I all but threw my laptop out the window this morning when I heard Hillary Clinton’s latest speech at a Black church near Ferguson, MO Tuesday. While addressing racial inequality and her views on the Confederate flag, the presidential candidate had the nerve to utter the phrase “All lives matter” in place of “Black lives matter.” The move appears to be a calculated one, with Clinton seemingly bowing to pressure to disregard the phase that puts violence against Black people at the forefront of public discourse.
I honestly don’t know how many more times we have to go over this. More than that, I don’t know what fool on her PR team told her that saying that in front of a Black congregation—one that’s minutes away from where Michael Brown’s body grew cold on a Ferguson street in broad daylight — was a good idea. But I seriously cannot let this pass without raising hell about it.
If Clinton is serious about securing the Black vote in the 2016 presidential election, she needs to stop messing around and speak directly to the fact that the assault on Black bodies at the hands of White patriarchy is a central piece of America’s problem as a nation. The racially-charged tragedies that we’ve seen in Charleston, Baltimore, Ferguson, Sanford, Cleveland, New York, Los Angeles and every other goddamn city in this country have distinctly been pointed at Black individuals. There is no disputing this. We’ve all seen this happen year after year, month after month, day after day, hour after hour.
Hillary Clinton cannot hide from the narrative of American White patriarchy by shielding herself with politically-correct rhetoric and I won’t let her do it. We cannot let her do it. Even if she’s part of the Clinton legacy, and even if we as Black people feel this bizarre, inexplicable bond with her family after the accomplishments they’ve made in public office, Hillary Clinton still needs to be held accountable when she says or does racially insensitive/tone-deaf things.
I’m inherently skeptical of Clinton’s ability to understand the sheer trauma and intensity that Blacks have felt during the #BlackLivesMatter movement because she is a middle-aged White woman. I have to admit that and I have no qualms in doing so because she will never fully comprehend the brutality of the deaths of people of color that were targeted for their racial/ethnic background. We all know that even with the lengths Clinton has gone to speak about her mother’s hardship as a poor, orphaned, uneducated child, Clinton herself is a highly-privileged person.
Clinton is White. She has an extraordinary amount of political influence after her roles as a secretary of state, a senator for New York and her time as the first lady of the free world (and before that, Arkansas). She is rolling in the dough from her and her husband’s speaking engagements and work with their brand, the Clinton Foundation. The media loves following her and generally paints her in a positive, wholesome light. All in all, this is a woman that could stop working tomorrow and her and her entire family would never go hungry for a day in their lives.
So when it comes to speaking on issues that are layered and detached from her own experience, I need those speaking points on lock. Period. Of course, the hard evidence of what she’s accomplished in her roles as a political leader are just as important. However, it’s her demonstrated ability to be blunt and speak on the intersectional issues that I face everyday as a Black voter with savvy and empathy that are really going to make me support her in the election.
In other words, if she can’t be real, then she can’t be down.
Clinton needs to realize that she can’t take the Black vote for granted. She’s not going to win Black people over with a couple half-assed speeches about forgiveness in the face of tragedy and America’s identity as a melting pot. Furthermore, she can’t win this election without us. We’re an extremely vast, influential, opinionated and intelligent group of people that can sniff through the bullshit. Clinton and her PR folks should wise up to that and change up their game plan accordingly—like, yesterday.