Jalen Elrod is the first vice chair of the Greenville County Democratic Party and president of the Young Democrats of Greenville County. This is the second in a series of articles to get to know more about the party leaders and key volunteers.
Q. You seem to be the most non political person possible, by which I mean, there seems to be no wiggle-room in your words. You are uncompromising. A working strategy or a work in progress?
A. I wouldn’t define it as a working strategy or a work in progress. I try to tell things how they are. Some people are bothered by that because they have a superficial concern about the injustices of the world. What is happening in our community and country and how that afflicts the powerless isn’t ambiguous so I see no reason to pretend it is. People deserve better than the status quo. That includes the Democratic Party and how in Greenville there is a neglect of communities of color by the party as opposed to how predominately white “Resistance” that has arisen from Trump has been helped.
Q. You recently tweeted that people who got active after Trump should ask themselves if they would have been as motivated if Trump had lost. Everyone has their own reasons for activism and awareness. Does it matter what the driver was?
A. Of course it matters because Donald Trump, as terrible as he is, is a temporary problem.
There will come a day where he no longer sits in the Oval Office. I posted that tweet because there has been a massive outpouring of “activism” since his election. Many, if not all, of the problems facing historically disenfranchised communities did not start with Trump and won’t end with him. Where was this activism when unarmed Black men were getting gunned down in the streets by police? Where was it when Black people were being forced out of the neighborhoods of Greenville to satisfy this city’s greed? The list goes on and on.Trump and what he represents isn’t really anything new in America. Those who came in because of him must ask themselves if they’re now in this fight for the long haul or if it’s just a Trump fad that will sap them of their motivation after he is gone. Because people will still suffer. Just as they did before he came to power.
Q. Greenville is a beautiful city but with deeply systemic problems with poverty and race. Community policing, lack of affordable housing, and a grossly underfunded public transportation system. How do we get people focused on these local issues?
A. What is happening locally in Greenville is arguably more unjustifiable and immoral than what is happening in Washington. But, as I alluded to earlier, local politics lacks the theatricality of national politics. You get people to focus on local elections by letting them know those who are less fortunate and down-trodden suffer due to apathy of the comfortable and the affluent and they have a moral responsibility to.
Q. What experience most shaped you – socially, politically?
A. Seeing the community my family and people who look like me have lived in (the city) for generations be exiled for the renaissance of Greenville while those in power sit back and live their best lives because this injustice doesn’t affect them or their power.
Q. Why don’t young people vote and what do we need to do to change it?
A.Young people don’t vote, or more broadly don’t engage in the political process, for a myriad of reasons. Some don’t because of cynicism about politics. Others, it’s just apathy.
Q. Do you see your future as a front-man (elected official) or background (political/community operative)?
A. Everyone will find out in the next year or two.
Q. What do you want people to know about you that I haven’t asked?
A.Some people have asked me why the Young Democrats under my tenure seem to have events in the same neighborhoods. The answer is that I have long felt the Democratic Party neglects and, frankly, takes advantage of predominantly minority communities by only interacting with them during election season and never go into those communities when those communities need the party to stand with them. That still persists. Our Young Democrats chapter has been determined to give back to those underserved communities that have been left behind by the party. I haven’t been prouder of anything in my life than how much we’ve been able to do for the community.