JEFFREY L. BONEY
It happens every year.
Yard signs placed by campaign operatives infiltrate our neighborhoods and litter our streets, hoping that you familiarize yourself with their respective political candidate and translate that familiarity into a vote for that candidate.
It’s no secret why radio stations play the same songs over and over again. They want that song to grow on you, even if you don’t initially like it. Very rarely does a song become popular after one or two listens. Familiarity is the first step to a song becoming liked.
That’s the reason why during election season, radio ads become more frequent, print mailers get sent out in mass quantity to registered voters, and television ads are placed during key shows on the network.
One act of political familiarity that I’ve always disdained has been how political candidates use gimmicks to obtain votes from the Black community – chicken dinners, barbecue cookouts, fish plates, steak days, gift cards, air conditioners for senior citizens, etc. All of these gimmicks have and continue to be used to get people to vote for a particular candidate.
Yet once they get the Black vote, we don’t hear from them again…until the next election cycle.
It always fascinates me the way political candidates scurry around during election season trying to obtain votes to get elected or reelected. They visit a church here, do block walks and knock on a door there, kiss our babies, shake our hands, and even give us stuff to get us out to vote.
However, when it comes to developing solid policies to help the Black community, many of those same candidates disappear, never to be heard from again…until the next election cycle.
Historically, many in the Black community have treated elected officials as if they are high-profile celebrities. Instead of talking to them about policy, many of us are looking to take pictures with them as if they are Hollywood stars, rather than as public servants elected to serve the people.
When it comes to developing solid policy for the Black community, where is the evidence that we have held elected officials accountable for their failure to do so? There is very little reciprocity from those candidates once they become elected officials.
I am talking about the elected officials that we continue to elect and reelect. Yet they have done very little to educate, equip and inform the Black community about key issues in matters concerning them, nor developed any sound policy that has made a difference.
What have they done?
Ask yourself when was the last time one of your elected officials drafted or advocated for policies at the local, state or at the federal level that positively impacted you?
You may have been invited to a fish fry, steak dinner or community social event. But you know the Black community has been shortchanged when it comes to advocacy and policy.
We deserve to be treated like a partner in a serious relationship, not some fling on the side, where politicians whisper sweet nothings in our ears to get the only thing they really want – the Black vote.
Elected officials are not highly-paid Hollywood entertainers. They are public servants and we need to stop acting as if they are the hottest celebrity.
We need effective policies developed. We must to stop allowing elected officials to make promises to us, close the deal (get our vote), and forget or ignore us until they need our vote again. We must demand sound policy and hold elected officials accountable for being real advocates for their constituents – us!
Same energy, effort
The same energy and effort these elected officials use to get elected or re-elected should be the same energy they use when it comes to sitting down with their constituents, understand their needs, and advocating for policies that positively impact the Black community.
If the constituents of these elected officials have not progressed, and are no more advanced as a result of their leadership, it is time to start looking for new leadership.
Politicians, keep your chicken dinners, barbecue cookouts, fish plates, steak days, gift cards, air conditioners for senior citizens, etc.
Give us what we really need: sound policy and advocacy.
Jeffrey L. Boney is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.