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Clintons, Your Black Pass is Hereby Revoked - Color of Law By David A. Love, JD, BC Editorial Board

Hillary and Bill Clinton have a lot of explaining to do.  In her quest for the presidency, the U.S. Senator from New York and her husband — known by some as “the first Black president” — have used the race card against rival presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama (D, Ill.).  Although Obama was supposedly the intended target, in the end, all African Americans were attacked.  The Clintons have attacked blackness as a disqualifying attribute for the office of president, and have managed to insult Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement in the process. 

It should be said at the outset that candidates for office should be thoroughly scrutinized.  No one should be immune, and all of the presidential candidates should be required to justify their stance on the issues before the voters and explain any contradictions that might arise.

But the contest should go to the best person, someone who will heal a nation broken by injustice, hatred, neglect, greed and corruption.  When a candidate exploits the race of another candidate, and insults an entire community for political gain, she is taking that community for granted and does not deserve their support.

The record is replete with evidence of what is going on here.  Senator Clinton’s surrogates have raised issues about Obama’s Muslim middle name Hussein, and the unelectability of a Black man.  Hillary aides and supporters — including BET founder Bob Johnson, who has already done enough harm to the psyche of Black America as a purveyor of garbage media — have made references to Obama’s youthful drug use.  Meanwhile, Hillary surrogate and New York state attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, stated that presidential candidates cannot “shuck and jive” during the primaries.  President Clinton had to defend himself against angry Black voters who charged that he dismissed Obama’s presidential bid as "the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen."

But most importantly, Senator Clinton — perhaps believing she is a qualified expert on the civil rights movement — suggested that President Lyndon Johnson’s role overshadowed that of Dr. King in the passage of civil rights legislation.  The Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts were enacted as a result of agitation and pressure applied to power by a movement, many of whose members were imprisoned, discredited, maimed and murdered.  Let us not forget the police dogs, the water hoses, the lynchings, and COINTELPRO.  In her revision of history, Clinton would suggest that King and the movement were idle, passive dreamers, but it took the great father in the White House to do the heavy lifting, make the big decisions, and do the thinking required to get things done.  The more she and her water carriers try to spin her misguided statement, the angrier Black people will become.

When viewed in totality, the comments from the Clinton camp speak to a pattern of racial insensitivity, disrespect for Black people, and a willingness to use the race card for political gain.  Senator Clinton, an establishment Democrat, is employing the tactics associated with race-baiting, Swift-Boating, Southern-strategy Republicans.  She and her handlers, faced with a bland product people were not buying, needed to conjure up a Black boogeyman, a Willie Horton, if you will.  Perhaps the differences between the two parties are not as great as we were led to believe, after all.

And typical of the center-Right, DLC Democratic establishment, the Clinton campaign treats the African American community as the lover it embraces at night, yet refuses to acknowledge in the daytime.  Meanwhile, Clinton attempts to buy off Black leaders and preachers and figures such as Magic Johnson, to the tune of $750 million, and shamelessly attempts to buy our votes in the process.

This is bigger than Obama.  Obama, who is enjoying increased support in the Black community and whose candidacy is viewed as a source of hope for many, should not receive a free ride because he is of African descent.  And he has not received one, given the split in the Black community over whom to support.  To that extent, the Black electorate has displayed a political sophistication for which it is rarely given credit. 

People of color, who have supported far more candidates from outside their community than have their White counterparts, know that Black faces in high places will not constitute progress without a positive agenda that benefits the people left behind.  When Condoleezza Rice and Clarence Thomas climbed the ladder, they did not leave it out for the rest of us.  They have meant nothing for Black progress.  Obama has a unique opportunity to change the whole game in this nation if he listens to the people, dares to bring discomfort to the powerful, challenges institutional racism and fundamental inequality, and does not succumb to the corruption of the cesspool that is Washington. 

Likewise, the senator from New York does not deserve a free ride due to her or her husband’s perceived record of helping Black folks.  The first time around, they courted us with saxophone playing on the Arsenio Hall Show.  When in office, through a game of bait and switch, they delivered disappointingly conservative policies, welfare reform, “don’t ask don’t tell,” and media consolidation that decimated Black and Brown-owned radio stations and newspapers.  One wonders what they really did to deserve the considerable support they have enjoyed among progressives and in many corners of the Black community, support they enjoyed at least until they became desperately unhinged in this campaign.

And let us not forget then-Governor Bill Clinton’s use of the race card in the 1992 campaign.  Bill repudiated Black activist Sister Souljah as a David Duke-type racist, a positioning to the Right which insulted the African American community, and allowed him to appeal to conservative Whites by showing he was a good ol’ boy.  Then there was the 1992 execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a Black death row inmate in Arkansas, mentally ill, with an IQ of 70.  Bill left the campaign trail to witness Rector’s execution, an expedient and opportunistic move to bolster his “tough on crime” image and help him claim the presidency.

Senator Clinton exploits the race card, to be sure, but avails herself of the gender card as well.  One of the tougher and more testosterone-infused politicians on Capitol Hill when it comes to policies of military aggression, Hillary, it seems, becomes the fragile, defenseless damsel when it suits her political needs.  She sheds a tear only for herself, when her political career is at stake.  Senator Clinton touts her alleged record on human rights, the needs of children and the rights of women.  But we wonder if she sheds any tears for the thousands of Iraqi women and children who died in a war she wholeheartedly endorsed, all to score political points, beef up her image and show that she is as cold-hearted and cold-blooded as the guys, as macho as any perverse, distorted caricature of a man.

Since when did a woman’s strength come from her willingness to exhibit the worst traits of conservative, warmongering men?  There are countless anonymous women and men who live and have lived, whose strength has been judged by their commitment to building their communities, supporting their families, fighting injustice and leaving the world a better place than they found it.  A person who will do or say anything to become president, including race bait, and aspires to the presidency for no other reason than a sense of entitlement and dynastic succession, is not a role model to follow. 

And anyone can address a Black congregation with a phony Southern accent and clap offbeat to the choir.

Clintons, you became a little too comfortable for your own good.  Your dirty tricks are out of pocket, and your Black pass is hereby revoked. Editorial Board member David A. Love, JD is a lawyer and prisoners’ rights advocate based in Philadelphia, and a contributor to the Progressive Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service, In These Times and Philadelphia Independent Media Center.  He contributed to the book, States of Confinement: Policing, Detention, and Prisons (St. Martin's Press, 2000). Love is a former Amnesty International UK spokesperson, organized the first national police brutality conference as a staff member with the Center for Constitutional Rights, and served as a law clerk to two Black federal judges.   His blog is  Click here to contact Mr. Love.

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January 17, 2008
Issue 260

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Executive Editor:
Bill Fletcher, Jr.
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