It is a conversation that I have almost come to dread having. Whether it is with my family, friends, or co-workers, I do not want to discuss the upcoming presidential election. But I live in the U.S. and it is only 6 weeks until election day. I can’t avoid it. Even the first Presidential debate is something I tried to avoid, but got sucked into watching due to the spectacle being described on my Twitter feed.
I tuned in about 35 minutes late, but was just in time to hear the moderator ask the candidates about racial division in the nation as spurred by police killings of black citizens. The answers I heard reinforced what I knew before I changed my channel—I cannot in good faith and with clear conscience cast a vote for either of these human beings to be my next POTUS. The stakes are simply too high.
Trump’s answer was exactly as expected. He has never pretended to genuinely care about courting black people. In fact, he is playing to the exact crowd that supports these extrajudicial killings of black men, women, and children. Thus, it was Hillary Clinton’s answer that left so much to be desired. She paid lip service to implicit bias, sure, but it was her solution to it that struck me the wrong way: to dole out more resources to police departments for “training”. Here’s the thing, police officers do not need training to avoid killing white citizens within seconds of contact. They know how NOT to shoot first in those scenarios. They know HOW to de-escalate. They do it every day. After that dud of a solution (which, if you want to be technical would basically reward police for what has been happening in recent years) she had the nerve, the unmitigated gall, to deflect to black-on-black crime and getting guns out of the hands of “bad people”. Yep. I had just witnessed Hillary Clinton both dodge an issue critical to black voters, and pander to voters who want to see more criminalization of black people, disguised as a ‘crack down on crime’.
She never mentioned specific plans or policies to ensure that justice and accountability start to take place in these cases of police shootings. She mentioned nothing, for example, about advocating for automatic independent investigations by community boards or the federal government in cases of officer related shootings. She did not touch on the much maligned Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights which exists solely to protect law enforcement from investigation or prosecutions due to actions that took place in the performance of their official duties. You know, she basically failed to mention anything that would actually increase the chances of bad cops being punished.
It made me think back to a political concept that was born in March of 1970 when Daniel Moynihan, then adviser to President Nixon, drafted a memo advocating for a period of “benign neglect” of the matter of racial issues. The premise was simple, but the results were devastating: he advised that politicians and other public figures simply stopped addressing the issue of race in any concrete way. Most importantly, he advised that politicians refrain from making any promises in regards to tangible actions that they would take in the name of achieving racial harmony or justice. Sound familiar?
Well, it might if you recall the much publicized DNC Leak from late August of this year. It was then that the contents of a certain DNC memo was made public. In the memo, the DNC was advising its congressional candidates on how to manage direct questions from “Black Lives Matter” demonstrators (code for any person wanting to discuss Black issues). The gist of the memo was that candidates should “Listen to their concerns,” I but “Don’t offer support for concrete policy positions.”
That is pretty much what I’ve witnessed from Hillary Clinton throughout this campaign. She will listen and even validate at times, but will not suggest or support any tangible solution to the problem of police brutality – or many other major issues that specifically effect Black Americans like gentrification, the racial wage gap, and closings of predominately black schools.
She has spoken more firmly about criminal justice reform, in particular doing away with mandatory minimums for non-violent offenders and dismantling private prisons. In a way, she was FORCED to address those issues head-on given her husband’s critical role in creating them (see the 1994 Clinton Crime Bill). That means she is capable of doing it. She is capable of addressing the things that concern me most as an early 30’s African American woman. Will she do it? That remains to be seen. But for now, I have grown absolutely tired of giving my votes away to people who are making no particular efforts to secure it. Yes, I know Donald Trump is terrible. Roger that. I get it. But his being awful doesn’t excuse the fact that, without change, she would get my vote without ever seriously attending to my concerns.
Yes, I also know that many of my people fought and died, in part, for my right to vote. I think that at the time of that particular fight, voting was a critical need in order to create and leverage political power in the Black community. Voting was sought as a way to get meaningful representation and improve the lives of Black citizens in this country. Am I truly honoring that struggle by giving my vote away to someone who is making no promises to address my community’s needs today? I feel as though I am honoring my people, both past, present, and future by making it clear that Hillary Clinton and any other politician needs to earn my vote. Our lives depend on it.