Any analysis about Africans and the Democratic Party must go without saying that none of this is to suggest, overtly or covertly, that the Republican Party or any political party tied to the capitalist system will offer any true solutions to the problems African people face. The capitalist system is the enemy of all African people everywhere so any political party beholden to that system cannot seriously be regarded as a viable tool for African liberation and justice. With that being said, as mentioned, the Democratic Party today enjoys almost the complete support of the African masses. The point of this piece is that the Democrats have never deserved, nor do they currently deserve, our support. And, we would like to challenge why and how the bar is so low that the Democratic Party can do so little for us while receiving our complete loyalty in the process.
The reactionary and racist white right in this country are fond of pointing out that it was the Democratic Party that led African people to the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan. Despite the fact the white right's motivation for making this argument has as much merit as an abuser arguing that the fact his abused takes self defense classes should cancel out the impact of his abuse, technically, those racists aren't entirely wrong.
In 1865, at the conclusion of the U.S. civil war, the Republican Party, infused by African activists who had fought their way into the so-called "emancipation party" of Abe Lincoln, rallied to create the Freedman's Bureau which sought to ensure the rights of newly freed Africans and poor Europeans (whites) would be protected. Along with the bureau, the Republicans supported the 14th Amendment of the constitution which states that all U.S. "citizens" have rights that must be protected. All of this was continually supported by the civil rights act of 1886 (the first of multiple civil rights acts including the one in 1964) which has similar citizens rights language. This period was labeled reconstruction in the aftermath of the civil war and these paper gains came to a screeching halt in 1877 when Southern Democrats pushed to implement poll taxes, grandfather clauses, and other racists tactics designed to slow down the newly freed African ability to vote that was supported in the previously mentioned policy implementations. This push by the Democrats led to the 1896 Plessy versus Ferguson U.S. Supreme Court decision which officially and unquestionably reversed any potential gains after slavery and plunged this nation into legal segregation.
The aforementioned activities from the Democrats and the post civil war history of the Republicans (at least on paper) caused Africans to stay on as committed Republicans. This continued until the 1930s when Franklin Roosevelt, a Democratic candidate, received overwhelming African support in his presidential run in 1936 based almost exclusively on his support for the New Deal which was a series of policies that people in the U.S. take for granted today. Social Security, medicare, aid to families with dependent children, worker's compensation, etc. Safety net programs for the poor and disenfranchised. Programs that were originally developed and proposed by African activists organizations as well as the Communist Party USA. Of course, the Democrats took credit for the programs and made them their own and for the African masses, Roosevelt represented the face of those policies. This is an important point because since the ruling classes write history, this phenomenon has been documented as a victory for the Democratic Party when in fact it was nothing more than their ripping off of policies grassroots activists had developed. Due to the reality of this nation in 1936, during the fallout of the great depression, the masses of people demanded support. The Democrats had absolutely no choice except to adopt the New Deal programs. In fact, doing so was essential to their very survival as a party. So, them and Roosevelt doing so should not be seen as a sincere effort to improve the conditions of African and other poor people. That was not then their motivation, nor is it their motivation today.
In the 1960s, the U.S. electoral process continued to be dominated by rich European men. They were the only people to run for and hold offices and they were clearly the framers of policy. This had been the case since settler colonialism seized this country hundreds of years before. The courageous activists within the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, a project of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, challenged this racist premise with their push for their delegates to be justifiably seated at the 1964 Democratic Party Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Hubert Humphrey, and other Democratic Party leaders at the time did everything in their power to sabotage the African delegates from being seated. It wasn't until the entire world responded with support and outrage to the testimony of Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer who told the world how she was beaten savagely just for wanting to vote that Humphrey and the Democrats were forced to compromise. Again, this cannot be seen as any benevolence from the Democratic Party, but the power of the masses of people who when organized, can push for whatever result they wish for and deserve, despite the efforts of the power structure to prevent them from having justice.
As we come to today, there is a national election planned for a year from now. There are about a dozen Democratic Party candidates running to challenge the Republican incumbent. What's changed on a surface level is many of those candidates are women and colonized people. Credit for this, again, goes to the student activists from Mississippi in the 1960s, not the Democratic Party. Still, these are superficial surface changes. The focus of the Democratic Party as it relates to the African masses remains unchanged has it has been for the last 150 years. It can in fact be argued that the open hostility and racism from the Democratic Party during the reconstruction period is much more desirable than the hypocrisy and disrespect that dominates the interaction between Democratic Party candidates today and our people. Still, much of the blame today has to fall on us because we refuse to demand that we be respected and thus far, we have proven unwilling to engage in the level of organizing work required to build the type of movement that would hold these politicians accountable to us.
Our movement of the 1960s, contrary to popular opinion, was not organized, but it was strong enough to garner some concessions from the Democratic Party and the power structure. Today, we don't even have the fractured movement of the 60s so we have nothing except our individual votes for candidates who ignore us, lie to us, and completely disrespect us until we can do something for them. Many of these candidates voted for mass incarceration policies that devastated our communities and this is true even of the candidate representatives from colonized communities. None of them have proposed a comprehensive employment bill or any legislation that attempts to directly confront the challenges we face from a white supremacist system. Even the calls for reparations from some of the candidates are simply rhetorical tactics designed to win our emotional support since none of these discussions are backed by any serious strategy to make reparations policy on any level. And even on the most basic level some of these disgraceful people have even been proven to have racist backgrounds themselves to which they nonchalantly explain away today, knowing that most of us are so gullible we won't require any more from them beyond a simple lie to keep things going.
For those last 150 years, the Democratic Party has done practically nothing to stand by African people. This is proven by the fact that party still holds the support of large numbers of white supremacists and anti-African politicians. No serious attack against police terror, mass incarceration, joblessness, community resources, nothing. In fact, many of them sound like the Republicans, blaming us for our predicaments. This was true even for the beloved Barack Obama who so many of our people believe can do no wrong (he did so much wrong for anyone paying attention beyond the sound bites).
Every election these people within the Democratic Party structures tell our people that this election is the big one. There isn't a single election that isn't the big one. Even the so-called leaders of our communities parrot this ridiculous narrative. In reality, we are long overdue at figuring out its time for us to chart the agenda for our own communities. That would have to include deciding to establish and build that movement that would be in alliance with other oppressed communities, but would hold the political establishment, regardless of which bourgeoisie party, responsible to our interests as oppressed African people. This type of movement would have to evaluate reform policies based on how they improve the conditions for our people, not based on whether they are acceptable to white supremacy as is most often the case today.
Some may ask why we, who are revolutionaries, would advocate the construction of a reform movement. We do so because we recognize the power of positive action. Meaning, we endorse all action that is designed to get more people involved in conscious raising and movement building. We know that the more people that move in this direction, the more people who will come to the place of being able to properly understand the revolutionary Pan-Africanist message that we work on daily. That's why our message today is for us to get involved in organizations and if you feel that the Democratic Party is the organization then we have an obligation to organize the African masses inside of the Democratic Party so that we have our own agenda and are not just cannon fodder and pawns for the Democratic Party bourgeoisie to manipulate to sign off on their capitalist agenda. An agenda that has proven time and time again, to devastate our people all over the world.