Fentress just doesn’t feel the same excitement or energy about the presidential election as he does about the protests, which were sparked earlier this summer after George Floyd died in Minneapolis while on guard. on sight. As members of Washington’s political establishment turned their attention this week to the spectacle of a vice presidential revelation, the dozens of dedicated activists with Fentress in Detroit – where participation will be critical for Biden – paid little attention.
Harris, a California Senator of Jamaican and Indian descent, made history as the first woman of color to be chosen as a running mate by a major party. African-American advocacy groups applauded Biden’s choice, which they saw as recognition that black voters are a mainstay of the Democratic Party. But the choice was met with more skepticism by the party’s left flank, including many young black activists who criticized Harris’s record as a mainstream politician and former prosecutor.
Black representation in national politics is important, Fentress said, but what matters most are policies that tackle systemic racism.
She’s not sure Democrats got this or Harris is changing that.
And yet, despite her skepticism of the Democratic Party, she intends to vote for Biden and Harris in November – not because of Harris, but because of her disdain for President Trump.
“You know I take to the streets and see people lined up just to [donated] food. How is this normal? How is this true? she said, highlighting the wealth inequalities between black and white families that have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. “Are we going to vote? Yes. It is an obligation. This is something you should be doing. . . because right now, the president we have, we don’t want him in power.
The lower than expected 2016 turnout among black voters in Detroit threatens the next presidential election, said James Curenton, who is pastor of the city’s Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ. Democratic voter, Curenton regrets not having done more in 2016 to encourage his community to vote. Trump narrowly won Michigan by about 11,000 votes.
“The blame must go everywhere. We here as pastors could have got 15,000 more people to vote if that had been a priority. The Democratic Party could have made voting in Detroit a top priority, which it did not. Hillary Clinton did not show up here, ”he said.
Even as the church focuses on adjusting its programming for the pandemic and distributing hundreds of boxes of food to struggling families, Curenton says he will organize phone banking and even prospecting in the city. ‘autumn.
This year, he said, he feels personally responsible for ensuring that his congregation of several hundred people vote in November. It is also a conversation among other pastors.
But he acknowledged that many black voters, especially younger ones, feel estranged from the political process and have become skeptical of the Democratic Party, in part because of broken promises to put Detroit right. Their disillusionment, he worries, is doomed to failure; he thinks political strength is based on the vote.
The protest movement, he said, has started a fire in many black communities, especially among young people, who pay more attention, especially to local politics. He said he hopes the energy will be harnessed for the presidential election.
But there is also a lot of political skepticism and cynicism that community leaders like Curenton will have to combat.
The real work of creating social change, many activists said this week, was happening here on the streets of Detroit, not in Washington. Instead of watching Biden and Harris during their first joint appearance on Wednesday, dozens of protesters set up speakers and handed out buttons that read “Black women’s lives matter.” They took turns giving impassioned speeches about the civil rights movement they see unfolding in the United States.
Biden and even Harris seemed almost irrelevant.
“I come here almost every day,” Parrish Saiter, 28, said protests, as chants of “No Justice, No Peace” roared through the crowd.
For Saiter, protests are a form of civic engagement that feels “more practical” and more likely to effect change.
Saiter has expressed skepticism about Biden’s efforts to reach black voters, including adding Harris to the ticket.
“They did this so they could get the black vote,” he said, explaining his concerns about Harris’ record as a prosecutor. “I have been in jail and the prison system makes the person worse. . . it does not rehabilitate “
“Yeah, I’m going to vote. But I think Democrats and Republicans are basically the same thing, ”he said.
Saiter suggested that keeping Trump in power could benefit the movement because at least the president’s rhetoric draws attention to systemic issues that have been around for a long time.
Her comments echoed criticism of Harris’ claim that she was a “progressive prosecutor” in California. As California’s attorney general, Harris declined to support a bill that would have forced his office to investigate the fatal police shootings, saying it would take power away from local district attorneys who had systems in place for hold police officers accountable. She opposed a statewide standard for police to wear body cameras, again citing local authorities.
Harris was also a strong supporter of anti-absenteeism laws that led to lawsuits and even jail time for parents whose children missed too many days of school, which critics of the time said would disproportionately harm low-income communities of color. She has since regretted the way the laws have been applied.
But many black voters polled in Detroit this week said they didn’t pay much attention to the presidential election, even if they disagreed with President Trump.
Ten miles north in Palmer Park, 20-year-old Samyah Haynes said she wasn’t “too into politics.” As she prepared for her sister’s sixth birthday in Palmer Park, she said she had only heard a little about Harris. But having a black woman on the ticket certainly makes it more interesting to her.
“Barack Obama said it was a good decision and I trust Obama,” she said.
A group of six moms and aunts gathered nearby to watch their children chase each other and blow bubbles. One of them, Lindsay Gray, 30, said she was delighted to hear that Harris had been chosen as Biden’s running mate, especially as a Howard University graduate.
“Unless Michelle Obama is running for president, I’m excited,” Harris said.
But she was worried about the role sexism could play in the elections.
“A lot of men, they just won’t vote for a woman, let alone a woman of color.” She “had these ideas” after the failure of the Clinton campaign, but she’s hoping the country has changed since then, especially given the black communities’ anger towards Trump.
Curenton, however, said he believed black women would be crucial to the efforts to exit the vote in November. Their enthusiasm for Harris, he predicted, could be a boon to Democrats.
“And if black women are horny, black men should be too. Black women always dominate the roost if the truth is told in the black community, ”Curenton said. “Senator Harris, her nomination for the African American community does one thing: She says, okay, we were right. Uncle Joe will answer us, try to do something for us. He takes us seriously. And he didn’t do it with words, like what you’ve got to lose, he acted.
Ruble and Elmer reported from Detroit.