That Candidate “Look”- Questioning your own Sub-Conscious Bias about Black Candidates

– By Attorney Keisha Bell

In determining the most “qualified” candidate, does the “look of leadership” matter to you?  Do you (subconsciously) “accept” a white or male candidate easier?  Do you question their experience for the job?  Do you give them more “room for error”?  Can they simply visit your church, offer free food, shake your hand, and smile in your general direction to win your vote?

With regards to black candidates, do you investigate them in greater detail?  Must they share your political affiliation? Is it important that they have visibly worked—or volunteered—within your idea of the black community?  Do you silently cheer for them because you know the playing field is not level or have you counted them out because they are black, based upon your own calculus that “black” cannot win?

Do you watch black-women candidates the closest, or do you dismiss them altogether? Must she be “familiar?” Do you expect her to be traditional, yet a barrier-breaker?  Will you discount the experience she brings because you do not like her “attitude” — i.e. her strength, her power, her challenge to the negative typecast of black women?  Must she be almost perfect to obtain your support?

As you ponder your circumstance, and the circumstances of those around you, are you satisfied with what you see?  Has your method of choosing who to vote for produced desired results?  Is it time to re-evaluate your strategy?

Knowing and prioritizing issues that are important to you–individually and collectively–allows you to see who will or is attempting to seriously address your concerns.  Without this awareness, you can easily be misled into voting against your interests, which in turn slows your progress and that of succeeding generations.

Black Americans continue to face serious injustices which manifest through various methods.  Even those who “look the part” with seemingly good intentions can purposely lead you astray.  That candidate look—it truly is time to look deeper.

Keisha Bell is an Attorney, author, and public servant.

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