On September 2, 2005, Kanye West stood on stage at an NBC-sponsored Red Cross relief show and began a minute-long speech about the mistreatment of black victims of Hurricane Katrina, closing with a line that many of us will never forget. “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” exclaimed West, who, at the time, was more famous for his recently released album Late Registration than his grubby-chic clothing line, colorist casting call, or reality TV star wife. West had decided to take advantage of the highly publicized event to speak out against a racist, insensitive press and a neglectful President George W. Bush, whose flagrant disregard for poor, black New Orleans residents in the midst of the storm warranted West’s tongue-lashing. Though cameras quickly cut away, concerned home audiences who had seen footage of New Orleanians huddled atop buildings to stay dry and signal for help cheered West’s frank indictment of an idle president.
West’s outspoken declaration remains a rarity. When it comes to communities of color, many celebrities (now including West himself), have chosen to pursue a “safer,” less controversial route by ultimately siding with power over the people. During election 2016, for example, most celebrities of color have fawned over Hillary Clinton, a political figure whose neglect and abuse of marginalized groups is well established. Getting more specific, one can count popular black figures willing to hold Clinton publically accountable on one hand. Two such figures are San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has excoriated Clinton for her racism, and Dr. Cornel West, who opted to endorse Jill Stein for president after backing Bernie Sanders in the primaries instead of the person he refers to as a “neoliberal disaster.” In the storm of mainstream praise for Clinton regarding her supposed willingness to “listen” to marginalized communities, Kaepernick and West have served as lighthouses, and for a good reason.
The reality is that duplicity reigns supreme in Clintonian rhetoric. From internal discourse to public speeches and related policy, Clinton and her campaign prefer to play to “both sides,” always at the expense of the most vulnerable. While canned statements by Clinton and her surrogates may open with an embrace of the Arab-American community, for example, subsequent lines create a false dichotomy of “good,” patriotic Arabs and “bad,” subversive Arabs, with the former charged with the undue burden of gathering intel on the latter. Likewise, when Clinton speaks about police brutality against black people, she immediately follows that assertion with calls to obey law enforcement officers, simultaneously creating a false equivalence between the two groups that minimizes violence against unarmed civilians. Most recently, Clinton has emphasized the importance of listening to “all voices” in a dispute over land use in the construction of an oil pipeline in North Dakota, with one voice being that of indigenous water protectors and their allies, while the other is that of heavily armed police and privately-contracted security forces with attack dogs and machine guns at their sides. The incongruence is glaring.
Despite the magnificent fluency of Clinton’s doublespeak and triangulation, Clinton supporters continue to applaud her “progressivism” on racial issues, while her political record, words, and behavior during both the 2008 and 2016 elections indicate otherwise. Clinton’s reluctance to fully embrace policies that would disproportionately benefit marginalized groups is well documented. Furthermore, correspondence exposed over the course of the election, in particular, the most recent leak of Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s emails, provides further confirmation of what some of us already know: Hillary Clinton doesn’t care about black people. Unfortunately, other marginalized groups have not fared well on Clinton’s watch either, a problem that will no doubt continue should she become president. As her leaked private speeches readily intimate, Clinton’s primary concern is the happiness of her donors, whose interests she thinly veils with platitudes sufficient enough to appease her voter base.
This concern is in no way exclusive to Hillary Clinton. On the contrary, many figures in our current political state serve in office not to represent the needs of their constituents, but to fatten their respective wallets and contact lists. The reality, however, is that at the moment, only the Clinton campaign’s email correspondence has been made available to the public. It is Clinton and her campaign staffers whose words convey a sense of indifference toward the concerns of people of color. While one can argue that the attitudes members of the campaign express toward marginalized groups are not those of Clinton herself, it bears considering the adage that the culture of a company starts at the top.
It is this culture that we must consider in greater depth. As Clinton’s team and those in their indirect employ in the media insist that voters have an obligation to support Clinton to “protect” marginalized groups from the wrath of Trump and his supporters, it is of the utmost importance that we familiarize ourselves with the attitudes they hold of the groups they purport not only to represent, but to “save.” The public rhetoric of the Clinton campaign and its supporters toward people of color takes a page out of Rudyard Kipling’s imperialist and paternalistic poem “The White Man’s Burden,” now refashioned for the twenty-first century, and should not slip under the radar unnoticed.
Patterns of Neglect
As with Kipling’s vision of the U.S. government toward its new foreign subjects at the turn of the twentieth century, Clinton’s team has sought to offer the bare minimum to its “captured minority” electorate. Despite all the careful details in Clinton team emails – from the countless speeches staffers edit to tweets they mull over for hours to get just right – substance is noticeably absent from the output. This approach is by design. In several instances, those working on the campaign actively discourage the slightest mention of policy, seemingly less in the interest of caution than to explicitly avoid accountability for anything said on the record. Take, for example, the suggestion to emphasize feeling over substance in September of 2015 from policy advisor Kristina Costa about a Clinton op-ed in the Spanish-language paper La Opinión. Costa says the team must “lay out a passionate case for why HRC stands with the Latino community and call out the Republicans for their rhetoric, rather than leaning on policy positions.” Similarly, in a June 2015 discussion over a tweet regarding the debt crisis in Puerto Rico, policy advisor Ann O’Leary notes with caution that she and Clinton “don’t want to suggest a bailout,” and instead “want to suggest that [they] should partner to solve the problem.” Clinton’s subsequent endorsement of the vulture-fund backed PROMESA bill, and her continued support from big banks demonstrate that “suggestions” are likely all that Puerto Ricans will get from Clinton in their fight for economic sovereignty.
Consider this approach to avoid solidifying policy positions alongside information from a leaked March 2016 DCCC internal memo that advises Democrats in a set of “best practices” to follow when dealing with Black Lives Matter activists in person. Democrats are encouraged to limit contact with activists to “personal or small group meetings” that give the appearance of concern without “offer[ing] support for concrete policy positions.” This method of neutralizing confrontational forms of activism continues into the present, with Clinton having met on several occasions with two well-known figures of Black Lives Matter, though no video footage or transcript of the most recent meeting in late October has been released to date. Shortly following the meeting, Clinton received their endorsement, which the Black Lives Matter network clarified does not speak for the entire movement.
This fear of confrontation pervades the Clinton campaign emails, as staffers express concern on several occasions of being held publically accountable not only for Clinton’s record on the issues, but her gaffes during the campaign. In February of this year, with the South Carolina primary fast approaching, protester Ashley Williams revived criticism of Clinton’s use of the racially charged term “super predator” during a speech she gave in 1996 in support of the now infamous Crime Bill that expanded the U.S. prison system by astronomical proportions.
Though an exasperated Clinton responded to Williams claiming that she had not discussed the issue because “nobody’s ever asked [her] before,” emails between staffers show that Clinton was indeed well-aware of the issue and her team was crafting a preemptive response. As noted below, just days before Williams’s protest, the Clinton camp had been preparing to address the issue briefly during an interview slated with the Tavis Smiley show, then have Clinton “pivot to [her] Senate record.” What they penned during the exchange of emails went on instead to become the text for Clinton’s expression of regret over her use of the term “super predator” that Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart cited in his article about the protest.
2/21 – Prep for @tavissmiley interview; "superpredator" apology crafted
2/24 – BLM protests HRC at fundraiser
2/25 – "Apology" released
— Carlton Banksy (@rtyson82) October 26, 2016
Similarly, in another fraught exchange two weeks later, Clinton staffers went into full damage control mode to soften the blow from dismay over ahistorical claims Clinton made during Nancy Reagan’s funeral. In a moment of reflection on Nancy Reagan’s time in the White House, Clinton lied – later claiming she misspoke – that the Reagans had “started a national conversation [about HIV/AIDS] when before nobody would talk about it, nobody wanted to do anything about it.” What Clinton claimed was Nancy Reagan’s “very effective, low-key advocacy” that “penetrated the public conscience” was anything but, as both Reagans maintained a cold silence amid thousands of deaths from AIDS-related complications during the early years of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States.
In response to Clinton’s gaffe, her team workshopped a statement that they later posted in her name on the site Medium, a campaign favorite for disseminating Clinton’s ghost-written material. A leaked email chain from March reveals that staffers involved in the insensitive exchange focused more on public perception concerning Clinton’s inaccurate portrayal of the 1980s AIDS crisis and related activism than anything else. The Clinton campaign’s LGBT Outreach Director Dominic Lowell was the first to weigh in, noting that after the gaffe, the campaign was not “in a good place with the [LGBT] community.” As a remedy, Lowell offers the recommendation that “supporters who are angry [could be] mollified with a longer statement, tv appearance, roundtable, or something else that shows that [Clinton] ‘gets it.’”
Lowell’s primary concern was about optics, which he expresses in a subsequent suggestion about the need to “build on yesterday’s response –and quickly.” Lowell notes he did not “want this to fester” among LGBTQ activist groups who were known to be “out, loud, and not afraid of direct action or aggressive confrontation.” One such group Lowell refers to is ACT UP, an AIDS advocacy group that famously confronted Bill Clinton while he was on the campaign trail in 1992. In addition to Lowell’s preoccupation with LGBTQ respectability, the campaign doubled down on its disgusting disregard for the historically tragic mistreatment of members of the LGBTQ community impacted by the AIDS crisis by closing their round of self-congratulatory emails over the quality of their Medium post with a quotation by, of all people, Ronald Reagan.
The second troubling pattern that emerges from a review of leaked emails is the campaign’s reliance upon tragedy in the interest of political success. Evidence shows that the dichotomy between Clinton’s “public” and “private” stances on economic issues translates into how she and her campaign think of marginalized communities. In public, Clinton and her team have attempted to show the candidate as the compassionate nemesis to Trump. At the advice of former Obama staffers Lou Frillman and Jon Favreau, the Clinton team spent millions of dollars in a public relations attempt to show Clinton as “loving,” as demonstrated by her “Love Trumps Hate” slogan, her “Vote Love” campaign featuring Alicia Keys, her “Fighter” video, and her “Love and Kindness” messaging. In private, however, the campaign calculates the strategic worth of each and every interaction Clinton has with individuals and communities wracked by tragedy.
As Clinton’s history has demonstrated with disturbing predictability, if she is consistent about one thing, it is that she has sided with the powerful far more than those dealing with considerable adversity. As writer and income equality advocate Kathleen Geier has argued, despite Clinton’s claims she is a champion for the less fortunate, she has repeatedly prioritized the interests of their oppressors instead. Clinton’s record bears out this assertion. After hearing Martin Luther King, Jr. speak in 1962, Clinton not only campaigned for virulently racist presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964, but as recently as 1996 expressed pride in having been a “Goldwater Girl.” Decades after spending her honeymoon in Haiti, she, her husband, and their associates would go on to misuse funds meant for hurricane relief in the nation, orchestrate handing over power to a corrupt puppet government, and attempt to exploit the nation’s natural resources.
After graduating from law school, Clinton briefly interned with the Children’s Defense Fund, though the time she spent “defending” lower-income women and their children clearly was not enough to dissuade her from advocating for the dismantling of programs and protections they depended on to survive. After her time at CDF, Clinton went on not only to serve on the board of Walmart, a corporation notorious for union busting, low wages, and employee mistreatment, but also to campaign alongside Bill as he gutted the welfare system. Similarly, years after declaring that “women’s rights are human rights” at a conference in Beijing in 1995, she repeatedly violated the human rights of women and girls by voting in 2002 to authorize the Iraq War, by orchestrating (and subsequently defending) intervention in Libya in 2011, by facilitating massive weapons deals to Saudi Arabia to attack Yemen, and by backing a 2009 coup in Honduras that has resulted in the murders of activists and an increase in femicide. The body count in the aforementioned acts of state terror, particularly of women and girls, continue to rise on a daily basis.
The examples above form just the tip of the iceberg, providing a mere glimpse into a larger pattern of violence Clinton engages in and that her team regularly papers over with displays of “charity.” What expands into the territory of harmful policies and practices begins first as a form of disaster capitalism at the electoral level. Over the course of the primary and well into the general election, Clinton has cloaked herself in the suffering of others, relying on a type of atmospheric adversity or empathy by proxy, while her own social status and immense privilege prove she could not be further removed from the downtrodden groups for whom she claims to “fight.” Amid these glaring contradictions, Clinton’s campaign continues to search for people with so little to lose they are willing to place their faith in a person who has shown time and time again that she cares more about a photo op than their wellbeing.
In the United States, crises in black communities, in particular, have provided fertile ground for the Clinton campaign to cultivate its supposed social justice bona fides, and when they come to harvest, they are well rewarded. From the prevalence of toxic, lead-contaminated water in Flint, Michigan to the relentless extinguishing of lives by trigger-happy police officers and homegrown racist terrorists, black tragedy has been Clinton’s greatest boon. Discussions in leaked emails demonstrate the ways the Clinton campaign has repeatedly used human suffering to its electoral advantage.
In an email from February, at the height of media coverage of the water crisis in Flint, Demos board member and Planned Parenthood Action Fund chair Gina Glantz congratulates Clinton on a “brilliant” trip to Flint and for “getting ahead of [Bernie Sanders] around ‘caring,’” a word Glantz placed in quotation marks. One could argue that Glantz’s strange punctuation was simply for the sake of emphasis had she not continued in the email to list tragedies similar to the Flint water crisis where Clinton’s “caring” could “be repeated.” In the email, Glantz advises that “there must be any number of low income communities with high rates of asthma or other stuff in South Carolina sitting next to fossil fuel plants belching out toxic material.” While Glantz remarks that these crises were “not on the scale of Flint,” they were “sure to be found all across the country” for Clinton to capitalize on during the primary. A week before Glantz gave the campaign her two cents, another Clinton supporter, megadonor Phillip Munger, forwarded an article about an NAACP-led lawsuit over incidents of voter suppression in Georgia to Podesta and Clinton’s foreign policy and national security advisor Jake Sullivan. With it, Munger left the hint, “This could be like the Flint moment…” as if to imply that the campaign could use black disenfranchisement to secure the nomination, a rather ironic suggestion considering their subsequent silence on election irregularities throughout the primaries.
The pain of Flint residents was not the only suffering Clintonites felt could propel their leader to victory. In several emails regarding police brutality and violent vigilantism, members of the Clinton campaign strategized on how to effectively utilize victims’ grieving children, partners, and mothers. The campaign got to work early, advisor Mandy Grunwald reminding Clinton in January to “use” the mothers of the victims specifically as “personal proof of her understanding of these issues” in contrast to Bernie Sanders. A March discussion regarding a New York Daily News op-ed on gun violence highlights the campaign’s desire to effectively include the women they would later dub “Mothers of the Movement.” “Are there any NYC moms/stories around gun violence that we could include?” spokeswoman Karen Finney asks in the long chain, to which Clinton’s National African American Outreach Director LaDavia Drane replies, “Gwen Carr (Eric Garner’s mother) is there in NYC.” This exchange bolsters Cenk Uygur’s argument (below) that each of the mothers was meant to serve as a mascot of sorts per state or region holding a primary election.
While it is important to recognize the agency of these women to join the campaign, likely in hopes of bringing greater awareness to the issues that caused the loss of their loved ones, it is of equal importance to recognize not only the campaign’s reluctance to commit to policy stances on any of these issues despite making them central to African-American outreach, but also their eagerness to silence victims’ family members who demanded more than a name drop in a stump speech. Some family members of victims of gun violence and police brutality expressed public concern over this disconnect. Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner, whom New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo murdered in cold blood on July 17, 2014, in a fatal chokehold, split from her grandmother Gwen Carr to endorse Bernie Sanders during the primary. Erica, with whom Clinton staffer Nick Merrill noted the campaign had “issues,” expressed concerns over the campaign’s use of her father’s death early on. In February, Garner characterized the Clinton campaign’s actions as “despicable.” “They’ve prepped my family to attack me in the media. She’ll do anything to win,” Garner tweeted, likely laying the foundations of the campaign’s frustration with the young activist who has justifiably been a thorn in the side of multiples elected official since her father’s murder. In July, Garner famously confronted President Barack Obama over his inaction with regard to her father’s case and many other instances of police brutality. Months later in September, Garner denounced New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Clinton supporter, for his reluctance in releasing records on the Officer Pantaleo to the public.
Garner was not the only person who had lost a loved one to police violence to withhold support from Clinton. Breaking what had by then become a steady stream of endorsements by victims’ mothers, Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, the 12-year old boy gunned down by police in Cleveland, Ohio in November of 2014, withheld endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Though the campaign denies having asked for Ms. Rice’s endorsement, they met with her in November of 2015, only for Ms. Rice to publish a statement in March that she refused to endorse any candidate for president. Campaign speech composition notes from the primaries show that in the very same month, Clinton had to be reminded how to pronounce Tamir Rice’s name.
Perhaps for some victims’ mothers, the prospect of putting out their loved ones’ stories outweighed insensitive practices by the Clinton campaign. That would be one way at least to explain their continued support of Clinton despite several affronts to the legacy of their lost children. The most egregious of these offenses includes the DNC having invited Michael Bloomberg, notorious for his support of the racist “stop and frisk” program, broken windows policing, and excessive surveillance practices that left black New Yorkers disproportionately vulnerable to police brutality, to speak on the same Pennsylvania convention stage the mothers had graced the night before. This invitation comes in as a close second to having Bill Clinton, who has repeatedly demonstrated contempt for Black Lives Matter activists, speak on the very same night. To add insult to injury, Hillary Clinton has been virtually silent on instances of police brutality and racist acts of violence since the primary. It will only be a matter of time before the crushing weight of Clinton’s post-election indifference – if not direct antagonism toward black victims in an ever growing list— buries their concerns completely.
Tokenism at the Frontlines
The Clinton campaign’s pathology of using the suffering of marginalized groups to drum up support finds insulation by way of a standard neutralization method of padding staff positions with people from the very groups the campaign exploits. Spokespeople, in particular, tend to be representative of groups marginalized on the basis of sexuality, race, and ethnicity, and they serve as frontline cannon fodder for criticisms marginalized people outside of the campaign launch Clinton’s way. In short, they are expendable. But before the campaign’s in-office “firewalls” are left out in the cold as other black Clinton fall people have been in the past, they are put to good use silencing dissent from their marginalized peers beyond the fortress walls of the campaign.
This hiring practice is one that the Clintons have long utilized to insulate themselves from criticism, but their need to surround themselves with people of color serves as more than a public relations tool. As Melissa Harris-Perry argued with regard to Hillary Clinton during her racist, unsuccessful 2008 run against Barack Obama, the Clintons’ reliance upon black people – particularly black women – for their success among voters of color revived an antebellum trope of inherited black subservience in the form of the enslaved Mammy figure. Black people were “just like one of the family” without any of the material benefits. More importantly, to add to Harris-Perry’s assertion, the treatment of black constituents under the Clintons signaled to the broader public that not only could sustaining their suffering be done with impunity, but, like portrayals of Mammy’s servitude, it was welcomed. Continued black support of the Clintons gave license to the broader racist public to join in on the process of oppressing us, because as surely as we suffered the stings of racism and neglect from the Clintons, we were equally inclined to forgive, forget, and hold out our bruised bodies to receive more pain from others, all while wearing a smile.
Fast forward to the 2016 election. This time around, Clinton leaned heavily on an identity-obsessed campaign that sought to cast Senator Bernie Sanders as a racist sexist while simultaneously painting his entire group of supporters – a large subset of which was composed of young people of color and women – with the same brush. In order to counteract Sanders’s growing contingent of diverse voters, the Clinton campaign and its allies engaged in a smear offensive with people of color at the helm. Beyond encouraging messaging that distorted Sanders’s record to several writers in the feminist and anti-racist blogosphere, the campaign also successfully engaged its staffers of color to circulate of a Daily Beast article that linked Sanders to the disproportionate affects the Vermont prison system had on the state’s small black population, intentionally avoiding any discussion of other Vermont leadership as they had all endorsed Clinton. Likewise, after a painfully long silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline construction and related protests, the team made sure to have a staffer with an indigenous name release Clinton’s toothless statement to the press.
To make matters worse, the Clinton campaign rarely possessed the self-awareness to recognize its deficit on race issues without external prompting, a problem only further highlighted by the overcompensatory articles praising the Clinton team for its commitment to hiring a racially diverse staff. Back in February, it took the prodding of private equity firm CEO and former Obama fundraiser Frank White, Jr. for the Clinton team to consider hiring more people of color for campaign positions. White, who is black, remarked to Podesta at the time (sic throughout), “The black is obvious super critical Im hearing the same complaint in political circles that i continue to hear while fundraising. ‘The campaign doesnt value black folks and takes us for granted.’” White’s word choice (“the black”) to describe black people in this exchange is interesting, to say the least, but his seeming disconnect from his own blackness is not so chasmal that it prevents him from making a sound suggestion for improving the campaign’s optics. “A black campaign vice chair or Sr advisor would go a long way during the primary,” White contends, and would “send the message that, Hillary puts her actions where her mouth is, and actually does appreciate the black vote.” Whether the latter assertion is true remains to be seen, though it is telling that White focused more on messaging for the black vote than black people and their needs.
The campaign proved equally out of touch with regard to Latinx voters, despite its sizeable group of Latinx staffers. After all, it took an exchange from proud Islamophobe, Clinton megadonor, and head of Spanish-language network Univision Haim Saban for them to realize that Clinton was “under reacting to Trump/Hispanics” and that the campaign could “get something by standing up for Latinos or attacking R[epublicans] for not condemning.” To the average person, it might seem like common sense that someone running to be the Democratic Party nominee in this century should be expressly critical of Trump’s xenophobia. Yet, somehow, this was something that had not crossed the mind Clinton’s Latinx staffers before Saban (who is not Latino) encouraged them to pursue the line of attack.
Despite a zealous investment in tokenism, Clinton’s campaign repeatedly demonstrated the underlying flaw in this approach: not all your skin folk are your kin folk. In other words, bearing the same skin color or ethnonational background as one’s constituents does not an ally make. As countless emails show, the diverse team repeatedly dropped the ball on racial issues even when the most obvious response lay within their immediate reach, relying instead on white consultants to come to the rescue when tiptoeing around how to address diverse audiences.
In early March, when Clinton’s “love and kindness” messaging was in full swing, attorney and campaign advisor Michael Zeldin noticed that a phrase in Clinton’s Super Tuesday speech was out of step with the nation’s reality. In response to Clinton’s ahistorical assertion that “we need to make America whole again,” Zeldin notes in an email to John Podesta that he is “not sure when America ever was whole.” Like Zeldin, consultant Joel Benenson gave the campaign a piece of his mind when a speech drafted for Clinton in June of 2015 failed to directly confront the racism of the Confederate flag in hopes of not unearthing old arguments over a similar debate on the Arkansas flag that waged while Clinton was First Lady of the state. “This sounds like pablum,” said a frustrated Benenson. “These flags are a disgrace and dishonor [to] all who have fought and died in the name of basic civil rights,” he continued, only to follow with a heavy question that adequately characterizes flaws in Clinton’s modus operandi: “This is a moment for moral leadership in America and if she doesn’t deliver it, who will?”
Despite the sound advice, Benenson ultimately goes on to admit another flaw: acts that appear to be in the best interests of marginalized groups are actually just calculated steps toward stronger campaign messaging and nothing more:
Symbols matter. In the case of this flag, every time a black person walks past this flag it is a symbol of the hatred and oppression their ancestors faced and they must still face. People are angry and hurt, and we can run a whole campaign on these issues. We have only one moment — right now — to vehemently attack this symbol.
Thankfully, people like activist Bree Newsome wasn’t willing to wait on politicians’ weak responses on the flag and took matters into her own hands just days after this email exchange.
What Lies Ahead
If the hemorrhaging of correspondence from the depths of the DNC and the Clinton campaign contains any lesson for people made vulnerable by the state on the basis of their socio-economic position and other markers of identity, it is that we must be like Newsome, prepared at all times to take matters into our own hands. We do not have the privilege to wait on the state to “save” us, and certainly not under the likes of Hillary Clinton, whose words and actions have shown us repeatedly that she does not know what is in our best interests, much less have them at heart.
Despite what people like Michael Eric Dyson may say or the seemingly infinite stream of Clinton supporters who claim she will be the best thing for black people (or any oppressed group) since sliced bread, it is important that we are brutally honest. We are part of a nation reeling from ongoing brutality meted out against marginalized groups, and a Clinton presidency will do nothing to remedy this suffering. On the contrary, her record, her shameless and insulting pandering, her obfuscation on important issues, and her campaign’s flimsy commitment to even the most incremental of measures to improve the lives of people of color in this nation tell us what truths to expect over the next few years.
Upon a Clinton win, two fates await black people in the United States – though likely, in several degrees, other people of color as well: 1) we will be neglected, only to be offered platitudes at best upon complaint and/or 2) we will be used in the interest of sustaining empire. Some people will be happy with one (or both) of these options because we as a people are so well-conditioned. After all, Obama gave us these two options as well, though he was sure to include a third: using us as punching bags in areas where he had failed us, offering scolding sessions instead of policy. It will be much harder for Clinton to scold people of color simply because the optics will be bad and it will appear racist (which, to be honest, it is, even when Obama does it). Clinton will fall back on her usual triangulation instead, and plenty of people of color will happily serve as her consummate apologists. We are watching them practice right now. They will pretend to be concerned about certain issues that affect less economically fortunate people of color, but, ultimately, it will all just be an act, a little dent in an otherwise solid structure of power they uphold in hopes of keeping their positions in line to one day sit atop it.
A more difficult fate awaits people of color abroad if Clinton’s foreign policy stances (public and private) are any indication. The content that runs through multiple collections of leaked emails in addition to Clinton’s strong support from neoconservatives foretells ongoing suffering of communities abroad that will render our domestic problems a cakewalk by comparison. The least we could do is be on the record as not compromising on our humanity or theirs.
Mentioning the ugliness of this reality has become downright sacrilege, especially now that adversarial journalism has been replaced with coverage so light it’s hardly worthy of a children’s television show, but recognizing it now instead of later is vital if we intend to mount any semblance of opposition to deleterious policy measures Clinton may propose regarding our communities. As they say in rehab, “admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery.” As an electorate made up of marginalized people, particularly as we have been abused over and over again, admitting this reality is also a radical act of self-preservation. If voting for Clinton is truly a stopgap measure against Trump, as some have alleged in their calls encouraging us to lend our support at the polls, then our communities must act like gadflies, constantly buzzing in the ears of Clinton and other elected officials to force them to prove they were worth the small electoral sacrifice.
Thus far, Clinton has proven nothing of the sort, meaning we have to keep telling the truth, using all mediums at our disposal to expose Clinton and the Democratic party for what it truly is. They have been cruel in their climb toward power, always willing to sacrifice people of color for the sake of ascension. Even in this election, they prayed on their hands and knees for a Trump candidacy – our lives be damned – and it’s unacceptable. We have every right to constantly call them out for these abuses against our personhood.
As inhabitants of a nation that has increased its wealth and resources on our backs, we owe it to ourselves to raise important questions and concerns. At the current historical moment, being critical of the systems we sustain is a basic right we have failed to exercise as of late for fear of being perceived as Trump supporters. But the truth is that our needs will not be met if we do not constantly demand them. Going forward, we cannot let anyone off the hook, even if they look like us. We must challenge them too, particularly as many who claim to be our “leaders” have proven to be little more than vectors to open our communities to exploitation.
We’ve come to expect this, but we shouldn’t. As uncomfortable as the process may be, we must be willing to be honest with ourselves and our communities about the challenges that lie ahead. We must refuse to serve as enablers to public figures who think our collective memories are so weak that they can trample our bodies and remain unscathed. At the very least, even if no one else does, much less Hillary Clinton, we must first care about ourselves.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the first name of the writer and income equality advocate Geier. Her name is Kathleen Geier, not Katherine Geier.