Louisville Black studies scholar slams 'callous' Mitch McConnell for total indifference to African-American voters

Louisville Black studies scholar slams 'callous' Mitch McConnell for total indifference to African-American voters

When Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was asked if his opposition to Democratic voting rights bills could have a negative impact on African-American voters, the Senate minority leader responded, “Well, the concern is misplaced because if you look at the statistics, African-American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.” Dr. Ricky L. Jones, who chairs the Pan-African Studies Department at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, acknowledges that McConnell’s comment may have been a gaffe. But in a biting op-ed published by the Louisville Courier Journal on January 21, Jones argues that even if it was, McConnell is indifferent to the needs of African-American voters.

“His diversionary quip set off a firestorm,” Jones writes. “Does McConnell not see African-Americans as real Americans?…. To be fair, McConnell’s comment in defense of his party’s sinister behavior around voting may have been a slip of the tongue. He may have simply omitted ‘White’ or ‘non-Black’ in the comparison. Who knows?”

Jones continues, “What we do know is this isn’t the first time he has been dismissive, flippant and disrespectful where Black people are concerned. Remember when he tossed aside any conversation about reparations because ‘we elected an African-American president?’ There have been many others. At the end of the day, Sen. McConnell does these things because he knows he can get away with them. He does them because, despite the mild protestations he delivers with a wink and a smile, he doesn’t care very much about Black people.”

McConnell’s opposition to voting rights bills is so vehement that, using the filibuster, he refused to even bring the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to the Senate floor for a vote. The Senate minority leader also opposed the For the People Act, another voting rights bill that passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2021.

“The truth of the matter is this: from voting to race-based attacks in education, Black people are under assault by the right,” Jones writes. “Some of the assaults are sophisticated and cloaked; some are obvious and clumsy. But they’re all assaults just the same.”

In his op-ed, Jones also slams two centrist Democrats: Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both of whom would vote for a voting rights bill but are adamantly opposed to altering the filibuster in any way.

Democrats, with their narrow Senate majority, could get a voting rights bill passed in the U.S. Senate if an exception to the filibuster for voting rights were created, but Manchin and Sinema are even opposed to that.

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the Republicans are winning!” Jones laments. “They are winning because they are vicious and unrelenting…. They are winning because Black people continue to depend on the Democratic Party to fight for them even though most of the Democrats don’t give a damn about Black people either. Democrats want Black votes but care little about Black people’s agendas or wellbeing. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are just extreme examples of that negligence and disrespect.”

Jones continues, “So, maybe Mitch McConnell made a mistake with a word omission. Maybe he didn’t. You choose. Neither choice really changes anything. Black people know what he is. Callous. And he knows what they are right now. Powerless, until there’s a radical change that has yet to materialize.”

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