With race relations in America involving violence against blacks, police shootings and the resignation of university presidents, Joy-Ann Reid brings a different look at the face of race in politics in her new book, Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons and the Racial Divide. The MSNBC correspondent, former managing editor of theGrio.com, Harvard University graduate, and editor of The Reid Report for the Miami Herald, held a book-signing event at the Old Dillard Museum in Ft. Lauderdale on Nov. 10.
Reid had the idea to write the book after the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in 2013. As a history buff, she wanted to discuss the transformation of the Democratic Party over the past 50 years from being a segregationist party (who rejected black voters) to becoming the preferred party for African-Americans.
“How did it come to be that this southern-white party became the party that produced the first black president?” asked Reid, who asserts that in order to help create a more open dialogue about the issues of race, it is extremely vital for Americans to have an in-depth understanding of its history and the role it has played in politics.
With Fracture, Reid wants readers to get a broader grasp on the cyclical nature of civil rights, and also see the reasoning behind African-Americans’ loyalty to the Democratic Party; loyalty exemplified with Bill Clinton.
“Bill Clinton solved the riddle that the Democratic Party had: how to keep working-class white voters in the party, while also embracing this flood of new voters who were African-American,” Reid said, referencing Bill Clinton’s ability to “dis” Jesse Jackson at Rainbow Push, while simultaneously pulling blacks in with his mannerisms and style.
“Doing those things sent queues to white voters that this was a Democrat who was with them and on their side,” Reid said. “At the same time, he was able to tell black voters…that he could relate to black people and was comfortable around them.”
When it came to the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Reid said voters decided to support the “real” black president as opposed to the “fictional” black president (Bill Clinton) when Hillary tried to ride on the pedigree of her husband.
Reid said she wants her book to inspire others to think about what it really means to have party loyalty despite the history of political parties.
“I think we’re at a moment when black people are questioning their role in the Democratic Party. What is our place in this party that we prefer, but doesn’t always fully embrace us,” Reid said, noting that historically the Democratic Party did not start out as the party for African-Americans. “Is there only one option for us?” Reid questioned. “And how can we make meaningful power out of our loyalty?”
Reid said she wants her readers to discover the obstacles Barack Obama faced during the race as a politician who wasn’t a “traditional black leader” like Jesse Jackson or Andrew Young, and didn’t have such praise and backing from the black community.
“Nearly two-thirds of black voters were on Hillary’s side; they were extremely anti-Obama because they didn’t trust him,” Reid said, adding that after Obama won Iowa, everything began to change.
Americans need to come to a middle-ground when approaching discussions of race in order to better understand the divide in terms of the expectations blacks and whites have of talking about the issues, Reid explained.
“For a lot of white Americans, any discussion of racial disparity comes across as an accusation, and it’s immediately rejected emotionally by a lot of people who don’t want to feel accused by black people,” Reid said. “For African-Americans, there’s a sense that white America doesn’t want to deal with racism, whether it’s in the past or the present.”
Anabelle Bivins, a University of Miami student majoring in English and pre-law who attended the book-signing, said even having the conversation about race is already a step in the right direction.
“People don’t think it’s politically correct to talk about race,” Bivins said. “But it’s in the media and in our culture, and it’s something we need to talk about.”
Her aunt, Tamara Czernek, a 1999 Harvard Law graduate and small business owner, said it’s important for politicians to pay attention to the issues of race because “Black Lives DO Matter. We have to require that the Democratic Party…not take people for granted,” Czernek said. “The danger is that when black people stay home and refuse to vote, Democrats lose; people aren’t excited anymore and the party needs to give them something to vote for.”
To purchase “Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons, and the Racial Divide,” by Joy-Ann Reid (print/digital copy), visit www.harpercollins.com.