It is interesting how white liberals fully embrace the idea that Bill Clinton was the first black president, and attribute that to Hillary Clinton’s support among African Americans. It is even more interesting to hear why the Clintons should not be critically examined by black people. It is undeniable that the Clintons are a brand name in politics. A brand that on the surface level appears to be an unyielding ally of black communities. Michael Eric Dyson describes black loyalty to the Clintons perfectly:
“As president, when it came to black people, Bill Clinton was a magician. He could conjure from his political top hat racial rabbits that pleased the black crowd and made them go “ahh.” ”
But on what basis should the Clintons really be evaluated on? Should it be how well they mastered the art of racial pandering? Or should it be the policies and rhetoric that they espoused? Let us consider some rather interesting remarks Hillary Clinton made regarding juvenile criminals, predominantly our most vulnerable youth in black communities:
“They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel…”
Here we have a clear dilemma for black folk, a dilemma that white liberals are not subject to. Michelle Alexander accurately assesses the dilemma, reminding us that while the Clinton years were some of the best economically for America, they were some of the worst for Black America. Hillary Clinton did not in anyway help heal any wounds by referring to disaffected black youth as “superpredators” with “No conscious, no empathy”. Around this same time, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was adamantly against the racialized tough on crime rhetoric, and the infamous “tough on crime bill” that Bill Clinton was responsible for:
“…this is not a crime prevention bill, this is a punishment bill…Mr. speaker instead of talking about punishment and vengeance, let us have the courage to talk about…how we stop crime…I’ve got a problem with a president and a congress which allows 5 million children to go hungry, 2 million people to sleep out on the streets…and they say we’re getting tough on crime…let’s not keep putting poor people into jail and disproportionately punishing blacks”
As a black man, I know that cultural self determination is important. For those who are not black, just consider the awful history of white supremacy in this nation where black people were denied the right to define who they are. There tends to be a paternalistic, condescending tone that white people sometimes have when telling black people who to vote for. This tone is present across the political spectrum, with white conservatives and white liberals both being guilty. If non black people wish to discuss at length who black communities should vote for and why, then those people need to realize that blackness runs more than skin deep. Blackness is like a tree branch that extends to the heart and mind, with a powerfully vivid memory and heightened sensitivity at the root.
(Note: This article was posted before the black lives matter protester confronted Secretary Clinton about her comments)