The Democratic Party lost its strong connection to young black professionals, asserts Keli Goff in her new book entitled Party Crashing: How The Hip Hop Generation Declared Political Independence. The visceral attachment to the Democratic Party, born of standing against fire hoses, is not present in her generation of American black.
There’s been “a shift in how race defines the American experience and you have to adjust the message to the audience you are trying to reach, and I don’t think the Democratic Party has done that,” Ms. Goff announced to the literally gasping audience at the avowedly progressive Center for American Progress.
Her book is based on the results of a survey of 400 black professionals between the ages of 18 and 45. That age range was chosen based on generational experience: none of the survey participants had any personal experience with the civil rights struggle. Putting aside the problematic association between respectable, middle-class, educated blacks and the crime glory of Hip Hop, Ms. Goff is promoting an explosive new idea. As a result of no personal examples of the civil rights struggle, “there has been a shift in how race defines the American experience.”
“My mother was spit on at school. I have not had that experience. People would change their affiliation to the Republican party before allowing their children to go to school with you. The Hip Hop generation doesn’t have that experience,” said Ms. Goff. She goes on to asset that the differing experiences between what she calls the “Civil Rights” generation and the Hip Hop generation leads to differing perspectives, including political ones.
Those differences lead to questions about whether someone is black enough, a dialogue that Ms. Goff finds “toxic.” The Civil Rights generation columnists were the first to mention that idea: “If you don’t think about or talk about race in a certain way you’re not really black.”
Old-school black politicians decried the young, black, Ivy League-educated blacks coming back to their communities and running for office. They claimed that “if a person didn’t live through the struggle and make race a defining element of their candidacy, then they were not running as blacks.”
Ms. Goff calls that “ridiculous,” as if having the advantages of the civil rights struggle, which was the point of the civil rights movement, meant that such a person could not have the black experience in America. She also mentioned that it also supposes that “real blacks won’t be in good schools.”
Class elements are at play in this issue, too. There are resentments and concerns that younger black professionals are not adopting the political framework of their parents.
Two cultural elements define the survey participants: Hip Hop music and the Cosby show. Ms. Goff points to the political message of early Hip Hop songs as decrying violence and crime and distinguishes it from the Hip Hop we all know today. Most of the people surveyed felt Hip Hop reflected poorly on the black community, but 81% considered themselves fans.
“The Cosby show taught blacks that the American dream was there for them, too. That blacks could start defining themselves beyond the boundaries of race,” Ms. Goff said. She refers to Generation Obama, an unofficial national network of young, black professionals associated through alumni groups and black professional associations that provided much of the initial financial support for Barack Obama, allowing him to be a viable candidate against Hillary Clinton.
“There has been a disconnect with mainstream media and politicians who don’t know about these networks,” claims Ms. Goff. “The media has missed most of the Obama story. Young blacks and whites are moving away from partisanship.”
Christine Axsmith Benedict, who graciously took the time to write this special report for us, is also known as Econo-Girl.