From the beginning of this cycle’s presidential race, Black people of all stripes, myself included, flocked to the well-known Democratic brand, Hillary Clinton. It felt safe, warm and familiar. I was content. I was on a barreling freight train headed straight to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave in the shadow of the one-and-only Big Dog, Bill Clinton. This train had been in motion since before the long, hard days of W & Cheney’s evil ass. We were destined to win and win BIG.
Then I felt a pull. A beckoning of sorts. I went to the window. In the wake of the Billary Express, I saw the carnage. I saw my communities crumbling from jobs lost to NAFTA. Black mothers skipping meals as they realized their meager wages could not make up the gap left by the end of their welfare allotment. Black men jailed by an unjust drug war that targeted my community was turned from “stun” to “kill.” I saw Black and Brown wealth and the “ownership society” destroyed by financial deregulation. The voices of Black brilliance warned me of past transgressions against my community that needed redress- West, Coates, Alexander, et al.
My gut told me I had no business on this locomotive. I pushed past the smiling faces. Many were like me, gleeful. Just glad to be riding along. As I walked through first class, I saw many people I looked up to- “leaders.” Some were even known to me as heroes. These people were not smiling. They were plotting. Cutting deals with each other, those in the luxury class and Billary Express leadership. I then realized that my fellow riders were not passengers. We were cargo. Votes to be delivered for whatever Team Billary decided we were worth.
As I exited this nightmare, I heard another voice. An old Jewish, Democratic Socialist with unruly hair and a spine of steel. A plain-spoken man offering the things I knew my country needed. There were no fairy tales here. First, it was a whisper of revolution. A Political Revolution. I knew that meant one thing – lots and lots of work. Yet, the payoff was real. My children and grandkids could get a postsecondary education without being saddled with debt like I knew the rich kids could. They could have healthcare that was straightforward and cost effective. They would have a cleaner planet. Police would serve and protect all communities equally. A roaring economy that worked for everyone. The predatory class would be tamed and repurposed for productive tasks. An end to the senseless and endless war. We would rejoin the world as a partner. We are the richest most powerful country in human history. Nothing is out of reach if we work hard together and will it so. We had our own little Love Train.
Dispatches from the Billary Express were frequent and deafening. They never actually made sense. The first edition told us that the SNCC organizer and the Goldwater Girl had equal histories concerning race in our nation’s darkest hours and we shouldn’t talk about either. Huh? The second said that economic concerns were White people issues. What? The third indicated that Urban Poverty in neighborhoods of color was just like everyone else’s poverty. Come again? The messages kept coming. Only the tiny Love Train riders didn’t understand. Even some pedestrians cheered at every missive as if they were written on stone tablets. They laughed at us. Something was clearly wrong with us. We were cursed with the math, the history, and the English. We continued to be baffled. We are all OK with that. We continue the work of political revolution. We will accept all in our ranks. Even former Billary Expressers like me.
The latest message was too much to bear. Even for a gentle soul such as myself. The brilliant and compassionate Michelle Alexander, writer of the seminal book The New Jim Crow.” This book decoded the Incarceration State and triggered a national conversation on race and imprisonment. She is among brightest lights of American intelligentsia. The truth is her sword and knowledge her shield. She saw the Billary Express for what it was from its point of origin. She stood puzzled as we all gleefully piled aboard. She then did what she did best. She spoke. She wrote. She taught. Trying to wake us from our slumber. She was horrified because she knew the Billary Express was a loop. A circuit that skipped the days of plenty. It went directly to the blighted landscape that played out after they got away clean in 2000.
Michelle Alexander went on MSNBC with Chris Hayes to discuss her concerns about the Clintons. She spoke her truth, our truth. Many in America turned on her. They lined up to tell her she was wrong about the very same things we applauded just a year ago.
And now Michelle Alexander comes to lecture other black folks abt voting for Hillary. Ugh what an awful show from Hayes tonight. Just awful.
— Armando (@armandodkos) April 2, 2016
— Shashana (@1978BABY) April 2, 2016
— Smiley (@smileyt22) April 1, 2016
Turning your back on this brilliant Black woman, Michelle Alexander- a Truth Teller- to cape for Hillary Clinton!?! pic.twitter.com/GOnaNNiXJ5
— Michael Graham (@BLUpfront) April 2, 2016
Later many more positive tweets came in:
Anybody had that moment when you realize several of your favorite authors #FeelTheBern: Michelle Alexander, Naomi Klein, Thomas Piketty?
— Carolyn Hyppolite (@CKHyppolite) April 2, 2016
— Michael (@Kamandemike) April 2, 2016
I love #MichelleAlexander. I just want to scream. She is so powerful.
— Michael McClurkin (@MikeMcClurkin) April 2, 2016
Today was the end of Black-Checking for Hillary for this Love Train rider. No more. People of Color are joining us in greater numbers each day. Those that repeated the misleading Billary Express rhetoric without any hint of irony or discomfort must deal with their own deity or conscience. But the people using my Blackness or using Black women to create a gender/race wedge will get smooth cussed out. Throwing Michelle Alexander to the wolves to defend the Clintons, of all couples, was far too much for me.
WATCH The Extended Michelle Alexander Interview