One African-American Milwaukee resident who didn’t vote was William Howell. He has lost all trust in the political process dating back to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“When I saw something like that could happen in America [in New Orleans] the way they left those people and the president [George W. Bush] didn’t do anything at that time,” said Howell. “I’ve been through with the political process for a while.”
Barbers and customers at Top Class Barbershop on Milwaukee’s Fond du Lac Avenue had mixed emotions about the presidential election and Donald Trump’s victory. Some, like Howell, didn’t vote because they didn’t think either candidate had African Americans’ interests in mind. Hillary Clinton needed the city vote to come out for her in higher numbers than they did to offset the phenomenon in rural Wisconsin, where white working class voters flipped from Barack Obama to Trump. Here, in Milwaukee’s inner city, people said they didn’t really like either candidate, so they just sat it out. One thing no one brought up at the barbershop as a reason for staying home, though: Voter ID.
Jamal Nurudin, the owner of Top Class Barbershop, did go out and vote and wonders why so many other African Americans didn’t.
“I felt disappointed…,” said Nurudin. “I felt African Americans have underestimated what kind of effect this would have in their personal lives.” He believes that African-Americans should realize the power they do have at the ballot box.
When you go to the barbershop, you don’t go just to get a haircut. You get to talk and debate with other people who have the same interests (sports, movies and music). Another subject they talk about is politics.
Nurudin added that young African Americans may not be fully aware of the struggles their parents, grandparents and ancestors had to face. From slavery and Jim Crow to horrible presidents, African Americans have seen it all. Now, younger Africans Americans typically deal with racial profiling, cyberbullying, police brutalities and protests. Over 400 years of frustration and anxiety came out with many African Americans taking part in this election.
“I think African Americans are tired of being left behind and disappointed in the political process and not seeing any real gain,” said Nurudin. “It showed in this election, it may have been the wrong time to show but it showed up.”
Howell also didn’t have the motivation to vote. While he did vote for President Obama the last two elections, he wasn’t fond of the candidate representing both parties this year.
“I expected more,” said Howell. “I just don’t want to take part in the election this year.”
One person, Greg Johnson, who also didn’t vote, has some strong emotions about presidents (not just Trump).
“No president has represented Africans,” said Johnson. “None of them.”
Johnson feels that no matter what political party you represent (especially this year), African Americans will find it hard to identify with you. He was also one of the few people who knew Trump would win the election even when the majority of people though it was Hillary Clinton’s to lose.
“We live in a racist country,” said Johnson. “What better position could you get than one of the richest, racist dudes in America. They’re going to, it’s just the American way.”
There are definitely some African Americans who didn’t vote and were upset with the candidates, but there were those who did vote despite not liking the candidates. Gary Williams, who was at the barbershop getting a haircut with his son, voted in the election and heard stories of African Americans, older and younger, not voting.
“It was pretty sad,” said Williams. “Eight years ago, when everyone turned out we got it who we wanted [Obama] and four years ago same deal.”
He said it seemed social media and the candidates determined whether or not people should vote. He is also nervous that if Trump doesn’t last long (whether impeachment, resignation or any other method), what happens if Mike Pence will be next man up. But he does see the light at the end of the tunnel and plans on going to his son and tell him when he gets older about the election.
“You got to listen to what these people are saying,” said Williams. “You got to listen, do your research and the most important part is to get out there and vote.”
Regardless if they voted or not, everyone in Top Class Barbershop knows that Trump is our next president and no amount of protests and the recounts can change it. They all just go on with their daily routines and hope for the best.
“We going to have to bounce back from this,” said Nurudin. “Hopefully as a community, people will come together and realize that we have to.”
Who knows what’s to come next month when Trump is sworn in the White House, but the guys at the Barbershop aren’t going to let it affect their daily lives.