African American politics are an important part of governance and policymaking in the USA owing to many historical, social, cultural, and economic aspects of the population. The most common models employed in framing the description of African American politics have an important ethnic dimension that highlights the divide in choices that the population has. Most importantly, these models highlight the history and prevailing political atmosphere that compels the minority group to keep up with the sociopolitical status of the majority despite being highly disenfranchised. The three most common theories employed in assessing the lives and politics of African Americans, including the moral dilemma, dominate-subordinate, and pluralist melting pot, have important dimensions of oppressed versus privileged, with the population coming out as the subordinate in all aspects.
The moral dilemma model postulates that situations require individuals to make a moral choice from two or more options, and this implies that they must violate fundamental moral values in the process. Discrimination against African Americans in the USA is one vice that can be viewed through the lens of moral dilemma. According to Paillet (2017), the white majority in the USA has in history appreciated the fact that discrimination is detrimental to the wellness of African Americans and the welfare of the American society at large. However, in the face of racism against African Americans, the primary perpetrators are mainly the majority, both as individuals and also in communities. Many social issues that African Americans have been faced with in the history of the US have significant ethical dimensions from which they can be viewed. African Americans are thus faced with the dilemma to exercise their right to protest or join hands with the majority populations both socially and politically to promote their place in society
The dominant-subordinate model highlights the differences that are reflected between African Americans and their majority counterparts. It is common knowledge that African Americans are the subordinate populations in their interactions with the white majority. This is reflected in all aspects of life, including wealth, occupations, health, and life expectancy. According to Paillet (2017), the white majority, who are the dominant population, have the power to set the parameters within which African Americans must operate. In the political arena, this is clear in the sense that the majority represent the most populous population, and they have the power to influence policies democratically. This shapes the African American politics where the population can only seek alternative measures to have their voices heard on important issues. The validity of these models varies according to the political issues of interest. Generally, the models are a reliable foundation on which arguments regarding the political and social wellness of African Americans can be established.
The models employed in framing the description of African American political vary in comprehensiveness and the scope to which they offer insight. African American politics, as Berray (2019) observes, are racial and ethnic politics that are primarily characterized by the subordination of the minority group. Policy issues related to ethnicity highlight these politics, and this makes the dominant-subordinate divide the most accurate dimension from which they can be viewed. The frames are not time-bound as they can be employed in describing the position of African Americans in the US political arena since the founding of the country to date with consistency in the positions that each community has held. The pluralist melting pot model primarily highlights the need for the cultural assimilation of African Americans. Through this model, the ideal American society is one in which every citizen has realized the American dream as far as social and economic progression is concerned. However, a huge gap exists as far as equity and equality between African Americans and their white counterparts are concerned.
The dominant-subordinate perspective provides the best perspective from which the social, economic, and political needs can be viewed, and policies developed to fill the huge gap that exists between populations. This perspective highlights the marginalization and oppression that to which African Americans are subjected, leading to high levels of inequalities. Berray (2019) observes that systemic racism and high levels of discrimination against minorities is one of the most important issues that African Americans are faced with in their quest to register any significant socio-economic progression. Nonetheless, the dominant-subordinate perspective is reinforced by the boiling pot model. According to Paillet (2017), African Americans have been subjected to the feeling that they must adapt by adopting the ways of life and the culture of work in the USA. The need to adapt only strengthens the position of the dominant group that is privileged in many ways while the feeling of inferiority intensifies in the subordinate group. Therefore, the latter continues to register alienation as far as political inclusion, social justice, and racial equality are concerned.
The signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a major development in the history of the USA but one that was preceded and made possible by major forces. One of the most important developments. The protest politics played the most significant role, as reflected in the Selma-to-Montgomery march of 1965 that was characterized by the use of excessive force by the police in the South. The scenes had been preceded by obvious events, including civil war and the emancipation proclamation. President Abraham Lincoln provided a foundation on which the voting rights for the former slaves would be established. However, the voting rights that marked further integration of African Americans were dubbed a loss in the American values by those that stood against, leading to the adoption of other measures of obstructing the rights, such as using literacy.
The most obvious political opportunity made available to African Americans was the ability to participate in the democratic processes of the country. Besides, this transition enables the African Americans to challenge any restrictions at the state level leading to increased voter turnout in states like Mississippi, where 59% of African Americans came out to vote in 1969 compared to 6% in 1964 (Lublin et al., 2009). The main strength of the transformation was the empowerment of the African American population to pursue voting rights through the legal channel as opposed to the earlier strategies that had relied on civil advocacy. However, Rivera et al. (2008) point to the state laws being a major weakness to the implementation of the transformation where the election officials would use the gaps in the law to deny them voting opportunities.
The “black agenda” was one of the main outcomes of the transition into electoral politics. It refers to the way that the US legislative body pays attention to the issues facing African Americans. The black agenda prevails but still fails to sustainably some of the challenges that the African Americans are faced with in the political arena. Moreover, most of these challenges have been institutionalized, leading to the rise of civil rights groups that advocate for realistic goals as challenges persist while new issues are unveiled. The civil rights movements have made massive achievements in promoting equal rights in the USA. Some of the most important achievements that can be attributed to these organizations include the abolition of the discriminatory Jim Crow and the granting of voting rights to African Americans.
The leaders of the organizations that ensued in the mid-20th century remain some of the most iconic images in the history of African American politics, with the most notable being Martin Luther king. The movements moved from advocating for equal rights to addressing the enduring political, social, and economic outcomes of disenfranchisement. Through efforts by multiple agencies and members of the public, African Americans have achieved significant levels of political power and have a better chance to influence national policies. However, Johnson (2008) observes that the most effective coalitions are those that have taken into account the political interests of all ethnic groups that make such coalitions. It is deducible that African Americans have been the main winners in these coalitions due to several factors, with the most important being the lack of equal representation in the political arena.
A significant portion of the African Americans identifies as conservatives who uphold conservative virtues, including but not limited to patriotism, cultural and social conservatism, traditionalism, and self-sufficiency. In the USA, Krosch et al. (2013) observe that black conservatism is a growing phenomenon around which most African Americans are developing a political identity. The association of the southerners with the republican party that had initially championed the rights of African Americans saw many align themselves with the Democrats in the huge part of the 20th and 21st century. The black conservatives are associated with advocacy for free-market economics and support the laws that mainly restrict individual liberties. This implies that the policies that restrict social issues such prolife rules are an important consideration for the African Americans that identify as conservatives. According to Lewis (2013), the gradual growth of Black Conservatives is attributed to upward mobility that sees many African Americans interacting with the white middle class. These developments have major political implications on the community, seeing that it is estimated that 26% of African Americans identify as conservatives.
There is an increased potential of more African Americans desiring the same policies as their white counterparts, and this would be a major development towards a more politically homogenous society. These policies do not necessarily have to favor one community over the other, but the association of many African Americans with the Democrats will dim, leading to more conservative policies with a strengthened Republican. Currently, Lewis (2013) observes that the voting patterns indicate that despite more African Americans aligning with conservatism, many still vote for the Democrats. This highlights the significance of historical and prevailing social issues in African American politics, which, despite identifying with conservatism, are guided by the core issues of group benefits that lead to the voting of the Republicans.
Following the emancipation and the input that Lincoln had towards the welfare of African Americans, Krosch (2013) observes that many of them associated with the republican party until the acceptance speech of Goldwater that marked further marginalization of African Americans. This attracted the southerners to the republican, and this had been the population that stood against the rights of African Americans and whose predecessors were opposed to the termination of slavery. Therefore, a generational trend that would see the democrats adopting more liberal policies to fight poverty and discrimination developed, leading to an almost permanent association of African Americans with the democrats. With the growing size of black conservatives, the Republicans are likely to develop strategies that will turn these numbers into votes. This implies that the democrats are likely to make major losses in terms of political support by African Americans.
The failure of a mass exodus from the democrats as registered in the mid-20th century will see the few conservatives being the minority group within the minority population. High chances would be most of the conservatives voting in favor of the democrats. Civil rights had been a major driver of the Republican exodus by the African Americans. Today social issues related to the dominance of the white majority in many aspects and victimization of African Americans are the primary drivers of policy consideration. These issues affect the minority populations regardless of the part in the position of power with slower progression towards the realization of equality. Krosch (2013) observes that these trends have been shown to highlight that the support of democrats by African Americans is unfounded and one that many black conservatives portray as brainwashing. There is thus a potential for political coalitions that support more group gains, meaning that the population’s loyalty will depend on specifically outlaid and agreed upon achievements in every election.
Berray, M. (2019). A critical literary review of the Melting Pot and Salad Bowl Assimilation and integration theories. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 6(1), 142-151.
Johnson, K. R. (2002). The Struggle for Civil Rights: The Need for, and Impediments to, Political Coalitions Among and Within Minority Groups. La. L. Rev., 63, 759.
Krosch, A. R., Berntsen, L., Amodio, D. M., Jost, J. T., & Van Bavel, J. J. (2013). On the ideology of hypodescent: Political conservatism predicts categorization of racially ambiguous faces as Black. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49(6), 1196-1203.
Lewis, A. K. (2013). Conservatism in the Black community: To the right and misunderstood. Routledge.
Lublin, D., Brunell, T. L., Grofman, B., & Handley, L. (2009). Has the Voting Rights Act Outlived Its Usefulness? In a Word,“No”. Legislative Studies Quarterly, 34(4), 525-553.
Paillet, D. (2017). Dominant and Subordinate Culture. Medium. https://medium.com/community-action-and-social-change-theory-and/dominant-and-subordinate-culture-79e515d4cf2f
Rivera, J. D., Miller, D. S., & Wright, D. D. (2008). The Future Effectiveness of Racial-Political Coalitions in American Politics. Journal of Public Management and Social Policy, 14(4), 5-17.