To California’s Black Legislators: Do Not Usher in the Age of the Common Man

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The concepts of “black” and “white” did not arrive with the first Europeans and Africans but grew on American soil. During Andrew Jackson’s administration, racist ideas took on new meaning. In Mississippi, Jackson, who may have owned as many as 300 slaves, ushered in the “Age of the Common Man.” But, according to PBS, “the only people who benefited were white men. Blacks, Indians, and women were not included.”

This week the California Assembly approved a ban on the retail sale of flavored tobacco products statewide, including menthol cigarettes a product preferred by Blacks. However, Legislators have made it possible that again: Whites benefit. The tobacco products exempted under the ban (hookah products, premium cigars, and some pipe tobacco) are products preferred by Whites. Are these tobacco products exempted because white Californian influencers, celebrities, and those in the pop culture elite have glorified and upheld the trendiness of the premium cigars and hookah at clubs/bars, and so our state decision-makers agree that these tobacco options are allowed? The tobacco preferred by Whites?

As a Black man, a father, a native Californian, and a publisher of a local Black newspaper deeply rooted in the fabric of our state’s Black communities, it concerns me that our legislators would pass legislation that, again, benefits Whites.

Let’s be real for a minute because many advocates of the bill have made claims that need addressing.

First, Black people are not a homogenous group – there are some who oppose SB793, and there are some who support it. Those who oppose the ban are not all smokers, like myself and many others. Those who oppose the ban are not advocates of smoking like many false claims state. Those who oppose the ban simply state that since you have to be 21-years old to purchase menthol cigarettes, then you are an adult and should be free to make your own choices.

A nanny state is one that emboldens itself to make all of the decisions of the people. The time of the state making the decisions for Black people is done and has been for many decades. The “Age of the Common Man,” where the White man benefits more than Blacks, is done and should not be ushered in again.

So, what’s next? Hypothetically, if the state learns that Blacks prefer Chardonnay and ban it for our sake, but do not ban Merlot because it’s preferred by Whites?

Wake Up, this is where we are headed if this ban passes! Black legislators, who are you protecting? Who do you think you are making “the best decisions for”? Do you feel that we are ignorant, dumb, and incapable of making the best decisions for our lives? Do you think that Whites who prefer non-menthol deserve access to the tobacco of their choice, yet Blacks do not? We are not ⅗ a person, nor robots, children, or puppets in your power struggles.

I understand that it’s hard for Black legislators to advocate for the adult vices of Blacks, but by supporting this bill you are advocating for the adult vices of Whites. We cannot ignore the systemic racism and oppression of Black adult freedoms at the root of this bill. If Governor Newsom passes this bill, we {Black folks} must brace ourselves for the onslaught of similar bills aimed at taking away Black adult choices in California – let the ripple effect begin – let the Age of the Common Man commence.

Lastly, I don’t smoke, don’t want to smoke, don’t want my kids to smoke. I am a Black man, and a Black father who became a voice for California’s Black community. I know our community, speak to our community and share stories from our community. I do not want to see our community lose our freedoms and become less than, so that our decision-makers can feel they are more than. We cannot go backwards.

If you agree that Black People Matter, well agree that our choices matter, whether you agree with them or not. They are ours and we have fought for centuries to have the freedom to make them! We are in the Age of the Black Man, not the Common Man.

But if the California Senate Bill 793 passes, we will awaken to a new reality: a state where our legislators decide what best for Black folks while ensuring that Whites have all of the choices and desires they need to be our fierce and biased decision-makers.

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