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African Americans Should Expand Their Civic Engagement Beyond The Democratic Party


President Trump Meets With Members Of The Congressional Black Caucus
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 IJR Opinion is an opinion platform and any opinions or information put forth by contributors are exclusive to them and do not represent the views of IJR.

When we hear about the state of African Americans, we often hear stories about the crime in Chicago or the urban blight in cities like Detroit. However, we don’t frequently hear about the progress that we have made as a community, which is why I think it’s time for us to be civically involved in both political parties.

Yes, you read that correctly. We need to be involved in both political parties because Democrats won’t always be in power - they are in the minority at the moment - and if the 2016 election taught us anything, we should have learned that elections have consequences.

I have always maintained that we should think strategically in terms of politics, particularly as our wealth and the number of college-educated African Americans increase. I completely understand why an overwhelming majority of African Americans don’t vote for Republicans. I also understand that I am in the minority in our community. However, if we think strategically in terms of politics, I think we as a community would benefit.

And Republicans, whether they want to admit it or not, are going to have to start reaching out to minorities. It may not be today, but the reality is that America is becoming a more diverse nation. Republicans will need all types of people to move their agenda forward, but their agenda is also going to have to be representative of some of the concerns of those new faces.

Typically, when we think about diversity, we think about large cities like Atlanta, Houston or Chicago, but the reality is that we are beginning to see major demographic trends in places we haven’t seen in the past, such as Ohio and suburban areas Texas and Michigan. The point I am attempting to make is that these trends not only impact commerce, but they also impact politics, which is why it is crucial for African Americans to be involved in both political parties. Many of these places are overwhelmingly represented by Republicans, and since all politics is local, we have to be engaged so that the interests of African Americans are well represented.

I certainly understand this is a hard concept for many African Americans because the thought of voting for a Republican likely brings up negative feelings. It is not my intention to delegitimize those feelings, but we must think less with our emotions as it pertains to politics and more so strategically.

I think this is a real possibility because we have done it with corporations. Major brands are marketing not only to black consumers but to consumers by and large based on African American habits. For example, Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, Nielsen Senior Vice President for Strategic Community Alliance and Consumer Engagement, stated: “Companies who aren't addressing [diversity] now are going to find themselves a bit out of sorts when the minority become the majority.” She went on to say how “marketers have got to keep pace in understanding what’s important to diverse communities.” Businesses and politicians alike are asking themselves: “How do we compete?”

What is most important about Pearson-McNeil's quote is that African Americans must learn that as a community, we have had an unprecedented impact across a number of areas culturally and socially. That impact can and should be translated to politics in a way that gives us an advantage with both political parties.

It may be a hard pill for many to swallow, and I completely understand why. But this is about expanding our political influence so that it benefits our community regardless to what party the president belongs or who runs Congress.