For Black men, politics is like baseball: A game of inches

Donald Trump’s messaging can be enticing, but he won’t help Black men achieve more.
Rappers Sheff G (right) and Sleepy Hallow (center) join former President Donald Trump at a May 23 campaign rally in the south Bronx in New York. (Yuki Iwamura/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Rappers Sheff G (right) and Sleepy Hallow (center) join former President Donald Trump at a May 23 campaign rally in the south Bronx in New York. (Yuki Iwamura/AP)

As a Black man in America, I am keenly aware of how the intersectionality of race and poverty has led to racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Black men, compared with their white counterparts, have higher arrests by police, greater conviction rates in the courts, longer sentencing in jails and prisons, and greater challenges to reintegrate into society after their release from incarceration.

Why, then, are Black men the new focus of the Donald Trump reelection campaign, especially those who were formerly incarcerated? The answer to this question lies with the analogy that politics, like baseball, is a game of inches.

Much attention has been given to the Trump rally in the Bronx on May 23. At this rally, Trump prominently featured two rappers facing gang-related charges. By inviting Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow on stage, Trump, who casts himself as being persecuted by the criminal justice system, was sending the subtle message that he understands the plight of Black men.

Credit: Rebecca Breyer

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Credit: Rebecca Breyer

Most political pundits believe the upcoming presidential election between President Biden and Trump will be determined by a few thousand votes across several swing key states, including Georgia.

Democrats have long enjoyed the support of Black voters. Unfortunately, there are signs this loyal bloc is eroding, largely because of the departure of Black men.

Black women are the backbone of the Democratic Party. Their political engagement played a large role in the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff winning U.S. Senate seats in 2020 and in Biden’s victory in the presidential race.

This is not the case for Black men. Their numbers are slipping in the Democratic Party, as evidenced by the reelection of Georgia Gov. Brian P. Kemp, who increased his level of Black support from 5% to 12% in 2022, mostly driven by increased support from Black men.

I was recently interviewed by a London TV show. The topic was “Why are Blacks leaving the Democratic Party for Trump?” The other panelists were two Black men who left the Democratic Party and are now ardent supporters of Trump.

Though incredulous to me, their reasoning for supporting Trump included that he is being politically persecuted by a weaponized Justice Department and that he will be better for the economy.

This message seems to be resonating. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll showed Trump’s support among Black Americans increased to 23% from 4% in 2020. In Georgia, it’s 15%.

However, what is alarming is not the fact that Black men are supporting Trump but rather the reasons behind it. Trump’s narrative of victimization and persecution is appealing to a demographic that has historically faced systemic racism and discrimination. By positioning himself as a political outsider fighting against the establishment, Trump is beginning to tap into the frustrations and disillusionment felt by some Black men.

Moreover, Trump’s focus on the economy and job creation also strikes a chord with Black men, who are often disproportionately affected by economic downturns and unemployment. Despite the fact that Trump’s policies have not benefited the Black community as a whole, his messaging creates a sense of hope and opportunity for those who feel marginalized and left behind.

It is important to note, however, that Trump’s appeal to Black men is not solely based on policy or economic factors. His divisive rhetoric and inflammatory language also play a significant role in attracting support from people who want a fighter. By stoking fear and resentment toward immigrants and other marginalized groups, Trump cultivates a sense of solidarity and belonging among his supporters, including Black men.

This is where the analogy of the game of inches comes into play. In baseball, the difference between a home run and a long fly ball can be a matter of inches. Similarly, in politics, the difference between winning and losing an election can be determined by the smallest of margins. Trump understands this concept all too well and is strategically targeting Black men as a key demographic that could swing the election in his favor.

As a Black man, I am deeply troubled by the fact that my fellow brothers are being manipulated and exploited for political gain. It is disheartening to see Black men falling for the same divisive tactics and empty promises that have been used to oppress our community for centuries.

But I also understand the complexities and challenges that come with being a Black man in America. The constant struggle against systemic racism, economic inequality and social injustice can leave one feeling disillusioned and desperate for change. Trump’s messaging, however flawed and deceptive, offers a glimmer of hope and empowerment to those Black men who have been marginalized and ignored by the political establishment.

So, what can be done to counteract Trump’s influence on Black men? The answer lies in education, empowerment and unity. It is imperative that we continue to educate our community about the dangers of falling for divisive rhetoric and empty promises. We must empower Black men to see their true worth and potential, regardless of the false narratives being pushed by opportunistic politicians like Trump and his surrogates.

In the game of inches that is politics, Black men must stand firm in their convictions, resist the temptation of false promises and strive toward a future that is truly equitable and just for all. Only then can we overcome the forces of division and hatred that seek to undermine our progress and diminish our power as a community. Together, we can reject the politics of fear and prejudice and instead embrace a future that is built on unity, solidarity and hope for a better tomorrow.