The Problem with POC

Black people can be People of Color, but not all People of color are Black people.

And therein lies the problem.

People of Color, or POC, came into use by Black people in the 1960’s and it grew to include just about everyone in America who do not identity as white.

There was a certain camaraderie and inclusion built into the term and it was, in many parts of the country, welcomed with hope for a better union of people, ideas, and voting strategies.

POC as a popular way of identification also seemed to make sense as the nonwhite population grew and non African-American percentage of the non-white population declined.

The growth of Latino/Hispanic people pushed their populations past African-Americans, as was long predicted, but the diaspora of Latino/Hispanic people lacked the political capital of African-Americans who had begun occupying elected roles at all levels of local, State, and Federal positions following hard fought Civil Rights battles.

It was presumed that the interests of Latino/Hispanic people overlapped those of Black people – and indeed the Civil Rights work was designed to include all people who were negatively impacted by Jim Crow, segregation, and institutional racism.

The presumption was correct and the progress Black people saw as an outgrowth of Civil Rights laws was also shared by Latino/Hispanic Americans (and of course white women who befitted more than anyone).

But the shared benefits of the struggle and blowback that was mostly directed at Black activists did not morph into the type of combined political power that would upend the old two-system political party or the tried and true American racial dichotomy of Black versus White.

The division of POC to the political parties did not break the way most social scientists, political analysts, or democratic operatives projected. And though most Latino/Hispanic and Asian voters vote at the federal level for Democrats, the Republican Party must see itself as extremely successful for siphoning off significant numbers of POC voters.

A healthy dose of Latino/Hispanic voters moved to the Republican Party leaving Democratic Party experts and African-American voters confused and disappointed that the struggle for equality and equity that benefit Latino/Hispanic voters was ignored in favor of the Grand Old Party.

Latino/Hispanic voters choosing the GOP over the Democrats could have been predicted, had the prognosticators considered that, like the Black diaspora, Latino/Hispanic people are also not a monolith and the range of people who identify as Latino, Hispanic, and Asian, cover a range of people that are all colors, all income groups, and political persuasions.

And like Black voters who almost all vote democratic at the Federal level, Black voting preferences differ in the South, where the majority of Black people live, versus Black voters in the Midwest, east, or west.

So it stands to reason that western Mexican-American voters are not the same as eastern Puerto Rican voters, Florida’s Cuban-American voters who regularly vote for republicans.

And of course, all of the Latino, Hispanic, Island, Mexican, and Cuban voters also include Black people, since Black people can be from anywhere.

But for president it would seem that the democrats would have an upper-hand in winning over all versions of POC and, when combined with Black voters, could build an unbeatable coalition that would make the GOP obsolete.

But it has not come to fruition as many predicted.

While most Latino/Hispanics voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, according to the New York Times, many voted for Trump, with Latino/Hispanic 32% and Asian at 34%.

Compare those percentages to Black people who, also according to the New York Times, collectively voted for Biden/Harris at 87%, with Black women at 91%.

Latino/Hispanic and Asian voters have shared in the benefits brought upon by Black activists and Black historical figures, but far too many have turned their backs on those who lead the struggle today in favor of siding with whiteness and the party that also includes the proud boys, the Klan, white nationalists, and white supremacists.

For all the criticism leveled at Black men who voted for Trump – and rightly so, since 18% is beyond shameful – Latino/Hispanic and Asian both more than doubled the percentage of Black men who voted republican.

The Trump administration hated all minorities and none more than Black people. But after Black people, the Trump team hated Mexican-Americans the most. They flooded the airwaves and social media – especially Facebook – with hatred and racism, and spent billions stealing and caging babies, kids, and their parents, and created an entire “disappearing team” to make sure the kids and many of the parents are never heard from again.

Trump still hasn’t helped Puerto Rico recover from their hurricane, blamed China for the pandemic, played footsie with North Korea’s dictator, supported the Brazilian dictator, helped the Venezuelan strongman, and warned his followers of “invading caravans” of rapists, thieves, criminals, drug dealers, and poor people from South America who are coming here to “Change white people’s way of living.”

So what to make of ~35% of Latino/Asian voters who received Trump’s hatred messages and decided that they agreed with him?

Certainly the willingness of POC men and Black men to align themselves with misogyny played a significant role in siding with a man whose disregard and mistreatment of girls and women are shocking but unsurprising and run the gamut of infidelity to sexual assault and rape, all the way to his inappropriate relationship with his oldest daughter.

Social scientists will deep dive into the 2020 election for all the usual reasons – who won, who got the most votes and where did those votes come from, which States and districts flipped and why, and of course the racial and gender make-up of the voters.

The 2020 election will also present research and studying opportunities for what we now know is the presidential election that generated the most votes, most suppression of Black voters, most threats and intimidation by white voters, longest voting lines, and of course the same tired and baseless accusations by republicans of voter fraud and illegal votes.

Democrats won with an older white man and young Black and Asian woman on the ticket. The combination of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won with over 75 million votes, over three-hundred electoral college votes, and beat the incumbent by six-million votes.

Their victory is history-making no matter how it is sliced and diced.

But more than anything, the 2020 election may prove to be a marker in time that may be the last time a presidential team can expect to win without a Latino/Hispanic on the ticket.

And any Latino/Hispanic presidential candidate will need Black people to vote for them as much as they will need POC voters.

The first party to really solve the “POC problem” will be the party that can plan on holding the office of the president for years to come. But to do that, the parties will need to recognize what Black people have been painfully aware of for sometime now: that POC and Black are not one and the same.

© 2020 by Myron J. Clifton

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