When attempting to explain, during a university-sponsored book talk a few weeks ago, the difference between truth and honesty to the students, I posed a scenario where Jeff Bezos decided to buy a house on my block and live there. With him as my new neighbor, if you took the newly combined net worth of each of the families on the block, and divided that number by the number of families on the block (roughly 20), you could factually state that the average person in my neighborhood is a billionaire now. This would be the truth, but it’s also deeply dishonest because of one person’s wildly disproportionate impact on the results.
This was a crude example, I know—and I’ll blame that on my iron deficiency that morning (I hadn’t eaten yet). But it did provide a quick and clear-ish delineation, and I thought of this hypothetical while reading Michael Harriot’s “The Myth of the Black Male Trump Supporter” earlier this week. In it, Michael uses allegory, anecdote, data, interviews, and his own experience to dispel the notions that 1. Black men are sympathizing and siding with Donald Trump in large numbers and 2. There are enough Black male Trump voters to have any real impact on the election.
What he says here is unquestionably true. There are still far more prospective Black male voters who will vote for Joe Biden than Trump. And, as I’ve stated before, the results of the election are dependent on white people, not us. But while I don’t believe his piece is dishonest, there is a nearsightedness there obscuring a larger point: Far too many of the Black men disillusioned with national politics escape to a low-information politic that, whether they realize it or not, aligns them with the worst of white people.
Instead of allowing the frustration to shift us left, we become Mitch McConnell. And far too many of us are too easily seduced by the attention and allure of Black contrarianism. As ignorant and uncouth as the president is, his emotional intelligence is high enough to know that the best way to appeal to Ice Cube and Lil Wayne and Kanye West and Jason Whitlock and the tens of thousands of much poorer and much less famous Black men who think like them, is through ego. “Don’t be a sheep,” he whispers in their ears, as they giddily nod and smile. “Why be a commoner over there when you can be a commander over here?”
And while it’s also true that many of these men aren’t voting anyway and won’t have much of an impact on what happens next week, the election is a red herring. Fuck the election. What worries me as much as—and perhaps even more than—a Trump victory is the reality that so many of us are so happily seduced by white supremacy, so easily charmed by white men, and so excitedly willing to throw Black women and Black children (and other Black men) under the bus for a seat at a janky, rotten, and God-less table.
And yes, as Michael also stated in his piece, men across racial lines are more likely to be Republicans and/or support Trump than women are, so this problem ain’t unique to Black men. That is true. But we (Black men) are uniquely hunted and feared and arrested and maimed and incarcerated and killed by America. If even one percent of one percent of one percent of us still chooses to align ourselves with the people who actively want us dead, that’s too many.
This makes me sad, because I love us and I don’t know how to fix this. And I get how safe it might seem to choose white. How choosing white might seem like choosing light. I feel it sometimes too. Not often. But sometimes. I’m not immune. But I know it’s a sickness, and I don’t know how to convince them it ain’t the cure.