With all of the months of protests against racism and an overall racial reckoning purportedly taking place across the United States, one could be forgiven for expecting to hear from more Black voices at this year’s Democratic National Convention (DNC). A closer look at the list of speakers scheduled to address the nation on behalf of Democrats beginning Monday night suggests we will all hear familiar messages from familiar sources that arguably do not fully reflect the diversity that 1) is currently being promoted in America and 2) has been pledged by presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
And it’s not just a case of racial diversity as much as it has to do with rhetorical diversity.
We all know the end game here is to beat Donald Trump, but the questions are whether the usual suspects should be the ones to deliver that message or if the reins should be handed to — or at least include more — Black folks who can offer a different kind of personal testimony about what this historic moment means for America’s politics moving forward.
By this writer’s count, there have been 11 Black people scheduled during the prime time hours of the DNC, including musical performances. Among them are voices that America has typically heard from for years now. But this election is far from typical and likely could use further injections of not just the aforementioned rhetorical change but also tangible change in order to really demonstrate a commitment to diversity beyond the encouraging optics of a Biden-Harris ticket.
Instead, the names of the featured Black speakers are those that are all too familiar to the American people, something that could turn off some of the younger voters who Democrats are still trying to get on board with their platform. According to one estimation, the average age for DNC speakers is 61.
To be clear, this is not remotely about ageism. Older and experienced voices are needed to push any movement forward, but that doesn’t mean youthful ones should be excluded. Especially considering the fact that the average age of DNC speakers doesn’t gibe with the data showing how much the youth vote mattered the last time America elected a Democratic president.
That is also not to discount the OG Democrats’ messages, which undoubtedly will all share the common denominators of wisdom along with the priority of voting out Trump. But it is to say that perhaps using new messengers to deliver similar messages in different terms could have the kind of resounding effect that 2016’s DNC clearly did not.
So while people are rightfully waiting with bated breath to hear from the likes of President Barack Obama, his wife, Michelle Obama as well as Kamala Harris, it is unclear how effective addresses from the Capitol Hill mainstays like Jim Clyburn and Cory Booker will be since America has been hearing them discuss the election on a regular basis for many months now.
Yes, the DNC did include Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a relatively new voice on the national Democratic landscape. But why stop at her? Keep reading to find a brief list of other Black folks who were not scheduled to speak at this year’s Democratic National Convention but probably should have been.
1. Stacey AbramsSource:Getty
Perhaps the most notable omission from the list of DNC speakers is Stacey Abrams, a woman who for months was rumored to be Biden’s top choice for his vice-presidential running mate. The two of them frequently made veiled references to their potential political union … until they didn’t.
But considering how Abrams was dubbed a rising star by Democratic leaders and even delivered a rebuttal to Trump’s State of the Union address on behalf of the Democrats, her exclusion from the slate of DNC speakers was conspicuous at worst and unfortunate at best.
Out of everybody missing from the DNC, Abrams’ exclusion feels the most like a snub.
2. Black Lives Matter founders (from left: Patrice Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi)Source:Getty
Let’s be real. Black Lives Matter, the phrase, at least, is as ubiquitous as it’s ever been; especially following the police killing of George Floyd. The movement for Black lives has never been as popular as it is right now heading into the Democratic National Convention. Democrats, in particular, have made a noted commitment to seemingly incorporating those three vital words into their everyday lexicon.
So it was strange to see that none of the three women who founded the booming Black Lives Matter movement were scheduled to speak at this year’s DNC, which is serving as a prelude to perhaps the most consequential election in modern history.
To be sure, Patrice Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi have all supported candidates for president who are not named Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. However, the gesture of extending some speaking time to the BLM founders at the DNC could result in some additional electoral dividends in November.
3. Ben CrumpSource:Getty
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump has been at the forefront of what seems like a nonstop flow of case centered on police violence against Black people, something that helped prompt America to the precipice of an all-out racial reckoning. It is through work like his with the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor cases that helped prompt both the House and Senate to draft legislation to reform police departments, which has become a major political issue across the country.
Who better to address that topic in layman’s terms to voters during such a consequential time in American history? Not to mention, Biden has a little bit of work to do with shoring up his civil rights credentials. Crump’s inclusion at the DNC could address all of that and then some with a national audience that he deserves.
4. LeBron JamesSource:WENN
If Democrats are looking to attract more Black male voters — and they are — then including LeBron James is a no-brainer. The NBA superstar has been increasingly vocal when it comes to politics and social justice and recently launched a nonprofit organization to address Black voter suppression and teamed up with Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers to set up a voter polling site at Dodgers Stadium.
While many pro athletes shrink away from being seen as a role model, James has embraced it as an increasingly influential figure in both sports and pop culture at large. Not to mention he has exchanged some words with prominent Republicans, including Trump and racist pundit Laura Ingraham.
Considering all of the above, a brief address from “King James” at the DNC could go a long way for Democrats in November.
5. Colin KaepernickSource:Getty
Like the case being made for LeBron to speak at the DNC, Colin Kaepernick could have a similarly strong effect on Black males, in particular, watching the Democratic National Convention.
The free-agent quarterback who was blacklisted from the NFL over his silent kneeling protest during the national anthem meant to bring attention to police violence against Black people has been vindicated amid the national racial reckoning against the aforementioned brutality. That alone should have made him a prime candidate to speak at the DNC.
Instead, Democrats have chosen to feature speakers who include ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a former Republican who is credited for fine-tuning the “Stop And Frisk,” a racial profiling policing tactic that disproportionately targeted Black and brown people and in some cases resulted in the kind of police violence Kaepernick was demonstrating against before he lost his job because of it.
6. Rev. Al SharptonSource:Getty
Hate him or love him, the Rev. Al Sharpton has carved out a legitimate career from his love for Black people. He is the go-to person when it comes to calls for justice in both the racial and social realms, which many times go hand in hand.
Sharpton has also been a central figure in Democratic politics, especially when it comes to candidates running for president who have traditionally sought out a meeting with him at the famed soul food restaurant, Sylvia’s, in Harlem.
He is also an MSNBC pundit and anchor with unlimited influence. While he can be a polarizing figure, Sharpton’s exclusion from the DNC could be a missed opportunity for Democrats.
7. Maxine WatersSource:Getty
What with Trump’s relentless attacks on Black women, in particular, Maxine Waters has been on the receiving end of them far too many times. But she can dish it out with the best of them, and hearing from Auntie Maxine — no matter how many times we already have — could further shore up Democratic support as well as possibly convince women voters on the fence against casting their ballots for a man who has openly spoken in sexist terms about women.