by Chanelle Adams
I was born the year Bill Clinton took the Oval Office. Despite comments about him being the Blackest President ever, the Clinton administration was extremely anti-Black. Even though I did not understand the extent of the racism I experienced during those first 8 years of my life, it is all very clear to me now.
As a queer Black girl raised in the 90s by a white single mother who worked multiple jobs and a Black father who was incarcerated, I know that the Clintons’ politics have actively played a negative role in my life.
Bill Clinton won the White House due to his tough platform on crime, such as his 1994 Crime Bill which put more cops on the streets and more people behind bars, with $10 billion set aside in federal prison construction money. Together, the Clintons profited in both prestige and financial investments from locking up Black and low-income individuals, including my father, who was incarcerated in the 80s and 90s for non-violent drug crimes.
While an argument can be made that this all happened under Bill’s administration and not Hillary’s, Hillary notably played an active role during Bill’s presidency. In 1993, as Bill Clinton joked during his campaign, we got two Presidents for “the price of one.” Hillary adamantly supported many of her husband’s racist policies. She even ran her NY Senate platform and 2008 Presidential election by closely aligning herself with policies enacted while Bill was president.
She more than just supported Bill and his racist ideas about crime and welfare, she actively worked on his administration. Despite Hillary’s current platform of supporting families, women and children, Clinton welfare reform disproportionately affected Black women and children. The welfare bill removed Aid to Families with Dependent Children, which was far from infallible, and replaced it with an even less efficient program of temporary assistance that did not compensate for swings in the economy, when low-income people need support more than ever. The program’s strict requirements knocked people off of welfare and excluded many poor folks from receiving assistance at all.
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What the Clintons did together to our families and communities was not only wrong in retrospect but was also wrong at the time. The idea, much like Ronald Reagan’s philosophy, was that poverty could be ended by limiting who qualified as poor enough to be a welfare recipient rather than changing the conditions that created and maintained poverty. Then, to keep the national numbers of welfare and unemployment low they swept up 673,000 of our family members and put them in cages. The bill also cut funding to PELL grants for incarcerated individuals to receive education, severely limiting employment options and rehabilitation for folks when they got out.
In other words, Hillary participated in punishing people for being poor, locked up our parents, and then punished us again for being poor and having single parent households. Hillary has still not apologized for selling out working women and has only recently said she supports family leave.
My mom’s queer and trans friends from the House music scene raised me when she had to go to work. My mother’s white privilege kept us (barely) afloat because she didn’t face discrimination in the workplace; she was not given fraudulent loans, or stereotyped as a welfare queen because of her white skin. And through a lottery system, I received the last year of free preschool education in my town in New Jersey, which allowed my mom to work without paying tuition or daycare.
At her speech at Columbia, Hillary appealed to the audience that, “One in every 28 children now has a parent in prison. Think about what that means for those children” as if she hasn’t played a role in taking away our parents. Doesn’t she know that we have grown up and remember what she did to our communities?
Even though Hillary has told voters that they need to confront “deep-seated biases and prejudice” (who even says “prejudice” anymore?) she has failed to publicly account for her long history of anti-Blackness and misogynoir. And it is Hillary’s anti-Blackness that makes her a disingenuous advocate for equality and incapable of “ending the era of mass incarceration.”
Rather than take accountability for any of these larger issues, Hillary keeps trying to win the Black vote by dabbing on Ellen and using the word “intersectional” on Twitter. She’s desperately trying to prove that she’s down with Black folks in all the wrong ways, and she keeps revealing herself as out of touch. We noticed when she put Rosa back at the back of the bus and we laughed knowingly when she changed her Twitter bio to say “glass ceiling cracker” which is something that only makes sense to say if you’re a first-wave white feminist whose understanding of equality is limited to the gender pay gap.
Hillary’s white feminist women’s rights agenda hasn’t even tried to appeal to queer people of color in any substantial way because, as she has shown Black Lives Matter activists, she has no interest in listening to marginalized voices. Hillary’s support for LGB rights has only been a recent development after passing marriage equality became inevitable and necessary for the Democratic platform. She only showed support for transgender individuals after Joe Biden brought it up during a speech when he was rumored to be running for President, which meant he was a potential threat to her campaign.
Despite my experiences, there’s been a surge of white feminists telling me that I’m too harsh for criticizing Hillary Clinton. Their unifying point is that Black women should uplift Hillary’s campaign because she is a woman. While the idea of a first woman president is inspiring, I have very real reasons for not wanting Hillary to be my President.
Hillary’s brand of Lean In corporate, cishet, white feminism is not my feminism. Incarcerating my family in prisons and poverty is not my feminism. I will not vote for a self-identified “glass ceiling cracker.”
The Hill-arity of it all is that people think Hillary is still a viable option for my vote. But I keep my receipts and I show up when there’s an inconsistency in the account. And there’s one thing I know for sure: Hillary built her political prestige by putting our parents in cages, and for that, she owes us a lot more than treating us as an afterthought to her campaign.
Chanelle Adams is Managing Editor at BGD and tired of the illusion of choice in the US political system. She likes to eat the same thing each morning for breakfast to keep some consistency in her life. You can read more of Chanelle’s irreverence and, only sometimes, lucid thoughts at @nellienooks.
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