5 important issues for Black men this election season

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

This election cycle and every election cycle, Black men must be engaged in the same way that political parties intentionally engage other demographics. Unfortunately, Black men are rarely sought out nor are their concerns carefully considered by the typical political candidate. It is true that some candidates will host barbershop tours, but those usually come the weekend or two before the election. But Black men are worthy of early and consistent engagement. That’s why Faith in Florida hosted five listening sessions with Black men over the past year. We have engaged young men and men of all ages and from all backgrounds. This was important as Black male voters felt ignored by political parties.

After hosting listening sessions in Florida — and several members of the Black Southern Women’s Collaborative in Louisiana and Georgia have also held listening sessions — here are five issues we learned are critically important to Black men this election cycle.

1. Equitable education. From childhood, Black male children are criminalized in schools and in the community. Very few schools create environments that are conducive to Black boys learning and thriving. From a lack of support, crumbling infrastructure, a lack of investment and policies that marginalize and criminalize Black boys, Black boys aren’t always given every opportunity to learn. Education equity from pre-kindergarten through college is necessary. One of the ways we can do this is by hiring Black male educators, Black educators, but also investing in public education.

2. Living wages. Black men want to care for themselves and their loved ones. Unfortunately, many experience unemployment, underemployment and racism in the workplace. Black men earn far less than their white male counterparts. In 2020, Black men earned 75 cents for every $1 dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men according to the Center for American Progress. Black men who haven’t graduated college or who have a criminal record may struggle to find gainful employment. Elected officials seeking the Black male vote need to have a plan to ensure Black men can earn living wages.

3. Inflation. While costs have increased, wages have remained stagnant. This impacts all people but has an outsized impact on Black communities. The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond found that “Black households faced 13.5 percent higher inflation volatility, making it more difficult to predict and recalibrate their consumption and savings.”


4. Rights restoration. In 2022, there were 4.4 million Americans who were barred from voting due to a felony conviction, according to the Sentencing Project. “In two states – Alabama and Tennessee – more than 8 percent of the adult population, one of every 13 adults, is disenfranchised,” the Sentencing Project notes. “Florida remains a state with the most people who are disenfranchised with over 1.1 million people currently banned from voting, often because they cannot afford to pay court-ordered monetary sanctions.” The Sentencing Project also notes that “In seven states – Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wyoming – more than one in seven African Americans is disenfranchised, twice the national average for African Americans.”

5. Policing in predominantly Black communities. Black communities continue to be over-policed, racially profiled and subject to harsh policing. As a result, Black people continue to be brutalized by police more often and more severely. Black people, like all people, want to live in communities and not fear police violence. If elected leaders are not developing plans to reign in abusive policing policies and practices, they are not hearing the desires of Black males. Black men also want to see not only the decriminalization of marijuana but also restorative justice for persons who have been incarcerated based on cannabis charges.

Black men deserve to be viewed as their own voting bloc. Unfortunately, there is a disparity within some political parties around engagement resources targeting Black male voters and investments for engagement with other voters. But it’s deeper than conversation. If political parties want to engage Black men in a more sophisticated and effective manner, they need to invest in Black-led grassroots groups that tend to have a greater degree of trust with voters. These groups must be fully funded in order to have an impact. This election cycle, Black men are saying, stop writing us off and the Black Southern Women’s Collaborative agrees.

Rev. Rhonda Thomas is the executive director of Faith in Florida and a member of the Black Southern Women’s Collaborative.

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