I have been thinking quite a bit these days about the long historical legacy of Black Americans donating to the church. As I see young Black American candidates across the country vying for political office, I am forced to think more critically about the role of political tithing in the Black community.
Many Black Americans are raised with a keen awareness to donate to the church as an institution. Some churches ask that congregants give not only a percentage of their earnings but also a certain amount of their time as service to the church. As many of us look around in dismay at the subpar elected officials who represent us on the local, state and national levels, we must also begin to budget for political tithing to alter our political fortunes moving forward.
I recognize that I am not always the most “efficient” with my money. However, I have written several columns in this newspaper about the need for all of us to donate to social justice organizations that are “doing the work” when we cannot or do not. Similarly, political tithing is something that we as Black Americans must institute into our family budgets. There are too many qualified candidates who cannot gain traction within the electorate because they are running against either the party machine or a deadbeat incumbent with extensive name recognition. We have the power to change this reality.
I was motivated to build political tithing into my budget when I began following the 2018 gubernatorial pursuits of Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacy Abrams in Georgia. Both young Black American candidates face uphill battles not only in their statewide races but also in their primary races against their fellow Democrats. Both candidates have vision, ideas, passion and work ethic that make me excited for their political futures. However, both candidates must overcome several fundraising obstacles to be taken seriously by their own party and Democratic voters. It is imperative that Black Americans support Black American candidates. We can no longer use the excuse that, “They likely won’t win” as a reason not to support them in the grassroots and fundraising arenas. Here is how I know they definitely will not win—if their fellow Black American Democratic voters do not put in the energy and dollars to support their campaigns.
Gillum and Abrams (and Eric Johnson in Texas) represent just a small fraction of young, dynamic, Black American candidates who are running for office in 2018. We must show our support through our dollars and set aside a small fraction of our own family funds to make sure we are represented on all levels of government, even if that means supporting a candidate not from our own state. Political tithing must become our new reality if we are to change politics as usual.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream” and the host of The Aftermath on Ozy.com. You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.