Of all the demographic groups throwing their voting power behind Hillary Rodham Clinton, the most surprising and peculiar to me is black women.
Statistics show that black women, more than any other group of voters, have overwhelmingly supported Clinton in the state contests so far, with the highest percentage climbing to 93 percent in Alabama.
This boggles my mind, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment.
I understand the historical context behind black fidelity to the Democratic party. I get that many black voters have labeled Sanders a “one-dimensional” candidate and judged him to be poor on race. I don’t pretend that the old Brooklyner, whose choice of hairstyle reminds me of an old school troll doll, got the “race and class” stuff right from the jump. Indeed, he came across as poor on race in the initial phases of his campaign, though I wouldn’t go so far to conclude, as some might, that he’s blind, deaf and dumb on issues of racism and white supremacy.
What I take issue with is the notion that Clinton is better for blacks by default. “Better,” in this case, can only mean more familiar.
In terms of substance, Clinton’s record as an advocate for the progress of black lives matches the very portrait of a political torture chamber for black bodies that resulted in severe empirical consequences.
It’s no surprise that the black democratic establishment would endorse her, not least of which were the old civil rights heads in the Congressional Black Caucus. However, according to one NBC report, 170 Black women leaders have pledged allegiance to Clinton. 170?!!! Amongst them are big names such as Angela Bassett, Shonda Rhimes, Kerry Washington and Viola Davis. Even the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Eric Garner were won over.
Such a number suggests that black women who have assessed Clinton’s record more antagonistically are few and far between. Black women like this writer, who speaks her animosity plainly, saying: “Hillary Clinton does not care enough about black lives.” Her article goes on to express her disappointment in black women backing Clinton and challenges Clinton’s relationship with infamous journalist David Brock, who unleashed a brutal character attack on Anita Hill, the woman who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.
But there are plenty of other reasons to call into serious doubt Clinton’s veracity when it comes to her valuation of Black lives.
As Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, recently pointed out in her article for The Nation, “Why Hillary Clinton Does Not Deserve The Black Vote,” both Clinton and her husband were “New Democrats.” New Democrats vied with Old Republicans for the mind and souls of “the average voter,” i.e. white [male] workers, particularly those in southern states who’d abandoned the Democratic Party during the political reign of Nixon and Reagan. According to Alexander, New Democrats believed that the path to political victory lies in adopt[ing] the right-wing narrative that black communities ought to be disciplined with harsh punishment rather than coddled with welfare.”
During her tenure as First Lady, Clinton was not relegated to doing so-called “women’s work.” Quite the opposite.
Hillary wasn’t picking out china while she was First Lady. She bravely broke the mold and redefined that job in ways no woman ever had before,” Alexander writes. “She not only campaigned for Bill; she also wielded power and significant influence once he was elected, lobbying for legislation and other measures.”
Thus, much of her time was spent rallying support for the punitive pieces of legislation that would make black lives more hellish and precarious than they’d been even under a Republican administration — starting with the elimination of America’s social safety net.
By rallying enthusiasm for Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in 1996, Clinton helped intensify the penalization of black poverty and damage public welfare. The corrosive “welfare queen” label, first conferred on black women in the 1970s, was exacerbated by Clinton’s efforts.
But gutting welfare policy wasn’t enough. She also set her sights on bringing so-called “superpredators to heel” through her support of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, or Crime Bill.
Like most modern legislation, the Crime Bill was written to appear color-blind and race-neutral. In truth, this innocuous piece of legislation disproportionately jailed innumerable black children and adults and forced already hard-pressed black wives, mothers, sisters and daughters deeper into emotional limbo. Discussion of the carceral state and its horrific impact on American lives has since exerted a powerful, cross-regional force on our national consciousness, for no other reason than the prison stick now threatens white lives.
As if to add insult to injury, Clinton helped advance legislation that would make prisoner re-entry extremely difficult, thereby increasing the likelihood that inmates will re-offend.
Bill Clinton championed discriminatory laws against formerly incarcerated people that have kept millions of Americans locked in a cycle of poverty and desperation. The Clinton administration eliminated Pell grants for prisoners seeking higher education to prepare for their release, supported laws denying federal financial aid to students with drug convictions, and signed legislation imposing a lifetime ban on welfare and food stamps for anyone convicted of a felony drug offense — an exceptionally harsh provision given the racially biased drug war that was raging in inner cities.
Multiple times during her current run for the White House, Clinton has dismissed black women brave enough to openly interrogate her on the flaws in her political resume. The standout case was when Black Lives Matter activist Ashley Williams confronted Clinton at an upscale private fundraiser about her “super-predator” comments and the part she played in supporting the increased incarceration of black bodies. Though Williams had paid the costly admission fee to participate in the evening’s event, her questions to Clinton were answered with a request to leave. After being escorted out, she set off a viral firestorm with the #WhichHillary hashtag.
Alas, none of this seems to have realistically dimmed the light of hope black women have expressed for a new Clinton administration.
And I suspect they have led others to wonder: If her disastrous record can’t do it, what will it take for black women to drop Hillary Clinton like a bad habit?