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3 Black Male Voters Discuss The Election, Messaging And The Future

NOEL KING, HOST:

When he gave his victory speech on Saturday, President-elect Joe Biden specifically thanked Black voters for helping him to win.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE BIDEN: The African American community stood up again for me.

(CHEERING)

BIDEN: You've always had my back, and I'll have yours.

KING: But as we know, the Black community is not a monolith. I talked to three Black men about the election, what message they had heard from the Biden campaign and the future. John Settles is 59 and lives in Seattle. He voted for Biden. Tim Graves is 58 and lives in Jacksonville, Fla. He voted for Trump. And Demetre Coles from Waterbury, Conn., is 25. He told me that he voted for the Green Party candidate, Howie Hawkins, because he didn't connect with either major party.

DEMETRE COLES: It's a trust issue. I view the Black community's relationship with the Democratic Party, for example, as sort of like a domestic violence relationship, you know. We've been giving our vote to them loyally for 55, 60 years, and we have got nothing in return. And as for the Republican Party, I don't feel as if they care about me at all, you know. But it's just more blatant.

KING: Demetre, this is a hard thing to quantify. What is the nothing that Democrats have promised that you haven't gotten?

COLES: Well, first, if I could just start off by saying, I was on board with Bernie Sanders.

KING: OK.

COLES: The issues that he was - you know, student debt forgiveness, "Medicare for All," criminal justice reform. And he laid out his, like, you know, specific things for the Black community that I really thought that were, you know, commonsense things. And I saw Joe Biden - you know, he was saying that Medicare for All's never going to happen. It's not possible. Then he, you know, laid stipulations on, you know, student loan forgiveness, criminal justice reform. It's hard for me to even trust him on that, you know, seeing his responsibility in the 1994 crime bill. And that's where the trust issue came in for me.

KING: John, you voted for Joe Biden. When you hear Demetre say the Democrats haven't done much for us, tell me what goes through your mind.

JOHN SETTLES: Really, what mattered for me in this election - I loved Bernie Sanders' platform. I really was looking for someone to dispose Trump. I didn't want to squander my vote on a position that would dilute that power. And so that was more important to me this cycle.

KING: You picked the guy who you thought could win.

SETTLES: I did. I mean, I have some policy issues that are concerning. And - but they are more of a concern under the current administration.

KING: What are the policy issues that concern you - top two?

SETTLES: The economy, COVID and racial equity. I know that's three.

KING: No, that's good. That's fine. What did you hear from President Trump that made you think, on these three issues, this guy - not just this guy isn't fixing it, but it's so bad that I'm willing to back a candidate I don't love 'cause I want him out?

SETTLES: I just didn't hear myself included in a lot of the rhetoric in the last four years. I mean, I - there's a lack of compassion, and it just didn't resonate with me.

KING: Mr. Graves, let me turn this over to you. You voted for President Trump. You heard Mr. Settles say, I didn't feel like when he spoke, he was talking to me. Give me an example of a moment where you heard President Trump speak and you really did feel included.

TIM GRAVES: Yes, ma'am. No. 1 - after almost 40 years of promises from every president up to Donald Trump, historically Black colleges for the first time got long-term funding. No. 2 - the lowering of Black unemployment is absolutely incredible. Of course, we know that it is the top that it's ever been in the country, prior to COVID. And No. 3 - as he said, I mean, what do we have to lose? I mean, from the point that Johnson and the Democratic Party back in the late '60s and early '70s made policies that take Black men out of the house with welfare, and that's been one of their goals since then is to make sure that Blacks in general remain on government assistance, and they can keep that vote.

KING: What does Joe Biden have to do to be your president?

GRAVES: Absolutely zero because - I mean, I will once everything is settled kind of accept him as the president because he will be the president. But, personally, I mean, absolutely nothing, you know. And it goes all the way back to the crimes bill. So I doubt very seriously that I'd be able to come around because I think, ultimately, what his actions are will determine that, you know. And it doesn't matter what party you're from. It's your policies that - it's your issues that I vote on.

KING: Mr. Coles, you voted for a third-party candidate. What does Joe Biden have to do to become your president?

COLES: Really, he would have to, you know, make large changes to his platform and his policies.

KING: Give me some examples.

COLES: Like Medicare for All (laughter), like, for example. That's really big for me, especially someone who's about to be kicked off my parents' health care plan next year. Not only did I graduate college, but, you know, I also went to grad school. So drastic changes, you know, to student loans are also, you know, needed and to higher education in general. And do I think he could do it? I don't think so. I don't think he will do it, either.

KING: Mr. Settles, you voted for Joe Biden because you wanted President Trump out of office, and it looks like you got what you wanted. You were a reluctant Biden voter. What does he need to do to get you behind him?

SETTLES: One, there's got to be a discussion in terms of bringing different viewpoints and to having a concerted effort to move the issues forward. You know, racial equity is really a thing for me. I think in this whole - the George Floyd moment, we've missed an opportunity because now it's devolved into the looting and vandalism and people want to, you know, label it as that. But it opened a door to a conversation that, really, we haven't had in a long - really, ever in this country. And, you know, people are ready for the conversation.

KING: That was John Settles in Seattle, Wash., Tim Graves in Jacksonville, Fla., and Demetre Coles in Waterbury, Conn.

(SOUNDBITE OF GANG STARR AND JERMAINE COLE'S "FAMILY AND LOYALTY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.