Blackest Questions
The Blackest Questions

Young Voters Political Q&A With Dr. Christina Greer

Episode 16

The Blackest Questions is on location speaking with Texas Southern University students on election night as they ask Dr. Christina Greer their top questions about the political process. 


Panama Jackson [00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:00:08] Hi, welcome to The Blackest Questions. I’m your host, Dr. Christina Greer, politics editor for theGrio and associate professor of political science at Fordham University. And while we usually have a guest to join me to answer five questions about Black history on this episode, we’re changing it up just a bit. The midterm elections have wrapped, and whether you’re pleased or disappointed with the results, the political process affects us all. So sticking to our questions format, theGrio Black Podcast Network caught up with some students at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, who had some questions for me for how the election process works and what the future of this country might look like for Black folks. So let’s hear them.

Hailey Butler [00:00:44] My name is Hailey Butler. I attend Texas Southern University. I’m a sophomore. And my question is, given the history of American politics, do you ever think that Texas will become a blue state?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:00:57] Well, I don’t know if it’ll become blue any time soon. But we have seen states shift. So we have to remember when we think about, say, a state like California, that’s the state where Nixon came from. That’s the state where Reagan was governor, a multi term governor. And so now California’s relatively solidly blue. We just saw Gavin Newsom get reelected as governor of the state of California. Right now, it looks like Texas is becoming more and more calcified as a red state. We have to remember that all states are red states. They just have blue cities in their red states. And are those blue cities enough to flip it one way or the other, blue or red, especially during a presidential election year. Texas has had a Democratic governor, female Governor Richards, Ann Richards. So it’s not impossible.

Ann Richards [00:01:47] We got into this business of government to open the doors to all of the people to make sure.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:59] However, the current iteration, when we look at Latino voters who are trending sort of in Republican numbers in the state of Texas, when we see how whites, especially white men and white women, are calcified as Republican voters, it doesn’t seem likely that any time soon Texas will be flipping blue. Beto lost to Governor Abbott. Now granite Governor Abbott is an incumbent. He was the sitting governor. But the percentages that Beto lost by indicate that Texans are sticking with Governor Abbott and most likely sticking with the Republican Party for quite some time.

Tyrasia Yett [00:02:34] My name is Tyrasia Yett. I’m a junior at Texas Southern University, and I want to know how can I get my family and friends to take voting more serious?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:02:41] Oh, that’s a great question. How can you get your family and friends to take voting more seriously? Some people, you know, I’m sure you all have heard. You know, I don’t feel like voting because nothing ever changes or I live in a red state. So, you know, my candidate’s not going to win anyway, so it doesn’t matter that I turn out. So there are two things that I would say. One, we have to sort of do the hard work, right? We have to educate ourselves as to what the issues are, who our representatives are. Some of their records. And we have to sort of be patient and walk our friends and family through the importance of voting. So find out what they’re interested in. Right. Every single political issue affects us somehow. So if they say, well, you know, I’m I’m too old to have kids, I don’t really care about a woman’s right to choose. Sometimes we have to also ask people to step outside of themselves. It’s not just about you. It’s about the collective. But we can think about. Well, what about your loved ones? What about your kids or your nieces or your nephews? Right. If Republicans are saying that birth begins at inception. So if you have a son and not a daughter, is your son going to pay child support, starting with, you know, an unborn baby? Like, does that sort of change his or her trajectory for the rest of their lives? Climate change affects all of us. So when we think about hurricanes and tornadoes and earthquakes in certain parts of the country or flash flooding that will affect not just where you live, but also maybe your ability to do your job and make money and go to work. So every single policy issue affects us somehow. We don’t think that gun violence won’t come into our communities. Well, we’ve seen it come not just in cities, but in suburbs and rural communities. So find out what your loved ones actually are interested in and directly relate it back to them and really help them see how elected officials are either voting for or against the things that they care about.

Briana Lewis [00:04:28] My name is Briana Lewis, and I’m a junior at the illustrious Texas A&M University. What I want to know is, does donating to campaigns really make a difference?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:04:37] I think it does. I developed this theory called political tithing. And so some people tithes to their religious institution. I do political tithing because I want to see certain people succeed. And that’s, you know, not just people who are in New York. I look at candidates across the country certain especially, you know, we time we tend to think about people who are running for Senate or, you know, the House of Representatives or the presidency. And so those campaigns, sure, you can donate to them, but they’re usually pretty good at fundraising. I’m thinking about the races that are lower level races, city council members who really need money to sort of get a race going. First time candidates, female candidates, female candidates of color. You know, those are people who have a slightly different network pool. It’s sometimes more difficult for especially female candidates of color to raise money because people assume that they’re not going to win. So they don’t give as much money as they could. But when we think about people who are running for state legislator or state Senate, those people are in charge of billions of dollars in their state house, really important positions. They’re oftentimes getting elected with just a few thousand votes. So they might not even have ads on television, but they need money to pay staffers. They need money for literature. They need money to possibly put some radio ads on so that they can actually do the job. So it’s really I see it as an investment in my future. I am politically tithing. I’m giving money to candidates who I think could be really important and influential in lower level races, because as we’ve seen, these lower level candidates can sometimes work their way up. So the vast majority of people in Congress started in their respective state houses, the fantastic ones that work hard on our behalf and the dangerous ones who are voting to take away all of our rights and civil liberties. So there’s an investment that you can make in a candidate, especially a first time candidate, especially a young candidate who might not have a pool of people who are doctors and lawyers and businessmen, and they’re cobbling together $5, $10 donations. And also, if you donate to a campaign, you’re much more likely to pay attention. You’re much more likely to turn out to vote. You’re much more likely to get other people to turn out to vote. So that little $5 investment can actually change how your entire community behaves because you’re investing in a candidate to actually do the good on your behalf.

Eric Flower II [00:06:56] My name is Eric Flores the Second. I’m a grad student at TSU. And my question for you is why at our polls, they only let you vote either a red or blue ballot, Democratic or Republican, and not a green or a libertarian?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:13] So every state has its own particular rules. This is, you know, probably a vestige of folks in your state wanting to make sure that, you know, if they’re incumbents, they have an incumbency advantage. And so they can sort of get the same people coming to the polls time and time again. You know, unfortunately, that breeds people possibly abstaining from voting. Sometimes there is a write in option. But I think, you know, when you are going to the polls, you have to sort of think about not just the candidate, but also what their party represents. And so oftentimes you might not have the perfect candidate. I don’t think the perfect candidate exists the same way. The perfect by me or partner doesn’t exist. But you go with someone who you think can best represent your values and your ideals. It might not be 100% match up. It might only be 90% or even 80%. But that’s better than nothing. And once they’re in office, that is the time for us to keep our foot on the gas. Oftentimes, we abdicate too much power to our elected officials so we can say, you actually work for me. So here are some issues of my concern. They pay attention to constituent services. Sometimes you’re in a district where it’s not really competitive in the general. It’s either solidly Democratic or solidly Republican. So you can pay attention during the primary when it’s two Democrats going against one another or it’s two Republicans going against one another. That’s the time when you can articulate what you really want from an elected official, because that’s an incentive for them to actually pay attention and listen, because they’re trying to make it out of their primary since they don’t have a competitive general election.

Olakunle Awe [00:08:44] My name is Olakunle Awe. I am a junior majoring in broadcast journalism, aspiring to be on TV one day in the sports world. My question is that why do you have to vote at the exact precinct that is listed to your address, for instance. I’m a resident advisor on campus. I’m in charge of a lot of freshmen, and a lot of them couldn’t vote because they couldn’t vote at this precint because their home address has to be the same as where they’re at. And I feel like that’s just a problem because many people couldn’t vote because of that on campus. So I feel like that’s something that a lot of people are curious about. I feel like you should be able to vote at the nearest precinct to your school.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:23] Right? So I would say, you know, if you are registered in a particular locale, that’s the that’s the location where you have to vote. Now, some people we saw this in Wisconsin years ago. Some people will change their registration status to two where they currently reside. That also involves some pre-planning to make sure that your registration status is up to date and it accurately reflects where you’re currently living. That’s a little more complicated. So if you know that you can stay on top of it and change your registration status every year when you move from dorm to dorm or different parts of campus on or off campus, then that’s on you. But if you have one set address that would be your voting address in your particular precinct, then that’s where you have to where you have to vote. That does prevent some sort of, you know, voting improprieties and voter possible instances of voter fraud. And it helps for the boards of elections to help organize voters in a particular way. But if you’re living in a particular place and you want to change your registration status, you have to do that within the various rules and laws of your particular state. But just make sure if you move again the next semester you need to or the next year you need to make sure you stay on top of it so you can actually participate.

Javion Cox [00:10:35] Hello, my name is JavionCox. I’m a junior theater education double major here at the illustrious Texas Southern University. And my question for you all today is what is today’s modern day jelly bean test? As far as when African-Americans would go to vote and I’m certain nationalists would say, well, I count how many jelly beans is in this jar, and if you can, we’ll let you vote. So what current day things are being used to target not only African-American demographics, but all nationalities and stopping them from voting, limiting them from voting and really stopping and trying to halt the American voice?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:11] Yeah, I would say some modern day jelly bean tactics. And that’s a fantastic question. You know, a lot of it is voter intimidation. And so we know that, sadly, there’s a disproportionate number of African-Americans who have been wrapped up in the criminal justice system. And so depending on your state, depending on sometimes your crime, you know, you may have been a formerly incarcerated citizen, but you are allowed to vote. We sometimes call people felons. I tend not to want to use that language. You’ve served your time. You were free and you were a citizen. And so you are you are eligible to vote in a lot of places. But that misinformation and disinformation that goes out to a lot of communities makes it such that in there are few instances where someone thought they could register to vote and maybe in a particular case, they couldn’t. And we’ve seen especially. Black women really penalized and gone back to prison for sometimes four or five years just for trying to vote, trying to exercise their right to vote. That is a way of intimidating everyone in their community to not even want to turn out to vote. And that’s people who don’t even have a form of record in the criminal justice system. Those are just regular voters who were saying, I don’t want to interact in this space at all. I don’t want to get in trouble. I don’t want to go to jail. I don’t want to go to prison. And so we see that sometimes there are negative mailers that come into Black communities. They’re negative radio ads that come into Black communities that confuse people. And so they’re unclear of their status. So they think they’ve done all of their paperwork. They’ve served their time. They are free, law abiding citizens and that they can participate in this democratic endeavor and they can’t. And so I think that that intimidation tactic of using a particular sort of example of sending a Black woman back to prison for five years, for attempting to register to vote, sends a signal to a lot of people that you shouldn’t even try and participate. You should even try and turn out. And actually, no one in your family should even participate or your community. And we know that that intimidation does work, because if you’re from a highly participatory community and everyone in your community is voting, say, for example, in North Carolina and Georgia, the souls to the polls. And on Sunday, everybody goes to church and then they go to the restaurant after church and they have their fried fish and their greens and the cornbread. And then everybody goes to the polls together or they go to church, they go to the polls, and then they go and eat as a community. You want to be part of that community. And so by intimidating people to pulling them out of that, you’re actually doing more than just taking away one voter. You’re taking away a lot of voters because that intimidation spreads throughout a community. And that fear does set in. So I think that that’s one major tactic. Obviously, we’ve seen the redrawing of districts to crack up communities. So sometimes you pack a whole bunch of Black people into one district or you’ll crack a lot of Black districts and make them diffuse districts. So you have Black people on the margins of different districts. If you don’t have a community to vote, then it makes it much more difficult to get information to know where your polling sites are because everyone has something different going on. And so that’s another tactic to just kind of remove Black people, especially from the political process, in a very deliberate and specific way.

Leo Sonchez [00:14:15] Hello, my name is Leo Sonchez, finance major, a senior here at Texas Southern University. My question for Doctor Greer is due to the political climate here in Texas, where a lot of Democratic candidates, not just Democratic candidates, but Black Democratic candidates, are not as represented here in Texas. What would it take for us as as the civilians to make sure that it’s possible for anybody and specifically Black Democratic candidates to be more influential in the Senate?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:43] Right. I think going back to my question about the census and filling out the census, when we fill out the census, that allocates the number of people who are in your state. And so we know that we want to have as many people fill out the census as possible because that decides whether or not we gain a seat or lose a seat or two. And whoever whatever party is in power, once the census is conducted, they have the power then to redraw the lines of the districts in your particular state. So we know that statehouses across the country redraw those lines. So if you want to make sure that you’re represented accurately and we know that we can redraw districts and either pack Black people into a district to dilute their power or we crack them up to dilute their power. You want to make sure that let’s just say hypothetically, you’re a Democrat, you want to make sure that there’s a Democratic state house so that they redraw those lines. So doing what you can. Leading up to the census and beyond to make sure that on that local level, you are getting people in office who actually understand and care about the states that are ahead. And so that means convincing everyone, you know, to turnout. That might also mean building coalitions with other racial and ethnic groups to help them understand why it’s important to get particular districts and particular people in in office. There are a lot of districts that are, yes, solidly Republican or solidly Democrat, but there are a lot of districts that are pretty much on the margins. But Democrats just cede it to Republicans because Republicans always win that district. But if we tried with a little effort, we could actually run a candidate who can make a difference and actually flip a flip a district from Republican to Democrat. But it takes work and it takes effort and it takes sometimes long-term dedication where you might not get the win the first time. So you have to keep coming back and trying again and again. This is a long-term strategy. As we’ve seen, Republicans are fine with long-term strategies. They lost with Roe v Wade in 1973. And we see they’re coming back 49 years later with a win. They just worked diligently time and time again. Court case after court case to build it up. And here we are one more time. So we have to be as patient and steadfast. If we remember our ancestors in the civil rights movement, many of them who were still with us today. The Civil Rights movement didn’t just begin in the sixties. It began in some instances in the twenties and thirties, definitely in the forties. We had some wins in the fifties. Think about Brown versus Board of Education 1954. So we know that the civil rights movement was in full swing in the fifties. It’s not until the sixties, the mid-sixties that we see legislation on a federal level with the Civil Rights Act of 64. The Voting Rights Act of 65. Immigration Act of 65. So we have to make sure that we don’t get tired because our ancestors and those who fought for us to have these freedoms did not give up when they suffered losses that the electoral space or in courts, they kept going back time and time again. And we have to have that same spirit and that same dedication to keep working for the democracy that we want to see and not ceded to other people just because we lost one particular race in a particular locale.

Gianni Guerrero [00:17:51] My name is Gianni Guerrero. I am a junior in Texas Southern University. And my question for you today is, in terms of politics right now, how can we how can we begin to make a change like climate change? And what kind of projects can we work on? Right, right off the bat? And how would that work?

Dr. Christina Greer [00:18:14] Well, that’s a hard question. You know, I think really pressuring our elected officials at every level of government to be diligent and dedicated to doing something in their capacity to help with our environment. So, for example, on a hyperlocal level, I’m a birder as you all can see I love birds. There’s legislation that was in our city council and the city of New York that our mayor signed into legislation. The city of Philadelphia was one of the first cities to sign it. City of New York has passed this legislation as well. It is legislation to sort of shut off, mandate that corporations shut off their lights and all these high rises in downtown cities in locales to make sure that during bird migrations we don’t kill off thousands and thousands of birds every night. That’s something that helps our overall ecosystem, helps the entire environment. That’s something that was hyperlocal and very specific, that it was relatively minor, that the city council signed in, you know, put a bill up for legislation and the mayor signed it into law. But it helps with the larger ecosystem, not just of of bird life, but obviously now we’re thinking about flora and fauna, an entire ecosystem. When we think about migratory birds passing from the north, going down south, and then coming back from the south to the north. That affects all of us, whether you’re a birder or you aren’t. And so even on the city council level, there are things, whether it’s with recycling or some environmental measures, that your local city council representatives or your local representatives can do. And then you can move up to the state level in your state house. What is it about whether it’s emissions, right. Or, you know, when there’s a new highway that wants to be built or there’s a new stadium that wants to be built or a big building, you know, doing an environmental impact study, putting pressure on your local officials to say, no, we’re actually not just going to rubber stamp this big thing being built, whatever that big thing is. Let’s do a real environmental impact study to make sure that Black and Latino people aren’t going to be disproportionately affected by asthma or pollution or smog or polluted water because of the garbage or the rubbish or the trucks that are coming through. So really staying on top of all the different ways that we can stay interconnected. But it’s not just about the president flying to Egypt and signing an environmental treaty with other world leaders. We need to make sure that our mayors and city council members and state legislators and members of Congress fully understand all of the different ways that we can affect climate change on micro levels, whether it’s recycling or birds or planting trees or whatever it may be in our local communities. So I just want to thank the brilliant students at Texas Southern University for your fantastic questions and your thoughtful engagement. I want to encourage you to keep voting and keep participating. Please encourage everyone you know and love to take a part in your political process. This is something that is ours. We cannot just let our democracy sit in a frame or we look at it and think, Oh, wow, that’s great. It has to be a series of daily decisions that we make that we make together as a community. So I implore you all to please continue investing not just in yourselves and in your communities and also in your country. And you can do that by thinking about running for office. You don’t have to run for the presidency just yet or even or even Congress. But think about running for a local office. We’ve seen the attacks on CRT. Think about running for a school board place. Think about running for city council and all the different ways that you can affect members of your community directly. That’s a real direct office that holds a great importance. Think about other smaller offices. There are thousands upon thousands of offices. If you care about the environment, you can be on the water board and you’re in your various communities. So think about different elected offices and think about running. And if you don’t want to run, and that’s fine. There’s so many ways that you can support really great people who are running, putting $5 aside every month so that when you do meet a candidate that inspires you, you can actually donate and politically tied to that particular candidate to make sure that they get to where they want to be and stay on top of your elected officials. Write them, call them, email them, stop by their offices, let them know that you exist. Because once they do, they know that they have to be responsive to your needs and your wants and make sure you encourage others to do so. I want to thank you all for listening to the special edition of The Blackest Questions. The show is produced by Sasha Armstrong and Geoffrey Trudeau. Regina Griffin is our managing editor of podcasts and if you like what you heard, please share this podcast with others and make sure you subscribe so you never miss an episode. Thank you so much for tuning in.