Any automatic supposition about support of Hillary Clinton by black feminists…
Would be wrong.
Ask a black feminist whether she prefers Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, and you very well might hear “Neither.”
“I long for Shirley Chisholm to be running, to be really honest,” said Renee Bracey Sherman, a reproductive justice activist in Washington, D.C.
Alas for Bracey Sherman, the congresswoman who in 1972 was the first major-party black candidateto run for president, and who promised a “bloodless revolution,” isn’t running. (Chisholm died over a decade ago.) But two candidates who vow to make history in their own ways are, and Bracey Sherman, like many black feminists MSNBC interviewed, is ambivalent.
“I’m definitely weighing my options,” she said. “A lot of my beliefs on economic policies fall in line with Bernie Sanders. However, he is not able to connect the way that gender and race intersect with economic inequality the way Hillary does.”
For weeks, Sanders and Clinton and their allies have tussled over who is the genuine progressive, whose policies are more feminist and who can make the most meaningful difference in black Americans’ lives. So far, as the primary has shifted from majority white states to more diverse ones, the feminist mantle and the black vote have been talked about as if they are separate silos.
“An emphasis on not only black women, but black feminists, is long overdue,” said Lori Adelman, co-executive director of Feministing. “So often, black women’s support is taken for granted.”
The candidates are both concertedly seeking the votes of black women, long a crucial base of the Democratic Party. Both have hired prominent black women, including feminist activists, to represent their campaigns, though Clinton’s inner circle has long been more diverse. Over the weekend, entrance polls showed Clinton winning black voters in Nevada, and polls of South Carolina, which votes Saturday, show Clinton enjoys a broad advantage among African-American voters there too. But in interviews, black feminists with influential perches in activism, journalism and academia critiqued both Democrats.
“I’m glad for any feminist who feels confident that their needs will be met by Hillary or Bernie’s presidency,” Shanelle Matthews, lead communications strategist for Black Lives Matter, wrote in an email. “As a black feminist, I’m not there yet. And frankly, I’d like to stop being lectured by white feminists who would boorishly call themselves my ally while also paternalistically scolding me for not bending toward their political ideologies.”
Black feminist critics of Clinton cite in particular past support of her husband’s policies on criminal justice and welfare reform, which exacted a disproportionate toll on African-Americans. They recoil at how in 1996, Clinton referred to “super predators” who needed to be brought “to heel,” which many saw as dehumanizing language that targeted black children in particular. “If Hillary wants to court black women, she should start by apologizing for all the ways she has hurt our families and us,” said Matthews.
University of Pennsylvania professor Salamishah Tillet, who described herself as undecided but leaning Sanders, said, “It’s hard for me to champion a Clinton prosperity narrative as proof of electability of another candidate when I feel like it decimated the black community and criminalized black men.”
Still, Tillet said, she thinks Clinton has been far more adept than Sanders in using an approach pioneered by black feminists. “I’m increasingly becoming impressed with how Clinton is invoking an intersectional framework,” she said, referring to the term coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw to invoke how overlapping identities shape marginalization.
Clinton even came out and used the word in her speech in Harlem last week, quite possibly a first. “We face a complex set of economic, social and political challenges,” Clinton said. “They are intersectional, they are reinforcing and we’ve got to take them all on.”
And the candidate’s recent refrain that she is not a single-issue candidate, implicitly an attack on Sanders’ relentless focus on economics, seems to evoke a much quoted line from the black lesbian poet Audre Lorde: “There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”…Read The Rest Here…