It’s not just politics. It’s also waking up at 3am to give your 4-year-old 15 minutes of nebulized steroids and then spending half an hour getting him back to sleep. But it is also politics. It’s being a black woman who is routinely doubly discounted watching a presidential race between an old white man who calls for revolution and an old white woman who is a revolution but only promises progress, and they’re campaigning to replace a black man whose own revolutionary climb was met with so much racism and open hostility that the opposition imploded and a racist, sexist, conscience-less, nightmare clown is their presumptive nominee.
Eight years ago, I was full of hope and passion. I had given my (political) heart to a young senator from Illinois and I devoted myself entirely to his election. I worked in a volunteer office run by women, a stark contrast from the math world I was neglecting. For however many months, I was an active participant in the NJ Dems scene. I loved every moment of it. Yet, it became abundantly clear that there was a disconnect, to put it mildly, between the quality of work being accomplished by the women who were organizing things and the credit they were given by the men who thought they were in charge. I began to understand why so many women had wanted Hillary to win. I decided I would vote for her if she ran again in eight years.
Well, here we are eight years later, and Hillary is running a very strong campaign I could totally see myself supporting. And I would be, if it weren’t for Bernie Sanders and his call for a political revolution. Understandably, Hillary does not want me to take Bernie seriously. Hillary has been tested and vetted, she knows what she’s doing, she has realistic goals to build upon the progress that Obama has made. I understand why she and her supporters are dismissive of any talk of revolution, especially one achieved through this strange and not necessarily democratic ritual of delegate amassing. I understand it, but it is a painful and exhausting sort of understanding.
My focus is social justice. What I want is liberation. What I believe is that if you wait until your liberation is a realistic, unifying option, you will die in chains. And you may die in chains anyway. The reasons to choose Hillary over Bernie are all the reasons so many of us are still not free. Trans women of color are murdered in silence, poor black children are poisoned, native children are denied clean water because people in power know how to get things done. They know which lives they can ignore or sacrifice in order to serve the lives that are more important. When Hillary Clinton and her supporters tell me that she will be able to work with Congress, what they mean is she will be able to make deals. She will be able to make compromises. I understand why so many people feel good about that. The queasiness in my stomach comes from knowing that people who look like me are disproportionately on the cutting block of compromise. Progress for white people is progress –it’s better than regression– but still we may die in chains.
Then there’s Bernie Sanders. Thanks to the internet, I’m very aware of how unserious competition he is, but for his male privilege. That’s okay, I’m used to it. I know that when someone even hints at liberation, the reaction will be dismissive. What could be more unrealistic than fundamental change. And of course, he won’t be able to magically create fundamental change just by occupying the White House. And of course, the liberation he offers is not precisely racial liberation. Truth is, he is not my perfect candidate. My perfect candidate is a woman of color who speaks openly, candidly, fluently of white supremacy and misogyny and gives no fucks. Even within his imperfections, though, there is hope that he is on the right path.
Bernie Sanders may not know how to free me, but Hillary Clinton doesn’t even want to.
I contemplated the clickbait title “Hillary Clinton does not like black people,” but of course, that’s not true. Hillary Clinton loves black people. We live in an oppressive society where you can love someone and be opposed to their freedom and repeatedly deny their humanity in an official capacity. It’s not the fault of Hillary Clinton that black votes matter, but black lives don’t.
I don’t dislike Hillary. I would support her in the general without hesitation. But I cannot pretend that her campaign is not offensive. I cannot ignore her support for white supremacy. I certainly cannot choose her over a candidate who is calling for a revolution, even if his knowledge of racism is flawed.
Black people have already been talking about how Hillary Clinton failed them, and what Hillary owes black people before she could possibly earn their vote. Black people I admire have already explained why they support Bernie Sanders. Black activists have pushed Sanders to address racial inequality as its own thing. This is all already out there, with plenty of facts and data and vocabulary words. I will not be making those cases. Nor will I implore black people to share my views, because even though I am black, I know I will be sending this out into white spaces and I will have no part in white people telling black people what to do. Instead, I simply want to point out the invisible racism inherent to an “establishment candidate” who is campaigning against revolution.
People of color need a revolution. Period. Hillary says we won’t get one. Her supporters say we don’t need one. They laugh at the word. It reminds me of the GOP making fun of Obama for being a community organizer. What can be more deserving of derision than fighting for the oppressed?
People of color need a revolution. Period. Hillary says she has fought for our rights. I’ve got news for Hillary Clinton. The secret of white supremacy is that it is not offended by civil rights. Institutional racism doesn’t care how well whites do or how poorly blacks are treated; it is simply an organizing principle. True, being more racist makes you less likely to fight for civil rights, but “progress” does not let you off the hook of racism. White supremacy didn’t even blink when slavery was abolished. It slept just fine at night when schools were desegregated. White people lose their minds, but white supremacy thrives still. So excuse me if I don’t care about your civil rights street cred. Are black people free? Any action by any white person that does not thoroughly dismantle white supremacy is not going to be enough for black people to owe them anything. No justice, no pats on the back. No justice, no cookies. No justice, no presumed votes.
People of color need a revolution. Period. Hillary says some problems are just too hard. Like the death penalty. Bernie is against the death penalty. Is he against it because it is a tool of white supremacy? Or does he just not like the government killing people? I actually don’t care. It is a tool of white supremacy, and Bernie Sanders would like it to go away. I agree. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, would love there to not be capital punishment for regular people. She knows it is a tool of white supremacy, and that is a problem. Yet! She thinks it is very important that capital punishment exists federally, so that we can kill terrorists. And while this is an unresolved conflict, she will err on the side of killing a disproportionate number of poor people and black people, so that we don’t have to suffer through letting a terrorist spend a lifetime behind bars.
Women of color need a revolution. Period. Hillary says she is revolutionary, that there’s nothing “status quo” about a woman being the President and Commander in Chief of the United States of America. This is white feminism. This is throwing a celebration when “women” get the right to vote that completely erases the women of color who are still disenfranchised. White cis women worry about sex-based discrimination. Trans women and women of color have to worry about extralegal, hate-fueled barriers, including violence, and marginalization even within feminist circles. Having a woman president would be wonderful, and I cannot deny the pain many women must feel seeing a qualified woman struggle so hard to get a job that could totally be hers. The enemy, however, is not Bernie Sanders, or Bernie supporters, or flaky youth, or not-feminist-enough women. The problem is patriarchy. That is why it feels so familiar. Feminism doesn’t say women are owed anything more than equality, and an experienced, established male candidate is in no way guaranteed his party’s nomination (please clap). Any feminist revolution that leaves me behind is simply not good enough.
I am a black woman in a white supremacist patriarchy. It is a burden. I am constantly reminded of the extra obstacles I face. The likelihood I will be assaulted, murdered, mistreated, left for dead. I’m used to it. So yeah, it wouldn’t be difficult for me to vote for someone who wants to improve my life, who will fight for meaningful change that benefits those who need it most. I could ignore the injustice. It would be just another day. But, and I don’t say this lightly, God damn.
People of color need a revolution. Period.