Reading Time: 5 minutesStudents at Harlem Success Academy, a free, public elementary charter school in New York.
Image credit: democraticunderground.com
An article published recently by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) reported the results of a poll conducted by the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) confirming what many of us already know: that the majority of black Americans support the concept of charter schools when it comes to educating their children.
You did know that, didn’t you?
Of course, you did.
It is my hope that the results of this BAEO poll will help contradict a long-standing yet false narrative that, collectively, black Americans are sold out to the idea that public schools are the best educational option for their children. Nevertheless, it should also be stated that this narrative is not altogether without merit, especially considering that black voters overwhelmingly support the Democrat Party despite its long history of opposition to non-public school educational alternatives.
If pressed on the matter, I believe most black political leaders today would concur that black Americans are no different from anyone else in that they, too, vote “their interests.” Ah, but therein lies the rub because when it comes to blacks and the social, fiscal, and political issues that concern them, the question must first be asked: what does “their interests” actually mean?
In other words, contextually speaking, is the term “their interests” singular or plural?
The truth is, it’s both.
Because, to a very great extent, though perhaps not universally, when it comes to the political priorities of black Americans it’s not simply a matter of considering what concerns them as individuals, but collectively, that is, how one’s electoral decisions will impact not only themselves but the broader “black community” in general.
I know of no other racial or ethnic demographic that applies this type of duality to themselves while also expecting others to do the same. So prevalent is this mindset that blacks like myself, who happen to not subscribe to this collectivist approach, are often maligned and ostracized by those who do embrace it.
It may surprise you to learn that the vast majority of black Americans actually favor not only school choice, but lower taxes, fair and equitable welfare reform, and are pro-life (with the exception, perhaps, of rape and incest), all of which are positions that are in stark contrast to the platform of the Democrat Party, which has enjoyed the unwavering loyalty of black voters for more than half a century now.
The reason this is germane to a discussion about blacks’ support of charter schools is because it has long been assumed that charter schools and, conversely, school choice, is a topic about which black people couldn’t care less, partly because of the stereotype propagated in large part by the mainstream media that matters of social justice and economic inequality invariably take precedence over such issues as education reform.
“One striking example of Democrat opposition at the national level to school vouchers was seen in 2009 in Washington, D.C. This city voted 92.9% for President Obama in the 2008 election, and it is historically a Democrat Party stronghold. It also has unusually high poverty levels of 23 percent. Yet the city established a very successful voucher program in a desperate attempt to improve the city’s failing [public] schools. However, the US Congress has governing authority over the District of Columbia, and when the new Democrat majority in both the House and Senate took office in January 2009, they cut off future funding for this voucher program. The Senate vote was 58-39 to kill the voucher program in the Omnibus Appropriations Act. Only two Democrats voted to keep the funding, while 36 Republicans and 1 Independent voted to keep the voucher program alive.” – Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture, pp. 252-253
But, consider if you will that, as individuals, blacks make choices every day about where they want to work, where they want to live, what kind of car they want to drive, where they want to go on vacation, at what restaurant they will eat, and so on, solely on the basis of what is best for them and their family, not the collective.
So, my question is: why doesn’t this same level of autonomy apply when it comes to blacks and politics? If the collective doesn’t factor into my deciding what car I drive, why should it influence how I vote?
Asians don’t alienate their own. Nor do Hispanics or Latinos or Caucasians or Middle-Easterners. These can all vote for whomever and however they choose with no expectation whatsoever of repercussion or reprisal, but black voters had better toe the line or be labeled an “Uncle Tom” or “sellout” simply for expressing themselves in a way that goes against the ideological agenda of the collective.
That more than 90 percent of black voters remain loyal to a political ideology that is completely antithetical to the position most of them espouse on the issue of charter schools is puzzling, to say the least. But, as long as individual black voters continue to take a collectivist worldview into the voting booth, the aforementioned perceptions, inaccurate though they may be, will remain unchanged.
Not that changing people’s perceptions is the goal, mind you, because people are going to think what they want to think. Nevertheless, there is something to be said for the fact that, incredibly, more than nine out of every 10 black Americans consistently support a political agenda that is clearly not in their best interest as it relates to the issue of school choice.
So, why the disconnect?
Why do the aforementioned beliefs, which many would consider to be exclusive to white conservative voters, not transfer into the voting booth for blacks on Election Day?
Are black voters not equally as entitled as anyone else to selfishly express their individual priorities as opposed to feeling obligated to consider the implications of their decisions to the collective?
This commentary isn’t so much about Democrats versus Republicans as about why any group or individual would willingly continue to enable an ideology that is clearly contradictory to its own best interests.
Seriously, why would anyone do that?
Perhaps we need to be reminded that the black community is made up of black individuals, each with a God-given mind of their own and who is empowered to be as selfish as they choose regarding their personal electoral decisions, despite what the collective might think.
They say it takes a village to raise a child.
Each of my two children has a name – and it’s not “Village.”
Humbly in Christ,
- Why Blacks Vote Against Their Own Interests – Ellis Washington
- What the Democrat Party platform used to say about school choice – Thomas B. Fordham Institute
- Michelle Rhee: My Break with the Democrats – The Daily Beast
- Ideological Map of American Churches and Religions – Religion News Service
- Obama Budget Eliminates D.C. Voucher Funding – National Review
- Black Americans Are Worse Off Under Obama – National Review