'I purely vote for my actual interests': Black men could be critical bloc in presidential election

Karl Williams from Brooklyn, N.Y., believes that Black people have “nothing to win” in this year’s presidential race with either President Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden. 

“There’s no policy platform being presented that’s going to address any needs of Black men,” Williams, an investor who trades options, said in a video interview with Yahoo News.

Despite this conviction, Williams plans to vote for Trump for a second time on Nov. 3.

“I support Trump,” said Williams, 34, who describes his reasoning as based solely on the prospect of personal financial gain, since he invests in the stock market. 

“I purely vote for my actual interests,” he said. “Neither candidate is addressing any of my needs as a Black man, but I do have one candidate that will give me a favorable tax situation.”

With one week left until the general election, some experts say Black men are a key demographic that could shock the country on Election Day and vote for Trump in surprising numbers. Since at least 2000, the percentage of Black voters who identify or lean Democrat has never fallen below 81 percent, according to Pew Research, but this year, Black men, like Williams, have been vocal about their interests and their belief they are often an afterthought of politicians who assume they will all vote Democrat.

In fact, new polling out of Texas shows that Trump maintains a narrow lead in the state in large part thanks to the Black vote. Among likely voters, 47 percent of respondents said they would vote for Trump, compared to 43 percent for Biden, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll on Monday. Among Black voters, Biden leads Trump by a margin of 78 percent to Trump’s 12 percent, a smaller margin than in 2016, when Trump garnered only 8 percent of the Black vote, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 82 percent.

While gaining the Black vote is often a priority for presidential candidates, Black men, compared to Black women, have shown a willingness to choose someone other than the Democratic nominee or not vote at all. In 2016, 98 percent of Black women voted for Clinton, compared to just 81 percent of Black men. Overall that year, only 54 percent of eligible Black men voted at all, down from over 60 percent in 2012, according to Pew Research.

An election official wearing a protective mask at an early voting polling location in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg)An election official wearing a protective mask at an early voting polling location in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg)
An election official wearing a protective mask at an early voting polling location in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg)

A drop-off in Black votes from President Barack Obama’s second term to 2016 played a critical role in helping Trump win in the battleground states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. But higher Black voter turnout this year could push Florida, Georgia and North Carolina blue, in favor of Biden.

This year a record 30 million Black Americans are eligible to vote for president. Of that number, one-third live in nine of the country’s most competitive states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

Ken Blackwell worked on the Trump transition team in 2016 and says he helped the administration create its Black strategy. Now he serves on the advisory board for the Trump and Pence campaign and is a member of the Black Voices for Trump organization.

“The key thing in this race is promises made are promises kept,” Blackwell, 72, told Yahoo News in a phone interview. Black men “should look for someone who actually is working to give them a fair opportunity to be an architect of their own future and their own upliftment. It should be someone who respects their human dignity and understands they don’t have to be wards of the state.”

Blackwell believes that if Trump can get 15 percent of the Black vote — besting George W. Bush’s 14 percent in 2004 — it would put the president in a good position to win the election. 

Blackwell, who previously served as mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio state treasurer and Ohio secretary of state, adds that Obama’s time in office proved that America is in a new place, past systemic racism. 

“On the one hand you can’t buy into the progress [of Obama] and then ascribe to the New York Times 1619 Project that the country is racist and needs to restart,” said Blackwell. “You don’t say that somebody practices euthanasia because of a birth defect. America has moved past the birth defect of institutional racism. Do you still have racists? Yes. We don’t have the Black codes. We don’t have institutional racism.”

Yet a number of studies have pointed out that institutional racism — a combination of inaccessible or biased health care providers, inadequate education systems, unemployment, hazardous jobs, unsafe housing and polluted communities — has meant that Blacks have more health issues and die earlier than their white counterparts. Institutional racism is cited as the reason that Black people in Louisiana account for more than 53 percent of those who have died from COVID-19, although they make up only 33 percent of the population in the state. 

Black voters take to the polls to cast ballots. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)Black voters take to the polls to cast ballots. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Black voters take to the polls to cast ballots. (Jahi Chikwendiu/the Washington Post via Getty Images)

Remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic has also exacerbated the differences in education between white and Black youth. Apart from qualitative education gaps, Black students are disciplined at greater rates than any other race, an analysis of federal data from 2017 by the Education Week Research Center finds. “In 28 states, the share of arrested students who are Black is at least 10% higher than their share of enrollment in schools with at least one arrest,” the report found. “In 10 of those states, that gap is at least 20%.”

Bryan “Hotep Jesus” Sharpe says that Trump’s alpha personality and masculinity “subconsciously speaks to Black men.”

“Malcolm X said that Black people are political footballs for white liberals,” Sharpe, 40, told Yahoo News. “Look at the numbers,” he added, pointing to the 98 percent of Black women and 81 percent of Black men who voted for Clinton.

“Obviously there’s little diversity in the vote unlike every other race,” Sharpe added. “How can you expect any promises kept when your vote is taken for granted?”

Ty, a 35-year-old Black Trump supporter from North Carolina who asked that only his first name be used, said that a lot of people don’t like how the president speaks but that he’s a “straight shooter.”

“Black men have benefited from [Trump’s] policies directly pre-COVID-19, especially in the blue-collar sector,” said Ty. “I expect 10 percent Black women and a 30 percent Black men turnout [for Trump]. … Trump has been willing to have the conversation with the Black community.

“Ben Carson is in his Cabinet working diligently on housing reform, and Tim Scott with opportunity zones helps with more Black people getting into real estate.”

President Trump listens to U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson speak during a briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)President Trump listens to U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson speak during a briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson speaks at the White House. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Yet the Trump administration’s critics point out it has been rolling back progress the Obama administration made when it comes to housing. This summer, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson terminated the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which helped ensure fair and equal housing. Through this provision, “Congress directed HUD to make sure that neither the agency itself, nor the cities, counties, states and public housing agencies it funds, discriminate in their programs,” according to the National Fair Housing Alliance website.

Additionally, this week, a new rule took effect that invalidates “disparate impact,” a key tool used to measure discriminatory practices in housing. Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro said these moves prove the Trump administration is fine with rolling back housing progress

Castro argues the Trump administration’s changes make it harder to prove discrimination by a landlord or lender when it comes to housing decisions. 

“This administration is taking us backward by undoing the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule and weaponizing it in this political environment,” said Castro. “Really what they’re saying is that they’re OK with a 1950s model of the suburb that is lily-white [and] not integrated.”

The economy is one area in which Trump has fared well. Polls show that voters favor Trump over Biden when it comes to the economy and the stock market, even though experts say Trump inherited a sound economy.

Still, a number of celebrities and big businessmen have called into question Biden’s plan to tax the wealthy.

Last week, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson seemingly endorsed Trump on Instagram after posting Biden’s proposed tax plan, which would raise rates for those making over $400,000 a year. The caption of the post read, “I don’t care Trump doesn’t like Black people 62% are you out of ya f—ing mind?” 

On Monday, Jackson evidently walked back his endorsement with a tweet saying, “Fu*k Donald Trump, I never liked him.”

Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson performs onstage at STARZ Madison Square Garden "Power" Season 6 Red Carpet Premiere. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for STARZ)Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson performs onstage at STARZ Madison Square Garden "Power" Season 6 Red Carpet Premiere. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for STARZ)
50 Cent performs at the Starz Madison Square Garden “Power” Season 6 red carpet and premiere. (Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Starz)

Rapper Ice Cube also made headlines this month when it was revealed that he had been working with the Trump administration on a plan for Black America. Cube created a “Contract With Black America,” or CWBA, this summer with the help of Black activists in the hopes of engaging elected officials. 

To quell the immediate backlash, Cube tweeted, “I put out the CWBA. Both parties contacted me. Dems said we’ll address the CWBA after the election. Trump campaign made some adjustments to their plan after talking to us about the CWBA.”

But the former N.W.A. member appeared to falter when talking about his plan in an appearance to discuss it with Black journalists Roland Martin and April D. Ryan. 

Cube maintains that “Black progress is a nonpartisan issue.”

“When we created the Contract With Black America we expected to talk to both sides of the isle,” he tweeted. “Talking truth to power is part of the process.”

As it stands, the Trump administration has put forth a two-page “Platinum Plan” that states it will “increase access to capital in Black communities by almost $500 billion.”

The Biden campaign, for its part, has put forth a comprehensive plan for Black America that seeks to close the racial wealth and income gaps, tackle racial inequity in the education system and “strengthen America’s commitment to justice.”

But not all Black male voters feel positive about Trump or Biden. As an independent voter, Jordan Barton of San Marcos, Calif., doesn’t plan to vote for either candidate. 

“I don’t think Black men or women should vote for either one of these candidates until there is a tangible plan in place for the Black community as a whole and that plan is actively being implemented,” Barton, 25, told Yahoo News. “But at the end of the day it comes down to how do you like your racism served? Blatant or systemic? To your face or behind your back?

“To me, Trump thinks and acts like most white men in America, he’s just not PC with it,” added Barton. “Biden, on the other hand, is like the white woman who screams ‘Black Lives Matter’ but clutches her purse as I walk by.”

President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
President Trump and Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Biden has picked up some notable endorsements from Black men in recent weeks, even if they seem rooted more in a rejection of Trump. Music mogul Diddy endorsed Biden earlier this month and launched a new Black party in the same Twitter thread.

“The NUMBER ONE priority is to get Trump out of office,” Diddy tweeted. “HE HAS TO GO. … We need to get Biden in and hold him accountable. Trump has taken things too far. As Black people, we aren’t even a topic of real discussion.

“I’m launching one of the boldest things I’ve ever launched,” Diddy continued. “I’m launching a Black political party with some young Black elected officials and activists. It’s called @OurBlackParty.”

The Black Party, according to its website, will look to “advance a political agenda that addresses the needs of Black people.” 

Radio host Charlamagne Tha God isn’t quite sold on Biden, but vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris is the reason he’s voting Democrat this year.

“I’m not necessarily voting for Joe Biden, I’m voting for Sen. Kamala Harris,” Charlamagne told CNN’s Don Lemon last week. “I believe she’s a political change agent, exactly the leader this country needs to lead us in the future. If she’s not, I’ll just be wrong. … I’m just so tired of old white male leadership in politics.”

On Friday, Harris spoke directly to Black men at a roundtable in Atlanta.

“I’m not going to tell anybody, including Black men, that they’re supposed to vote for us,” said Harris. “We need to earn that vote. Joe Biden has the ability to say the words ‘Black Lives Matter,’ unlike that other fella.”

Harris also defended her record as a prosecutor, which has often come under scrutiny for putting Black men and women in jail. Harris acknowledged her role in a “flawed” system and promised that, if elected, a Biden White House would understand that “Black boys and Black men have to be seen through the prism of life” and that “these systems have failed them.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) addresses a crowd. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) addresses a crowd. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Sen. Kamala Harris addresses a crowd. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Kamau Marshall, director of strategic communications for the Biden campaign, says that Trump has shown the country who he is the past four years and hasn’t put Black interest at the forefront. In contrast, he says, Biden’s plan for Black America does just that.

“Joe Biden has plans for Black men, especially when it comes to economics, wealth and their health,” Marshall told Yahoo News in a phone interview. “We have a president that has failed the American people and we are in a global pandemic. There is a major difference when it comes to Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Let’s be clear, Trump has shown us who he is.”

The Trump campaign has touted its strategy for reaching out to Black voters, but critics see it as more a campaign to get those voters to stay home on Election Day.

When it comes to Black men voting, Marshall also believes the Trump administration is more interested in suppressing the Black vote than actually getting more Black men to vote Republican.

For the Trump campaign, “it’s not about Black men turning out, it’s about them trying to ensure they don’t turn out,” said Marshall. “Black men see who he is because he’s shown us.”

Trey Baker, national director of African American engagement for the Biden campaign, understands that some people may question all of the information surrounding the accuracy of voting because of all of the misinformation available. But he feels this is exactly why he would tell people their vote matters.

“If I was talking to my homeboy, [I’d tell him] they are working so hard to misinform or send you over here or there to vote, there must be something inherent in your voting power that they are trying to keep down,” said Baker. “I think it’s un-American.”

An election official wearing gloves assists a voter at an early voting polling location for the 2020 Presidential election on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg)An election official wearing gloves assists a voter at an early voting polling location for the 2020 Presidential election on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg)
An election official wearing gloves assists a voter at an early voting polling location for the 2020 Presidential election on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg)

In response to Trump’s repeated assertion of being the best president for Black people since Abraham Lincoln, Baker points to the rising death toll from the coronavirus, the surge in unemployment numbers and Trump’s frequent refusal to condemn white supremacists. “The record speaks for itself,” he said. 

Williams, the Brooklyn resident who plans to vote for Trump, says he predicted the real estate magnate’s win four years ago and believes he will win again.

“I honestly think he’s probably going to win,” he said, “and I’m positive Black men are going to be blamed for it once he does win.”

Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images (2)

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