Democrats. Black women, however, weren’t so sure. Once again, they knew there would be foolery and they were right. The day after election, while most of us were in shock, black women had already made their peace with the results, because they had seen it coming.
What does this all have to do with the Russian spies? Well, if we had listened to black women from day one, we wouldn’t be here. They have been warning America of systematic racism, sexism, wage gaps, and sexual harassment for decades – only to be ignored and looked over.
The #MeToo movement was started by a black woman. A healthy proportion of the work during the civil rights movement was done by black women. The most consistent voters for the Democratic Party are black women. Yet they have received the least amount of praise and reward from the party. How many senators have black women leading their staff? None.
When it comes to Russia, black women knew. They warned, and yet again we didn’t listen. Black women are very seldom outraged after an event, because they are outraged before it happens, and no one listens. We need to do better.
That Press Conference
I watched that press conference and I was at a loss for all but one word.
I will give a brief recap for those who didn’t see it, or those who need a refresher. On July 17th, after the indictment of Russian spies, Donald Trump stood next to Vladimir Putin and slammed US intelligence agencies, Democrats, and the Mueller investigation. Not once did he criticize the villain standing right next to him. He actually started off by complimenting him on the World Cup.
“Before I begin, I want to thank President Niinistö of Finland for graciously hosting today’s summit. President Putin and I were saying how lovely it was and what a great job they did. I also want to congratulate Russia and President Putin for having done such an excellent job in hosting the World Cup. It was really one of the best ever. Your team also did very well. It was a great job.”
He then went on to trash all things, well, American. He also attacked Iran and our allies, and he ended by thanking Putin, a man that explicitly ordered the tampering of our election.
Donald Trump is a spineless coward, and most of us know it. What I want to discuss is the silence from those Red Blooded Patriots that should be making the loudest noise right now. On March 10, 2003 Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks said this at a concert in London:
“Just so you know, we’re on the good side with yall. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas”.
The backlash from the Red Blooded Patriots was immediate and The Dixie Chicks entire career was severely hurt. How dare these artists speak out against the president on foreign soil? But now, when the current president has spoken out against Americans on foreign soil, right next to the smirking villain that has committed cyber warfare on our country, they are silent.
They are silent because they are not patriots, they’re simply defenders of Donald Trump.
This doesn’t make me angry nor does it surprise me. It makes me sad. After all our years of progress, and all the talk of fairness, a rich white man can commit treason on national television, but an unarmed black man that is killed in America by an overzealous police officer is still guilty until the review is over. A woman accusing her boss of sexual harassment is still either uptight or a liar until the review is complete. A Latin-American is still an immigrant until they can prove they have the proper paperwork. The reason this press conference shook me to my greatest core, was not because of what Trump did, but how those Red Blooded Patriots proved once and for all, they are merely just defenders of white men that act inappropriately and a lynch mob for everyone else.
28% of Young Adults
A recent poll showed that young adults (18 to 29) are only 28% certain that they will vote in the midterms. Before I get into the reason for this, I want to share some knowledge that many people seem to have a hard time grasping: 18 to 29 year olds have always had low voter turnout. This is not a trend. This age group has statistically voted less in every election for decades.
In 1976, one of the first elections where 18 year olds could vote, only 13% of young adults voted. There’s a reason it’s so hard to get younger voters to the polls.
I live in the second largest county in Illinois, and as someone that is highly active in the community and under 40, I see daily why younger people are not voting. They feel like they don’t have a place in the process because the older members of the party refuse to step aside to let younger people take the reins. They refuse to move into the future.
I saw an example of this up-close and personally, and it made me angry. An 18-year-old contacted the county Democratic office to find out how they could help with the Governor’s race. The answer they received was “We only focus on county wide races”.
This is the wrong answer.
The directive of the Democratic Party thus far has been local politics first. I agree that all candidates from top to bottom need to be elected, but we young people very seldom have any dog in the fight of local races. A close look at a local race shows that the majority of candidates discussing property taxes. This issue, while important, is not paramount to young voters for two reasons:
First, most young people do not own land. To care about property taxes, you have to have pay property taxes. Second, young people move frequently. The idea that folks live and die in the same place is very seldom the reality anymore. If the focus is on property taxes, why would a young person care about local politics?
This is why, at the county level, our Democratic Party needs to start equally assisting ALL candidates that will affect the county (congresspeople, attorney generals, and governors). This will motivate more young people to get involved and vote for a full ballot.
Another problem for young adults is the candidates themselves. Many candidates do not feel the need to speak to young people in elections, because it’s assumed that they will not vote. The truth is, if candidates speak on issues that matter to young adults, they will listen and they will vote. Young people care a lot, but they care about things that affect them.
Recently I sat in a room with a combination of high school kids from the local high school near my home in the suburbs of Chicago, a school in the inner city of Chicago, and the Parkland students from Florida.
You know what they care about? Sensible Gun Laws, Affordable College, access to better education, and equality.
You know what they don’t care about? The fact that a politician has a D after their name and that a vote for said D will change their lives 20 years from now.
I don’t fault young people for not wanting to be involved in a system that seems only to care about them on Election Day. It is up to candidates and Democratic county board presidents to meet our youth where they are if they want their vote.