Civics

Why The BBQ Should Be Canceled

Black West Virginians must reconsider our support of Senator Joe Manchin who blocked several pieces of legislation that could have benefited Black people.

Why The BBQ Should Be Canceled

With the start of 2022, many states, including West Virginia, are resuming legislative sessions, state elections are upon us, and national elections will occur in 2024. Black folks will once again find ourselves on the hamster wheel of political pandering if we don't pivot. Now is the time that we become laser-focused on issues that concern us and cancel the BBQ indefinitely.

Black folks use the colloquialism "(insert name) is invited to the BBQ" when a non-black person or organization does something for Black people. While the phrase is used in jest, this creates a bad mentality amongst us. In many ways, Black folks have become the social justice doormats in which others acknowledge and use, but we are left in the cold when it comes to others advocating meaningful policies for us. I conjecture that now is the time to reevaluate what it means to have effective allies.

With the unjust killing of many Black people over the past several years, Black folks have become acutely aware of the damage of unchecked policies, which has caused us to address this through policy evaluation. We must use this focus on political issues to educate and properly organize to ensure that our progress isn't perpetually regressed. These include voting rights, economics, education, discrimination, criminal justice, and more. In West Virginia, we are still seeking a favorable resolution on the Crown Act and the removal of Confederate statues from our state capitol grounds. Too often, we find ourselves pleading with "allies" to prioritize our issues and not hijack our narratives for their benefit, while contending with our elected officials to observe our fundamental human rights. It is exhausting, and Black people must quail distractions to resolve issues that loom over our communities.

I would never advocate Black Americans seclude ourselves and not work with others. That would not be wise; we should work with those willing to work with us. However, people will inevitably become preoccupied with their issues and be limited in their willingness to advocate for others. At this time, Black people can ill afford to constantly be a trojan horse. Even some of our biggest allies have shown a dismissive attitude toward issues important to Black people. Jane Elliot, a well know white woman who teaches anti-racism, diverted a question about reparations for descendants of American slavery into advocating reparations for Native Americans instead. Locally, at the height of the social justice protests, several white allies in Charleston, West Virginia, attempted to stage a rally in the name of Black Lives Matter without permission from that organization. SOAR, an addiction response organization in West Virginia, set up a needle exchange program in a predominantly Black neighborhood without consulting residents or community leaders. Even many national programs intended on addressing historical disparities amongst Black Americans have become co-opted.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris recently went to Atlanta, Georgia to address voting rights, the filibuster, and several matters concerning to Black Americans. Several Black grassroots organizations chose not to be present during the speech. The message was clear; we need your action, not your talk if you want our support. In that same vein, Black West Virginians must reconsider our support of Senator Joe Manchin who blocked several pieces of legislation that could have benefited Black people.

Ultimately, the equitable results we seek cannot be accomplished through emotional connections or tradition, but rather strategic associations based on an expected outcome. Therefore, instead of inviting those who wish to partner with us to the BBQ, let's schedule a meeting and talk numbers, business, intent, and strategy.

Hollis Lewis is a legal professional, adjunct criminal justice professor, and co-chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party Black Caucus.

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