Commentary: Don’t Vote for Obama Just Because He’s Black

Radio host Tom Joyner wants Blacks to support President Obama out of racial loyalty. That’s crazy.

While the GOP sorts through who it wants to pit against Barack Obama in next year’s presidential election, the president has been amassing a war chest capable of putting up a proper fight come November 2012. He’ll need it. With unemployment at a whopping 9.1 percent, and economic growth at a trickle, it’s not going to be easy for Obama to convince many Americans to give him a second chance, and things are even more ugly for Blacks. The Black unemployment rate is at nearly 17 percent, and Blacks are doing worse than whites in practically every financial metric you can dream up.


Naturally, some African-Americans may be wary of voting for Obama next year. After offering the president unprecedented support only to still suffer with disproportionate financial anguish, it makes sense that families may want to consider their political options a bit more deeply. But don’t tell that to Tom Joyner.


You may know Joyner from his syndicated morning radio show. You may also know Joyner from the fact that, for the past several months, he’s been advocating for Black Americans to continue to support Obama for president in 2012; not because of any particular Obama policy, however, but because Obama is Black.


In a July blog post on his Black America Web blog, Joyner wrote:


“Let’s not even deal with the facts right now. Let’s deal with just our blackness and pride — and loyalty. We have the chance to reelect the first African-American president, and that’s what we ought to be doing. And I’m not afraid or ashamed to say that as black people, we should do it because he’s a black man. There are a great number of people who are against him because he’s a black man. That should be enough motivation for us to band together and get it done.” 


Joyner has since showed no signs of distancing himself from his Black-loyalty calls, and one assumes they’ll only get stronger as the election approaches. What’s more, though, he’s got a much bigger platform than most, and it’s likely Joyner is not alone in his belief that Blacks should vote for Obama because he’s Black. Perhaps even you agree with him. If so, you should probably think long and hard about what you’re planning on come the 2012 vote.


Loyalty to people who look like you is a difficult temptation to shake off. All our lives, we’re taught to protect our family, and many African-Americans have come to view the entire Black community as "family." It’s a defense mechanism from the days when Blacks were constantly living under the threat of violence from whites and, thus, a Black man in a strange town would occasionally need to turn to Black strangers for safety, food, shelter, etc. Nowadays, shaking off that blind loyalty to Blacks over whites can be difficult, but one must if one wants to progress forward.


The fact of the matter is that not every white has always been out to get Blacks, nor has every Black always had the best intentions for the Black community in mind. That’s not to say that Obama has turned his back on Blacks — indeed, he’s done a lot for the Black community while in office — but to vote for him based on only his skin color is insane. Not just because that makes you no better than someone who doesn’t vote for him because he’s black, but also because loyalty based on Blackness gives people no reason to learn about politics and policy, and thoughtfully weigh their options when it comes to electing a candidate. In other words, Tom Joyner wants to keep people dumb. Don’t let him.


The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

(Photo: Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)

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