The Times has a story up under the headline, "Blacks May Tilt Balance In Vote To Legalize Marijuana." My immediate visceral reaction was "You're lying." Perhaps that's a reflection of my own prejudices. But its also a reflection of the story's lack of interest in answering a simple question--Precisely how many voters are we actually talking about?
Blacks make up about only about 6 percent of the population in California, but unlike two larger minority groups in the state where opinions on the measure are also split -- Asians and Latinos -- their "participation in elections is on par with their populations," according to the California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit group here.
Fair enough---but what does that actually mean? What qualifies as tilting the balance? Why is the "black vote" on this issue anymore important than the youth vote, or the Catholic vote, or the labor vote, or the Latino vote, or the Baptist vote?
The presumption that seems to undergird the story is the rather stupid expectation that black people "should" support marijuana legalization--otherwise, again, why are we reading this? But that presumption says more about us, then it does about how black people actually live. It'd be interesting to see a story exploring that presumption. Instead, what I see is a preview for another Prop 8 "The Blacks Betray Progressives" narrative again.
As an aside, the more I read stories like this, the more I think back to Prop 8, the more I think about the fact that there is even a debate as to whether, say, Mark Williams is a racist, the more I think about the limits of personal arguments, appeals and logic itself. There is a deeper dislogic haunting this country on race. It can't be beaten with facts, stats and arguments. The notion that black people are a problem is superreligious. It is bone-deep. It haunts everything and we can't, in this time, get loose. There needs to some fundamental root-work done here. I feel like I've spent the past few years playing with a hedge-trimmer, when what I need is a chainsaw. A diamond-grit chainsaw.
: Including some reporting
I did the last time we did this with Prop 8. This is the road we're headed down. We need to stop right now. I say that as someone who supports legalization.
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is a national correspondent for The Atlantic
, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle
, Between the World and Me,
and We Were Eight Years in Power