Another interesting chapter unfolded this week in the ongoing saga of Race and Injustice as the Democratic Presidential Primary Race hit New York and Pennsylvania. Since the beginning of this race, we have been told that the Clintons are the only ones who know how to address race. Pundits, Clinton supporters, and political elites all say that “The Clintons know how to speak to Black voters.” Supposedly, their knowledge of how to campaign in our communities is akin to a greater understanding of issues of systemic racism and injustice. Words matter. Over a 24 year history, they have shown us exactly who they are. So why do we continue to excuse such bad behavior?
This is an act by a couple that has spent over two decades cultivating relationships with Blackness. As many have pointed out, Bill Clinton’s response to activists with Philly Real Justice (the group that protested his event) was not only off balanced and hostile; it was factually incorrect. Bill Clinton backtracking after his prior “apology” for mass incarceration was clearly political theater to help smooth the way for his wife in her 2016 presidential bid. Furthermore, his comments about welfare reform completely missed the mark and disregarded clear factual evidence. It is clear that these matters of criminal and racial justice matter little to the Clintons as they cannot even be bothered with pesky little things such as facts. They are saying what they need to say to win. We are mere props on their way to another tour in the White House.
Several pieces have debunked Bill Clinton’s “justification” during his encounter with Philly Real Justice activists. Professor Michelle Alexander took to Facebook on Friday to debunk Clinton’s tirade and non-apology. Professor Alexander astutely points out the issues with the Clintonian narrative as well as the shortcomings in his non-apology. It was insulting, and the campaign would’ve done better to have him not speak. What is ever more enraging about this “I almost apologized but I’m not mindset”, is that it completely disregards the validity of the issues raised. The Clintonian response, when challenged, speaks volumes. Those seeking the highest office in the land and expecting our support, need to be able to respond to questions and concerns. We cannot be so afraid of the racist we don’t know, that we ignore the ones in our midst. In other words, fear of the big bad GOP monster cannot force us into silent acceptance of Clinton shenanigans. His insistence that the incident is a result of misinformation of the activists or the fact that they wanted TV coverage, is a clear example of why the Clintons are not the gatekeepers of social justice and anti-racism efforts. When one looks at the history and evolution of the Clintons, there is little to suggest that they have personally grown into champions of socially and racially progressive causes. Despite access to great strategists and staff, as well as the ability to turn a phrase, It is in these unscripted moments where the Clintons’ true colors shine through.
The need to explain away or excuse Bill Clinton’s initial tirade and subsequent non-apology is deeply rooted in respectability issues and desire to be a part of the “in-crowd.” A man who kills a Black man for political gain should not be trusted with our health, safety, and well-being. A man who scapegoats and insults people with the quickness (thinking Jesse Jackson, Sista Soulja, and Representative Clyburn) cannot and should not be trusted. The same individuals who insist that Bernie has a “race” problem because he doesn’t talk to us in the right way or he didn’t kiss the right rings are the same people insisting that Bill Clinton merely misspoke. Some of the same people who two years ago urged America to listen to Black Lives Matter activists and last summer chided Sanders for his handling of Black Lives Matter interruptions, are the same people justifying and excusing (yet again) Bill Clinton’s insulting behavior. This isn’t new. He isn’t just misspeaking. This is the real Bill. This is the person he has always been and will always be.
So, why does this matter? Bill is not running for President. No, but he is the most visible campaign surrogate. Also, Hillary has effectively co-signed his statements. Furthermore, Hillary has evoked her experience as a policy advisor during her husband’s administration. Hillary supported her husband’s policies and effectively championed them as a surrogate. Bill’s legacy is hers.
We can not go on expect one candidate to jump through hoops to win our vote while the Clintons received mass support without question. Contrary to what we are being told, Hillary and Bill are cut from the same cloth. Black bodies, for better or worse, are merely political props.