Saturday, April 1, 2023

For Progressives, Solidarity with the Black Community Comes with Conditions

Progressives seem to have a problem when it comes to their claim of solidarity with the black community—it turns out that their solidarity comes with conditions. They expect agreement. And in the case of Super Tuesday, there seems to be significant disagreement between progressives and black voters. This is a problem because it is difficult to enlist the support of communities if those same communities think you disrespect them.

Joe Biden is running victory laps after Super Tuesday, largely because of black voters. Progressives are not happy about the election results and have defaulted to ugly—though not new— talking points: black voters are “low information voters”, black voters are puppets of the establishment, black voters lack the capacity to decide for themselves which box on their ballot to check.

This narrative that black voters are being controlled by “the establishment” because they lack information implies that their candidate preferences aren’t based on their own lived experiences. That is erasure. But the narrative also implies that they are surprised that black voters broke so heavily for Joe Biden. They shouldn’t be.

We see a similar phenomenon in conversations about the education of black children. Black primary voters are much more likely than white progressives to support charter schools and school choice. They value educational freedom, largely because unlike white progressives, they have historically been zoned to schools that have been failing for generations. And it is common for progressives to disrespect black parents with assertions that they are not equipped to make decisions about where their children should go to school, that they just don’t have the right information, that they aren’t smart, enlightened or elite enough.

It’s like the Whole Foods crowd that lobbies to have Dollar Stores shut down— they think they know best what should happen to stores they don’t use in neighborhoods and zip codes they don’t visit.

Progressives are the last people we should look to if we want to improve outcomes for the black community and for black children. It is undeniable that the most progressive cities have the largest gaps between black and white student achievement. People of good faith can debate why that is the case but they can’t deny that it’s true.

Autonomy and self-determination, whether exercised in the voting booth or at kindergarten registration, are sacred. And no matter how hard some try to make the case that that black Americans lack the capacity or agency to make choices for themselves, it will never be true.

The real problem is when anyone—especially those who pose as allies—tries to deny them the freedom to make those choices.


Now, for some hard truths wrapped in great comedy, I recommend this:

Erika Sanzi
Erika Sanzi is a former educator and elected school committee member. She is also a senior visiting fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Her blog is Good School Hunting and her Substack is Sanzi Says. She occasionally writes for other outlets including Scary Mommy, The 74, and The Hill. She is the mother of three school aged sons and calls Rhode Island home.



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