I was born in Alabama in the middle of the civil rights struggle. The impact of the injustice of that era was probably the first real political awareness of mine — and my desire for equal justice under the law has not changed since then.
Right now, we are working on a ballot access drive in Alabama. When all is said and done, this drive will have illustrated once again that black people are considerably more likely than white people to sign our petition.
When I’m working city council races in Birmingham, black people are generally more receptive to door-to-door canvassing. They are generally more willing to speak with poll workers passing out push cards on Election Day.
Perhaps Alabama is an anomaly because so much of the history of the civil rights movement happened on our streets, but I don’t believe this to be the case. I’ve directly seen (or studied) similar responses in DC, Detroit, Watts and Compton, Chicago and Atlanta. My theory is that many black people are understandably protecting their recently won rights of equal representation at the polling place. Additionally, many black people with whom I speak don’t feel that most black political leaders represent their political interests.
It is my opinion that the Libertarian Party has not placed enough emphasis on minority outreach. Part of this is because (IMO) a lot of black leaders have co-opted the civil rights movement into one which pads their wallets or gives their egos some laurels to rest upon. Libertarians universally accept the “one man, one vote” concept, but are naturally skeptical about any movement which calls for black people to have any decided advantage in the polling place.
The other side of the coin presents that while many laws state that “all pigs are equal”, there are many areas in real life where the white ones are more equal than the others. Issues such as the impact of the War on Drugs, racial profiling and the disproportionate rate of minorities to caucasians in our prison systems serve as examples. Most libertarians, especially of the constitutionalist variety, believe that no majority should be able to impose its will on the minority.
A great deal of the black people I know either own or have an immediate family member running a small business. It is my belief that many black people have a stronger natural or environmental predisposition towards libertarianism than their white counterparts. However, I’ve looked at many libertarian crowds around the country and I’m often disappointed about the minority turnout at these events.
With such a large and friendly block of voters, candidates, volunteers and contributors out there, why isn’t the libertarian movement and the Libertarian Party attracting a greater number of minority participants? Part of the reason may be that many libertarians are so color-blind that they don’t even see race as an factor when dealing with others. Another reason seems to be that libertarians tend to prefer a safe and comfortable libertarian crowd, as opposed to becoming involved in outreach efforts with non-libertarians. Loretta Nall seems to be a recent exception to this rule, but she’s been criticized for speaking at events organized by racial minority political groups.
I certainly don’t claim to know all of the solutions to this problem, but I would like to start the dialogue about how to effectively reach out to our allies in the black community.