Black Democrats Are Fighting Back Against 'Woke' Progressives | Opinion

We have a woke problem in America. I'm not talking about when we Black people agitate for racial justice. I'm talking about what happens when white liberals start agitating on our behalf. And what happens is nothing good.

"The most dangerous people for Black people are white liberals," Cleveland Councilman Basheer Jones recently told me. "I would rather deal with a person who is openly racist but I can do business with them than deal with a person who says 'I'm the best thing since sliced bread' but never allows me the opportunity to grow economically."

While these comments may seem surprising to people who only view politics as a red team vs. blue team exercise, Councilman Jones is one of a number of Black Democratic elected officials who are boldly calling out the vanity of performative wokeness and the excesses of white progressivism.

They have a long history to back them up. Black politics historically has tended to be pragmatic in nature. In part this stems from the fact that Black people lean towards political centrism; nearly 70 percent self-identify as either moderate or conservative. But this pragmatism is also the result of another legacy: the necessity of dealing with politicians who were hostile to Black people in order to achieve anything for the Black community.

Black pragmatism is how civil rights leaders of the past were able to sit down with President Lyndon Johnson, who was an open racist, and achieve the wins of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. On the other side of the political aisle, Richard Nixon, the last GOP presidential candidate to receive 30 percent or more of the Black vote, also had problematic views on race. But Affirmative Action was created by his administration.

In recent years, we are starting to see a new crop of Black politicians emerge who are less pragmatic and more progressive. Still, across the nation, many Black elected Democrats remain committed to the moderate pragmatism that continues to characterize most of our community. And like Councilman Jones, they are uncomfortable with white progressives driving their party over a cliff.

In Philadelphia, for example, when District Attorney Larry Krasner recently dismissed concerns about the uptick in crime, it was a Black Democrat who called him to task: former mayor Michael Nutter. "I have to wonder what kind of messed up world of white wokeness Krasner is living in to have so little regard for human lives lost—many of them Black and brown—while he advances his own national profile as a progressive District Attorney," Nutter wrote in an OpEd.

Meanwhile, in Texas, when ex-Republican-turned-Never Trump Democrat Matthew Dowd engaged in performative wokeness while dropping out of the race for lieutenant governor (he suggested that he was stepping out of the way so a minority could rise to that position), he, too, was criticized by a Black Democrat. "It seems my friend is saying that Democratic primary voters are incapable of nominating women and minorities if there is a white man on the ballot?" Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson pointed out on Twitter. "The problem is not white men running for office," Johnson went on. "The problem is the 800 pound gorilla in the room, which is the racism within the Democratic Party that many pretend doesn't exist. So the solution isn't folks like Dowd 'yielding' to candidates of color. It's addressing the racism."

Moreover, as white progressives move further and further to the Left, they often push "solutions" to the nation's racial ills that leave them in charge—a white elite cosplaying as Black revolutionaries.

You saw this in Virginia when former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe used Gov. Ralph Northam's Black face scandal to clear the field—of other Black candidates—for his failed bid against Glenn Youngkin. He, too, was excoriated by a Black Democrat.

"Terry McAuliffe has used it as a springboard to come back," former Governor Douglas Wilder told reporters. "He called on all of them to resign from office... And who did he call to step down? The Lt. Governor who was Black."

woke white progressives
MANHATTAN, NY - JUNE 19: A Caucasian protester wearing a mask holds a handmade sign made out of a bag that says, "Black Lives Matter" in Washington Square Park. This was one of the peaceful protests that happened around the country to celebrate Juneteenth day which marks the end of slavery in the United States. Protesters continue taking to the streets across America and around the world after the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer Derek Chauvin that was kneeling on his neck during for eight minutes, was caught on video and went viral. During his arrest as Floyd pleaded, "I Can't Breathe". The protest are attempting to give a voice to the need for human rights for African American's and to stop police brutality against people of color. They are also protesting deep-seated racism in America. Many people were wearing masks and observing social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photographed in the Manhattan Borough of New York on June 19, 2020, USA. Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

As retiring Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson told me, there are people who use the legitimate issue of the oppressed to promote their politics, not to assist the oppressed.
"They just use the oppressed for their own benefit," was how Jackson aptly put it.

And time after time, it has been Black Democrats who have had the fearlessness to call out the white progressives whose woke excesses harm Black Americans while they posture as our saviors. Meanwhile, the Democratic establishment largely remains silent—or worse, embraces the same woke language while abandoning our actual concerns and political preferences.

And it's no accident; it's by design. The Democratic Party is well aware of the centrism of many Black voters, and to counter that, progressives have employed an explicit strategy: They pit a progressive Black candidate who reflects the preferences of white progressives against a moderate white one whose views more closely align with the Black community. "Skilled black candidates are winning Democratic nominations not despite being progressive, but precisely because they're running to the left of their competition to have a shot at winning white liberals," a 2018 article in Politico exposing the practice explained.

Though it may be effective, this strategy is dishonest; it forces Black people to choose a Black candidate who does not share their values or their interests in the name of solidarity.

The problem is that white progressives don't listen to Black people enough. The very people that they claim to be fighting for are the ones they ignore. They claim to be doing things on our behalf, but their solutions are almost always not in our best interests, and leave them and the status quo in power. And even when they're right about a problem and a potential solution, they go too far.

It's left many of us in the Black community wondering if their agenda is truly about helping us, or if it's just about absolving progressives of their white guilt.

"What's more dangerous, an enemy or an undercover enemy who poses as a friend?" Councilman Jones asked me. "They will march with you on Monday and in the boardroom on Tuesday, they'll X you out of the contract."

The issues plaguing the Black community are real and require real solutions. And those of us who have seen the suffering on the ground have no patience for the vapid, empty sentiments and self-serving "solutions" of those who want to use our pain to increase their power.

Darvio Morrow is the CEO of the FCB Radio Network and co-host of The Outlaws Radio Show.

The views in this article are the writer's own.