Hillary Clinton says her newly launched political group Onward Together takes its name from an old African proverb that’s displayed prominently on the group’s site: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
But while Hillary may think she’s enough of a liberal icon, schooled in diversity and adept at feeling the pain of disenfranchised minorities that she’s allowed to pull freely from their historical wisdom,her followers don’t feel the same way.
Using “African sayings,” is, of course, cultural appropriation, and Twitter’s social justice warriors were quick to pounce on Clinton’s faux worldliness.
But worse still, it’s not even clear the quote is actually an African proverb.
Both Clinton and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker have used the quote before, and actual experts on African history have stepped in to correct them. They note that while the conventional wisdom is that it originated somewhere on the continent, it‘s not wholly accurate to call the quote a “proverb“—and it’s kind of weird to make assumptions about its history.
“If someone starts an aphorism with ‘there’s an African saying,’ it’s probably a mythical quote misattributed to a whole continent,” one social media user pointed out to NPR.
In other words, these types of quotes are a great way for progressives to depict precisely how in touch with their roots, and the marginalized and oppressed of the world they really are.
This particular quote may be a prime example. According to a history of the quote compiled by Jezebel when Hillary Clinton used it the first time on the campaign trail, Clinton’s “African proverb” may have been made up by the whitest of all white men, Al Gore.
It appears in a few works of literature, but almost uniformly fiction books by white writers. Otherwise, it mysteriously appears on quote pages—but mostly by successful white businessmen, tech-types, and CEOs of “socially conscious” companies like TOMs (who, in turn, usually attribute it to being a mysterious, age-old African saying).
There are also an awful lot of artistic pull quotes with this particular “proverb” on it floating around Instagram and Tumblr, havens for educated, white social justice warriors.
Instead of making her look like she’s off to represent the people, the quote makes Hillary Clinton looks a little like a fake.