It is true that the Movement for Black Lives is leaderless; it is also true that Deray McKesson has been dubbed the face of this same movement, and within his time as “The Face,” many people – including Black people – have come to critique his decisions. With his name most recently in the news for his endorsement of Hillary Clinton, we are given the gentle reminder that our community is not unified in its current demands and we cannot get caught up in the headlines that so often overshadow the work.
Alicia Garza, Black Lives Matter co-founder, did respond to McKesson’s endorsement saying in a statement to Mic, “The BLM Network has held a firm position of not offering endorsements at the presidential level…No candidate has sufficiently engaged our concerns or our vision to earn an endorsement.” Other activists that are aligned with The Movement expressed similar sentiments. Garza added that individuals of The Movement are free to vote for who they choose, as long as those announcements and endorsements aren’t made on behalf of The Movement in total.
I agree with Garza’s sentiment, which has also led me to question why McKesson felt the need to tell us who he is voting for at all. There was nothing significant about his endorsement besides the fact that his name is on it. Outside of that and letting us know he has met with her and pushed her on her policy platform, it was peppered with the same “lesser of two evils” rhetoric that has been in our faces since jump. His endorsement of Clinton was not revolutionary, even if he did quote Shirley Chisholm.
‘“Freedom is an endless horizon, and there are many roads that lead to it,”’ he quoted of Chisholm and added, “As Chisholm understood, we engage in imperfect systems sometimes, to make them more perfect.” This brought me to all of the work happening in rented out office spaces, and homes, and on the ground, in GroupMe’s and Facebook groups, when the cameras are not present and the doors are closed, that activists are engaging in and pushing for revolution in society. There is so much work happening to end the constant struggle and cycle that is “engaging in imperfect systems to make them more perfect.”
At this point, the question we must ask is: Are we fighting for equity in a capitalist society, or are we fighting for a new society? The answer to that question depends on where you stand with the Movement for Black Lives policy platform, which emphasizes that “Black humanity and dignity requires black political will and power,” something that Clinton will certainly not provide.
In Black Power: The Politics of Liberation, authors Kwame Ture and Charles V. Hamilton spent a chapter on “The Myths of Coalition”. In an analysis of Richard J. Daley’s time as mayor of Chicago (21 years), the authors wrote “As long as the black people of Chicago – and the same can be said of cities throughout the country – remain politically dependent on the Democratic machine, their interests will be secondary to that machine.” The same can be said of national politics.
How often were we reminded that President Obama was “not the president of Black America” as a subtle way to say: I can’t (read: won’t) get y’all what y’all need. This is the same president who, last week, told us to go get “Cousin Pookie” to vote for Clinton. We have come to learn about Clinton’s “30 years of experience”, is she somehow not the Democratic machine – or at least a major player in it?
It has been said in many different ways that, “America is a society of laws, not men” and I don’t see Clinton as the change in that. McKesson mentions accountability briefly in his piece, with no clear steps on how that accountability works, and that’s one of the biggest things Black people have been fighting for. Police accountability, economic accountability, political accountability…That has been the point of The Movement since its inception – when is America going to hold itself accountable and provide for Black people? When will American Practices match up with the American Creeds that have been ingrained in us since grade school? More than an endorsement, it’s important that Black people in this movement arena are encouraging other Black people to advocate for ourselves regardless of who wins.
“The political and economic institutions of this society must be completely revised,” wrote Ture and Hamilton in Black Power, “if the political and economic status of black people is to be improved.” The Movement is demanding radical change, not incremental reform
It is not time for us to settle for the bare minimum in a presidential candidate. While I recognize the importance of voting, I am still not sold on Clinton regardless of who endorses her. The Democratic Party platform sounds good (it also sounds like many of Clinton’s talking points) but after centuries of being bullied by White enemies and allies, Black people should not be expected to be woo’ed by wording changes on paper. I don’t trust a candidate who dabs for my vote, or mentions Death Row Records in an interview on a hip-hop station (c’mon really!). I want more; I want to see wins from a revolutionary agenda, not an agenda that has been reformed to push more reform.
I do not just want equity in a capitalist society. I am fighting for, activating around, writing for, engaging in what I want in a new society.
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