Notes on Minority Outreach, the Sweet Spot
Last week, we responded to a question Trump posed to African-Americans. Why not vote for me. What the hell do you have to lose? Our reply was blunt, straightforward and unequivocal. Given his history, rhetoric and policy positions, African-Americans would not be wise to vote for Trump. To do so is to sleep with the devil. Shortly after posting the article, we lost a long time Blackacre supporter.
We admit to biases and are no friend of the GOP candidate. Past blogs have been hard on Trump, a pattern that is likely to continue. We therefore stand by our position. Still, our purpose is not to offend and we deeply regret the loss of any follower.
But, words matters, as do delivery, setting, tone, policy, history and associations. Each reveals character and intent. And conduct controls. What one does is far more important than pretty thoughts. So given the continued significance of race in national politics and as a follow-up to last weeks blog, we offer the following thoughts on minority outreach.
We should first rethink the notion of what constitutes a minority. There are fewer senior citizens in the nation than other age groups, a smaller number of evangelicals than non Christians, fewer corporate executives than blue color workers and far fewer farmers than non farmers. There are fewer ballerinas and tap dancers than other entertainers and not as many soccer fans as football enthusiasts.
Yet, we neither view nor treat senior citizens, born again Christians, corporate executives, farmers, ballerinas or soccer fans as minorities. We do not group them by class and when we dialogue with them, we do not consider it to be minority outreach.
The only reason we treat others differently is because we view them differently. And we view them differently in large part because of our never-ending obsession with race, ethnicity and color, an addiction that hinders the development of mutually beneficial relationships.
So rather than merely reaching out to so-called minorities we should instead build and nurture relationships with the communities in which minorities reside. This is a process which takes time and effort. Politicians cannot ignore us 364 days of the year only to drive by on the 31st of December. Thanks but no thanks. By then its too late.
Second, respect and sincerity are tantamount. People are not stupid. We know when we have been ignored. We know when we are being played, humored, insulted, pandered to or used. See http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/08/31/trump-black-outreach-birther-column/89579360/. Politicians cannot consistently run against us and then expect our vote.
Next, we advise a hands on approach to community outreach. The use of intermediaries and surrogates, even if they are members of the target community should by limited to the greatest extent possible.
Instead, get to know us by personally spending time in our homes and communities. Abstain from scripted dialogues. Speak directly to our issues and concerns in an honest, sincere and straight forward manner. We may still disagree. But at least we will respect the effort.
And while we appreciate those of faith, the African-American community is much larger than a few black ministers. We have seen recent examples of one such minister who tweeted a caricatures of an opponent in black face using blatant stereotypical language and affectations, a Hispanic representative who insists on calling members of his own ethnic group illegals and a second Hispanic surrogate who warns of taco trucks on every corner. No political candidate can win the respect of minority voters with surrogates such as these.
Fourth, treat the minority community as you would any other community. Focus not on our minority status but on us as individuals who just happen to belong to a particular group. Concentrate not on that which divides us like race, color, or religion, but on that which unites us, i. e., our common humanity.
We are not defined by our color, ethnicity, sexual preference or any other invidious demarcation. We are instead defined by what we do, and how we treat others.
Despite our differences, we are all the same. We all want good jobs, economic opportunity, great schools, safe neighborhoods and to be treated with dignity, kindness and respect. If cut, we bleed. If nurtured we prosper. And minorities do not all think alike even if to some we all look alike.
Our final advice is to appeal to the sweet spot in all humanity, e. g., character, conduct and values. The good people of Charleston who responded with love and forgiveness to the senseless murders of nine blacks in prayer by a troubled white male, the black residents of Milwaukee who cleaned up after a public disturbance over a fatal encounter between the police and a young black male, the Hispanic entrepreneurs who push carts and dream of opening their own taco stands, restaurants and businesses on American street corners. Address those who know the sting of disappointment and discrimination yet refuse to give in or give up, who go to work every day to support and protect their families, who contribute to their communities and who take responsibility for their own lives. These are the groups we should reach out to, notwithstanding their minority designation.
In conclusion, no one is a minority including people of color. And minority outreach is not about minorities. It is instead about appealing to all people of good will, regardless their ethnicity. We ignore these fundamental truths at our peril.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum