Saturday, February 27, 2016

Hillary's popularity in the rural, Black South

Debbie Elliott reports for NPR today from Hale County, Alabama, population 15, 184.  More than 58% of that population is Black.  This is in America's "Black Belt," and the headline for the story is "In Alabama's Rural Black Belt, an Uphill Climb for Bernie Sanders."  

Elliott's story features 80-year old Theresa Burroughs, a longtime community leader who participated in the March on Selma and also helped hide Martin Luther King, Jr., when he passed through Greensboro two weeks before his assassination.  She says she will definitely vote for Clinton, who has "no place up to go but president."  Further, Burroughs, comments:
She's been here. She knows us personally. She knows the condition.
By "condition," Burroughs refers to the fact that Hale County is one of the poorest places in the United States.  More than 26% of the population live in poverty.
Most counties in Alabama's black belt have double-digit unemployment, and more than a quarter of the population lives below the federal poverty line. As farm jobs have dwindled, towns have struggled to lure industry to replace them.
Elliott also talked to Greensboro's young people, specifically some at the Hale Empowerment and Revitalization Organization (HALO) who are working on their GEDs:
"I just feel like Hillary Clinton would be a good president," says Drewquita Lanier, who is 22 years old, said recently as about a dozen students, most in their 20s, wrapped up a day of testing. They took a break to talk politics. "Not just because she's a woman but she knows a lot that low income people need help. That's why I'm electing her." 
Most of her classmates are undecided, and express frustration that they've been left behind. 
"I don't think we have a voice for us," said Jalisa Travis. 
Raven Sewell wants a candidate who can help break the cycle of poverty. 
"I can say honestly say I'm almost there," Sewell said. 
She's close to earning her high school equivalency diploma. 
"I have my own place to live. I'm working on a car. Some people really trying, they just need an extra hoist," says Sewell. 
Unlike other places where Bernie Sanders has fired up young voters, his message has not reached these rural African-American students. Sewell is surprised to hear that he wants to make college free.

"Now that sounds wonderful," she said.
What isn't clear to me having read the story is what work "rural" is doing for the reporter with this headline.  Are things different in Greensboro, Alabama than in Montgomery, Alabama with respect to support for Hillary?  This headline suggests not.   

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