Say It Louder! Black Voters, White Narratives, and Saving Our Democracy by Tiffany D. Cross
This book is a little bit of a bait and switch. It is packaged like a more academic nonfiction title, but it’s actually much heavier on personal narrative than I expected. Fortunately, the voice behind that narrative is smart, highly informed, and funny. In Say It Louder! Tiffany D. Cross reflects on her experiences working in news media to explain how the perspectives of white voters are over-emphasized, skewing the narrative when it comes to Black voters, or erasing them altogether.
One of the most enjoyable parts of this book is how direct and funny Cross is about racism and the media. For example, she writes “Too many would describe Trump’s outright racist remarks as having ‘racial undertones.’ If someone can tell me the difference between a person who makes comments with racial undertones and someone who is an outright racist, I’ll send you a free copy of this book” (10). She also treats us to metaphors like “Trying to keep up with the anarchy that the Trump administration brought is like trying to catch confetti” (2).
Cross uses this wit to take the media to task for the “racial undertones” of their reporting on MAGA demonstrations, white economic anxiety, and police brutality, and in segments such as “The Good Stuff” on CNN. I think that one of the strongest, most revealing parts of the book is the section on white economic anxiety and how it was reported on by the media in 2016, when most of the white voters who voted for Donald Trump were not working class and the working class is increasingly a majority BIPOC. She also does a great job of explaining how the continued emphasis on Ohio as a swing state, despite its declining population, represents an emphasis on the interests of white voters.
Through examining these issues, as well as voter suppression in Ohio and Florida and the dearth of Black journalists at major outlets, Cross argues that “media coverage enables the erasure of Black folk from democracy” (154). Although Cross makes a compelling and detailed case, the argument is not very clearly structured. I think that is the book’s one big flaw. The conversational tone is a major plus in terms of readability and my enjoyment of the book, but it does tend to bounce from topic to topic.
If you have read One Person, No Vote by Carol Anderson, Say It Louder! makes a good complement to that text. If you have not read much about voter suppression, I would recommend reading up on that in addition to this text, but Cross makes a solid case for how the media is complicit in the damage being done to our democratic process.