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Est. April 5, 2002
Mar 19, 2020 - Issue 810
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Why Older Black People
Support Biden

"All too often, it seems as if we (older Black people) are
only an afterthought. I cannot count the hundreds of
events I’ve attended to support progressive causes where
I’ve been the only older Black person in the room."

What’s happening in the Democratic Party saddens me. If Joe Biden secures the party’s nomination it will have been because of one demographic – older Black voters. Bernie Sanders has garnered the lion’s share of support from every other left-leaning demographic. I hope I’m wrong, but it looks like the older Black vote will make the decision and it will be Joe Biden.

As of this writing, Biden has secured 890 pledged delegates while Sanders has 736. The candidate who gets to 1,991 delegates will be the party’s choice to go up against Trump in November. Yes, with 31 primaries and caucuses remaining, it is numerically possible for Sanders to recover (click here to see the LA Progressive Delegate Count sheet – updated daily).

But, and this is a big but, upcoming races in states like Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Delaware, Maryland and others where there are large Black populations make a Sanders’ victory unlikely—especially if the older Black voters perform anything like the way they performed in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Mississippi and the younger Black turnout continues to be underwhelming.

Months ago, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) announced that 2020 would be the year of “African Americans and the Vote.” Founded Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the man behind Black History Month, ASALH has announced a new theme each year since the turn of the 20th century.

This year marks the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment (1920) granting women the right to vote. It also marks the sesquicentennial of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) granting black men the right to vote. Given this, it’s overwhelmingly appropriate for ASALH to have chosen “African Americans and the Vote” as the theme for 2020 but equally ironic is that at this pivotal point in American history, it will be older African Americans who decide the fate of this nation.

I am an older Black American and I’m also a staunch Bernie Sanders supporter. I have some sense as to why older African Americans have largely ignored Sanders and to some extent, ignored the progressive movement.

I speak from personal experience when I say that, all too often, it seems as if we (older Black people) are only an afterthought. I cannot count the hundreds of events I’ve attended to support progressive causes where I’ve been the only older Black person in the room.


As I’ve written in the past, we continue to live segregated lives in this country. Even though state-mandated segregation was ruled unconstitutional more than sixty years ago, the vast majority of Americans—including progressives (young and old)—live, work, and play among people who are racially like them.

I bet most, if not all, of my white progressive friends and colleagues wouldn’t think of belonging to a club that expressly excludes Blacks. But many of these same people live, work and play in racially homogeneous environments.

Social racial segregation is the norm in this country. Sadly, this behavior bleeds over into places of employment, places of worship and into our politics. It is the reason we have to be intentional about reversing it. And we must reverse it in order for the progressive movement to be a seriously impactful movement. Racial splintering divides and weakens us—and the enemies of progressive political change and, especially, racial justice know that and exploit it.

Older Black people ignore the movement because the movement ignores them—until, however, it’s time to vote.

Joe Biden has been cultivating relationships in the Black community for decades. He understands these relationships are as important and in some cases more important than his voting record. I could spend more time explaining why this is so but that’s a message for another time. I’ll close by saying, with older Black voters holding the keys, there should have been—and should now be—an intensive and highly intentional effort to include older Blacks at every level where serious progressive organizing is occurring.

Until that happens, none of us will get the revolution we all so desperately want and need.

This commentary was originally published by Editorial Board member and Columnist, Sharon Kyle, JD, is the Co-Founder and Publisher of the LA Progressive an online social justice magazine. With her husband Dick, she publishes several other print and online newsletters on political and social justice issues. In addition to her work with the LA Progressive, Ms. Kyle holds a Juris Doctorate, is an adjunct professor at Peoples College of Law in Los Angeles, and sits on the board of the ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter and the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party. Click here to contact the LA Progressive and Ms. Kyle.

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