Forget the fat lady: a growing choir of black leaders sings #HillNo
One would be hard pressed to identify a human rights movement in the United States that was not led by or substantially bolstered by African American leadership. Black activists, theologians, intellectuals, writers, politicians, artists and sports figures have, throughout the history of the country, led it, spiritually, culturally and legally, to some of its finest moments.
In the wake of ongoing waves of murders and other brutal, violent attacks on black people in the US, non-black Americans of good conscience will look to black voices to guide their moral compass of how to move forward.
The country’s response to the most recent spate of violence is overlapping with the final moments of its presidential primary election season, and in both arenas, an enough-is-enough perspective is taking hold.
Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza stated unequivocally in an interview with Melissa Harris-Perry, when asked if the Bernie Sanders voter/supporter would vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election, “absolutely not,” citing, among other reasons, the legacy of mass incarceration of black people under Clintonian law and policy.
(While not specifically entering the political realm, in February, Beyonce and Jay-Z’s promised $1.5 million donation to Black Lives Matter was received by affiliated groups within the movement.)
In supporting Green Party candidate Jill Stein rather than Hillary Clinton yesterday, one of Sanders’ top surrogates, Dr. Cornel West both criticized President Obama, saying he’s “failed victims of racism and police brutality” and explained that “I have a deep love for my brother Bernie Sanders, but I disagree with him on Hillary Clinton. I don’t think she would be an ‘outstanding president’. Her militarism makes the world a less safe place.”
In the same week, chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, Professor Eddie S. Glaude, Jr, penned for Time magazine his reasoning for not supporting Secretary Clinton: “I am not suggesting that anti-racism or anti-sexism (or identity politics generally) don’t matter. But they can’t provide cover for business as usual—a version of neoliberalism dressed in multicultural Chanel.”
Professor Glaude has previously expressed his concern that America is suffering from an imagination crisis, an antidote to which I found via the Sanders campaign.
The tide continues to gain force. In today’s Washington Post, professor Stacey Patton excoriated Secretary Clinton’s response to police violence in which the democratic candidate called for “unity.” Professor Patton instead called for direct accountability and highlighted the dangers of revisionist history about politicians’ support for black freedom struggles.
These recent statements, of course, build on earlier critiques of Secretary Clinton’s candidacy from within the black public intellectual and artistic community, including from author Ta-Nehisi Coates, lawyer, professor and author Michelle Alexander, (“The New Jim Crow”) and rapper and civil rights activist Run the Jewels front-man Killer Mike.
The changed environment from earlier in the election season, however, leaves much less space for DNC centrists to charge that diehard Sanders supporters act out of sense of white privilege. Instead, the growing convergence of the Black Lives Matter and so-called “Bernie or Bust” populations is the clearest statement yet that the political stance against incrementalism in the deciding of the fundamental rights to be free from physical, economic and environmental violence is anything but a position of privilege.
For months, the media and the numbers have told us there is an undying black allegiance to the Clintons. One can point to a range of factors as to how that narrative was formed, including by stifling the voices of progressive black constituents, by almost everyone. (See, for example, #BernieMadeMeWhite on Twitter.) Regardless of what might have been the prevailing story of yesterday, however, it is not the proverbial fat lady who is singing today.
From what I see on the streets (especially as protests against police brutality have marched by my apartment building in Brooklyn) and in social media, there is unity developing – amongst people who’ve had enough with pandering and empty promises. There is growing unity; t’s just not the unity that Secretary Clinton and her superdelegates in the Democratic Party elite might have been hoping for.
But unlike those who would call the likes of Ralph Nader and Jill Stein “spoilers,” this wave of black thought and morality leadership is arriving at a moment when the DNC power structure could still adapt and overcome – in Philadelphia.