The daily routine of watching Bernie Sanders fans hell-bent on bullying people of color on social media and hopelessly loyal Hillary supporters claiming her campaign an intersectional victory has left me feeling even less apt to cast my vote for either candidate in November.
As a young Black, queer woman of middle-class means and working-class roots, I have never been excited by this year’s Democratic presidential hopefuls. Both Clinton and Sanders have shown a keen disinterest in the issues which I care most about like public education reform, the end of mass incarceration, police occupation of Black and Brown communities, and the intentional investment in Black futures. Instead, they have engaged in political rhetoric and performance that holds literally no meaning for me.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton showed her true colors when she campaigned against then-Senator Barack Obama in 2008. She repeatedly patronized candidate Obama and his supporters as though they were snotty-nosed children. Her infamous “3 am call” ad was nothing more than an elitist, racially-coded message meant to scare White people out of voting for the man who would later become our 44th president.
More recently, Clinton has made it clear that her ideas about addressing racism in this country are nothing more than political rhetoric. This was clear when she stood in a predominantly Black church near Ferguson, Missouri following the massacre at Emanuel AME Church and said “all lives matter.” Now, as Ta-Nehisi Coates details in his new piece in The Atlantic, Clinton has engaged in a revisionist historical narrative where President Lincoln was the real key to racial equality. It also suggests that Reconstruction policies were actually harmful tools facilitated by retaliatory Yankees in the North. Coates says,
“Hillary Clinton is no longer a college student. And the fact that a presidential candidate would imply that Jim Crow and Reconstruction were equal, that the era of lynching and white supremacist violence would have been prevented had that same violence not killed Lincoln, and that the violence was simply the result of rancor, the absence of a forgiving spirit, and an understandably “discouraged” South is chilling.”
I’m not at all surprised that Clinton subscribes to the whitened version of the Reconstruction Era, ignoring the fact that a White Supremacist killed President Lincoln. This school of thought also discounts the work of pioneering Black leaders like Hiram Revel, Blanche Bruce, and Robert Smalls. It’s disappointing that Clinton hasn’t done analysis to see how flawed and harmful these narratives are for Black folks today.
Even with this ample list of reasons to critique Clinton, Slate republished a piece in December telling us to “say nice things” about her to help combat misogyny. The idea that this elite, race and class privileged woman is the prime subject for dismantling misogyny is actually laughable. I won’t be hounded into liking Hillary nor will I pretend as if her presence in the race is a gift unto itself.
Sadly, Bernie Sanders isn’t that different from Clinton. It isn’t just their similar positions on reparations. Sanders and Clinton still employ much the same stale rhetorical devices when it comes to addressing our longstanding issues with racism and anti-blackness in this country. This is a central feature of what a New York Times article called “The Missing Black Millennial.” It is this tension between the empty promises of well-meaning White liberals and the flat-footed, indignance of young people of color who are, frankly, sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Specifically, while it is true Sanders has a racial justice position on his campaign website, both candidates are committed to the same tired initiatives that haven’t been working to address racial disparity and have been roundly rebuked by actual Black and Brown people. Sanders’ platform, rather than calling for decreasing police, calls for increased investment in police forces from body cameras to training. While our research suggests that young Black and Brown people are more likely to suggest increased policing to address community issues, I believe part of that stems from the fact that alternatives have yet to be seriously considered by our leaders in Washington D.C. This election season is a vital moment to rethink these oppressive policies and potentially abolish them. Sadly, I have yet to see even a hint that either candidate has seriously considered this strategy.
What I’m looking for is sincere engagement with young people of color from these two candidates. At rallies, town halls, debates, and everything in between, I’m looking for a concerted effort from both Clinton and Sanders to listen to what young people are saying. More than listening, the candidates should be providing actionable steps to get to sustainable solutions.
That’s just not the race I’ve been watching these past few months. So far, this election season has felt like young people are dismissed and invisibilized unless they are uncritical of the candidates. But, how is that a real choice?
In the end, I am realizing that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders are going to have to do a lot to get someone like me to vote this November. And, by “a lot” I mean more than either of them seems to care to do this campaign season. That is where we are now. And, I’m fine with it. It seems like they are pretty cool with it too.
(Photo: YouTube Screenshot)