Like the years before it, a lot of the racial discourse in 2016 was shaped by viral videos, protests, and unrest.
During the presidential campaign, race often became a polarizing issue. So much so that Donald Trump was only able to attract eight percent of all American black voters.
As tumultuous as 2016 was for communities of color across the country, there is little to suggest that 2017 will be much better. At least, that's the consensus of three local black leaders.
Ahead of the new year, Take Two brought together three voices from the African-American community to look back at the events of the year, and look forward to 2017.
(Answers have been edited for clarity.)
- Shamell Bell, Ph.D. student at UCLA and one of the original members of Black Lives Matter
- Tyree Boyd-Pates, educator, and activist.
- Tyrone Howard, director of the Black Male Institute at UCLA.
Tyree Boyd-Pates, how would you characterize the year for African Americans living in Los Angeles?
Sadly in 2016, for African Americans, Los Angeles is still fraught with the same repressive conditions that Africans Americans have had to deal with for the last 30 years.
Much of our concentrated areas are still dilapidated, and the only areas that are developing are the ones that are faced with the threat of gentrification.
Political representation is still kinda indistinguishable from candidates, and police relations are collectively still at a deadlock.
Tyrone, looking broadly at the needs of the African American community in Los Angeles, what do you think is going to be the most critical factor for continued growth in the next year and beyond?
Part of what we have to recognize is that growing inequality continues to have a real racial element to it. We see that poverty continues to impact African Americans in ways that it doesn't affect other populations.
I'm an educator, so I think that the quality of education for African Americans in 2016 is in need of some significant enhancement. These issues are all intertwined. When we improve the quality of education, we improve the opportunities for families, for working wages and living conditions, we improve neighborhoods and communities. It's really a holistic approach we have to take.
Economic empowerment, better quality education, a real bold and courageous political representation would be three starting points I would begin to focus on.
Back in August at a rally in Michigan, Donald Trump made this impassioned plea:
"Look at how much African-American communities have suffered under Democratic Control. To those hurting, I say: what do you have to lose by trying something new?" - Donald Trump
I don't see what we have to lose, but I see what we have to gain in ourselves. I see that we have to gain faith in ourselves and our communities and our interconnectedness, and our abilities to have these conversations.
I'm a TA at UCLA and had many white students coming to me crying and wanting to engage in the conversations and me having to tell them, you know, these types of hard conversations have to happen during Christmas break. I want you to write those things down. Sit with them. Ruminate with them. Continue to have these hard discussions.
I think that, in a way, Trump gave us the ability to put the white supremacy on blast.
Tyree, looking nationally and locally, what do you hope we can focus on in the next four years?
This election and this tenure of Donald Trump is what African Americans need. This threat that Donald Trump poses for us is nothing new and we saw this with Reagan and the Clinton administration. This will — potentially — spark a black organizing and arts renaissance that will politicize and reinvigorate us in a whole new way.
And so I already thank Donald Trump for what he's going to do to African Americans including myself as we continue to organize and solidify our black political power once again.