Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) has a big advantage over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) when it comes to black voters.
She leads Sanders by a 54-point margin with black Americans in South Carolina, the next primary on the Democratic trail, per a CBS poll from January.
But one famous black professor thinks Clinton doesn’t deserve the black vote.
Michelle Alexander, an Ohio State University professor who wrote “The New Jim Crow:
Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” in 2010, wrote in The Nation that “it seems we’re eager to get played. Again.”
“Hillary believes that she can win this game in 2016 because this time she’s got us, the black vote, in her back pocket — her lucky card,” she wrote in her article, “Why Hillary Clinton doesn’t deserve the black vote.”
That “lucky card dates back to Clinton’s husband and former president Bill Clinton’s time in office, when he was once dubbed the nation’s “first black president” prior to President Barack Obama’s election in 2008.
“I loved being called the first black president, but Barack Obama really is,” Bill told ABC’s late-night host Jimmy Kimmel in 2014.
Alexander said that “love affair” between black Americans and the Clintons seems strange when considering the former president’s extreme stance on crime that ultimately hurt many African-Americans. Moreover, Alexander notes, his economic policies didn’t help blacks, either.
The former Secretary of State can’t get a free pass just because those were the policies of her husband, according to Alexander, who noted that Hillary wasn’t “picking out china while she was first lady.”
She bravely broke the mould and redefined that job in ways no woman ever had before. She not only campaigned for Bill; she also wielded power and significant influence once he was elected, lobbying for legislation and other measures. That record, and her statements from that era, should be scrutinised. In her support for the 1994 crime bill, for example, she used racially coded rhetoric to cast black children as animals. “They are not just gangs of kids anymore,” she said. “They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”
Bill’s 1994 crime bill, which Sanders voted in favour of as a then-congressman, “created dozens of new federal capital crimes, mandated life sentences for some three-time offenders, and authorised more than $16 billion for state prison grants and the expansion of police forces,” she wrote, noting that Bill Clinton contributed to mass incarceration more than any other president.
Alexander did add, however, that Bill’s stance on crime was supported by many black Americans, but that they wanted more than toughness. They wanted investment in their schools, job programs, and more access to healthcare, she said.
Even as the US economy was experiencing a boom during the Clinton presidency, she said black Americans did not experience the same level of success. Alexander said that the increased rate of incarceration for black men coincided with a “soaring” rate of joblessness. In addition, Bill’s effort to reform welfare ended up hitting black communities hardest, she argued.
Alexander is not the only scholar to doubt Hillary’s credentials with black voters.
During the 2008 campaign, when Hillary deployed Bill to South Carolina in hopes of delivering the black vote, Melissa Harris-Perry, a former African-American studies professor at Princeton, wrote a similar piece in Slate, asking “Why do so many people think the Clinton years were good times for black America?”
She wrote that her research showed that many black Americans believed that, by the time Bill left office, that they were doing better economically than white Americans. Data showed that, while just 5% of black Americans believed they were better off than whites economically during the 1980s, that number jumped to 30% by the end of the 20th century.
“This belief is simply wrong,” she said.
“The hypnotic racial dance of cultural authenticity that Bill Clinton performed in office lulled many blacks into perceptual fog,” she continued. “As Clinton performed blackness, real black people got poorer.”
You can read Alexander’s full op-ed here.
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