The other day, out of boredom, I re-watched “Beyond the Glory”, a documentary about Iron Mike Tyson. From that documentary, there were all sorts of storylines surrounding Mike’s life that were intriguing. From his rough childhood, to the rise to the top of the boxing world, to his fall from grace, to his domestic issues, religious conversions, rape charges, ear-biting, etc, the man was a walking headline. But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of his life was the exquisite tragedy of his trust-less existence. More so in his younger years but certainly in his years later as well, Tyson was never in a situation where he trusted people enough to let them check him. While there were obviously unscrupulous people around him looking to take advantage of him at every opportunity, he later admitted there were just as many people who legitimately wanted what was best for him. Because there was so much money involved, it seems especially tragic, but on a less-noticeable scale, the same thing happens on a daily basis. Hourly, even. People are constantly making decisions without the benefit of knowing who they can really trust.
When this same scenario plays out for most of us, essentially two challenges emerge: 1) the person providing insight to others has to be close enough to those people to actually make an impact, and 2) the folks receiving the insight have to be willing to accept it and apply it to their lives. I’ve already spoken about personal responsibility ad nauseum, so I won’t focus on that part. Instead, I’ll turn my attention to the first half of the aforementioned model: the folks providing the insight. After all, before you can get a person to focus their effort on self-improvement (be it long term or short term), your first assignment is to get close enough to that person to let them know you actually care about them.
Examining that concept and applying it to – Heaven help me – the political environment, I think this is why conservatives consistently fall on their face with black folks. That’s the precise reason why I had a “SMH” moment last year when ESPN
screaming talking head Stephen A. Smith suggested that black people should start supporting Republicans. If he and others like him sincerely believe the principles of Republicanism are for them, all power to them. You won’t ever hear me knock their hustle. But when it comes to addressing Black folks as a whole and their political allegiances, that kind of rationale hits a brick wall. It’s one thing to be right (or “right wing”, as the case may be), but if Republicans are truly interested in bringing more black folks to their side, their approach must improve, even if their specific actions don’t. If you think about it, the key advantage Democrats have in securing black support is not that they actually do anything for Black folks. Their advantage is that black folks think Democrats at least care. I mean, how often have you heard the talking point of how Democrat-controlled cities (including my hometown of Flint) are in the dumps? And it’s true. There’s no denying that fact. But that phenomenon also proves that garnering support is not actually about improving the conditions of a collection of people. No sir. It’s about the perception that you care. I think most conservatives – even the ones with good intentions – tend to overlook that very important concept, to their party’s detriment. Consequently black people have almost collectively painted the entire Republican party with the same broad stroke, which creates a voting nightmare with that bloc. Even if large segments of the black community agree with key aspects of the Republican platform (gay marriage immediately comes to mind. But other socially conservative issues are also in that number), that support generally falls short at the polls.
Frankly, I believe this concept also applies to other social minorities (other ethnic minorities, poor, working class folks, etc.). But this piece specifically speaks to the black electorate.
If I was a Republican strategist (I’m available for hire, GOP. I’m willing to separate my work from my left-leaning values if the price is right), I’d push HARD for a more stylized message addressed to the black community. I’d have them shape their message to suggest inclusion, acceptance, and a genuine appreciation of the plight of black folk. But if instead, you opt to spend your time vilifying us, ignoring our concerns, pointing fingers of blame, suppressing our vote, and viciously disrespecting a guy who has become one of our symbols of hope, it stands to reason that we gon’ keep pulling the lever for the other side.
Some people will argue that “if you’re right, be boldly right” and try to back that up with sound policy as they believe it (much like the “sin is sin” crowd). They’ll argue that you shouldn’t have to pacify our views or water things down just to accommodate us. And that may be true. But realistically, if people don’t trust you and they feel demeaned and attacked by you, they’re likely going to tune out anything you have to say, regardless to how sensible you may think it is. Common sense, people. Common sense. Some Republicans can live with that, especially if their constituents aren’t made up of black voters. But for the rest of the party interested in securing more black support, there is still TONS of work left to be done. It starts with putting your arms around black people instead of pushing them away.
Ironically (but at no surprise to your intrepid host), Tyson is a Trump supporter, citing Trump’s
exploitation support for him as his biggest reason. Republicans should take heed.
Embrace the person first. Then work on their self-improvement.
The “one-two” combo. Very Tyson-esque.