Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Black Academics Weigh in On Hillary Clinton

February 22nd, 2008 by Ajuan Mance

The Clinton campaign, like the Obama campaign, is paving new political terrain, simply by virtue of the fact that the candidate is something other that a white male; and while bloggers, columnists, and pundits from all over the political spectrum are actively encouraging voters to look past race and gender and, instead, to vote based on the candidates’ records and ideas, there is no doubt that in this nation — one in which race and gender have far too long been the primary measures by which rights and wealth and granted — race and gender politics do and will continue to inform how Clinton and Obama, their parties, their advisors, and the electorate engage with both of these leading Democratic and their ideas.

Below are some of the most compelling and provocative statements by Black academics on the election and its link to the racial and sexual politics of this nation:

There’s been a lot of talk about women and their choices since Super Tuesday, when African American women overwhelmingly voted for Sen. Barack Obama, while white women picked Sen. Hillary Clinton. Some pundits automatically concluded that “race trumped gender” among black women. I hate this analysis because it relegates black women to junior-partner status in political struggles. It is not that simple. A lot of people have tried to gently explain the divide, so I’m just going to put this out there: Sister voters have a beef with white women like Clinton that is both racial and gendered. It is not about choosing race; it is about rejecting Hillary’s Scarlett O’Hara act.

Black women voters are rejecting Hillary Clinton because her ascendance is not a liberating symbol. Her tears are not moving. Her voice does not resonate. Throughout history, privileged white women, attached at the hip to their husband’s power and influence, have been complicit in black women’s oppression. Many African American women are simply refusing to play Mammy to Hillary.

Media have cast the choice in the current election as a simple binary between race and gender. But those who claim that black women are ignoring gender issues by voting for Barack just don’t get it. Hillary cannot have black women’s allegiance for free. Black women will not be relegated to the status of supportive Mammy, easing the way for privileged white women to enter the halls of power.

Black feminist politics is not simple identity politics. It is not about letting brothers handle the race stuff, or about letting white women dominate the gender stuff. The black woman’s fight is on all fronts. Sisters resist the ways that black male leaders try to silence women’s issues and squash female leadership. At the same time, black women challenge white women who want to claim black women’s allegiance without acknowledging the realities of racism. They will not be drawn into any simple allegiance that refuses to account for their full humanity and citizenship.

Now that Obama has regained his momentum, the Clintons seem prepared to return to the strategy of promoting Hillary as an experienced politician with more than a matrimonial connection to the White House. Although this approach may win Hillary the presidency, it will do little to destroy controlling images of women as extensions of male desire and ambition.

Contrary to what Hillary has said, this is the real glass ceiling that women must crack.

 …I think Hillary Clinton has a long way to go, because she’s carrying a baggage, as it were, of the kind of neoliberalist—the neoliberal project of her husband.

  • Shelby Steele on MSNBC’s Hardball, December 7, 2007. Click here to listen to an audio clip. Shelby Steele is the Robert J. and Marion E. Oster Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

…she’s doing very well with the Black vote because she identifies with people like Al Sharpton. She identifies with people who African Americans are very comfortable with. In many ways she’s Blacker that Barack Obama is. His primary appeal is still with whites.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in African American Professors, Black Faculty, Cornel West, Gender, Hillary Clinton, Obama, race, Shelby Steele

2 Responses

  1. Kathleen C. Mance

    No one exceeds you in bringing vital information to the nation on the subject of African Americans’ contributions to American history.

  2. Rev. John Boddie

    It’s extremely inlightening to see how many black academics and others are critical of Hillary Clinton and the “Clinton Presidentcy” when, not so long ago, many fo these same people descibed President Clinton and his administration in glowing terms. Toni Morrison even described Clinton as America’s firs “balck president”. Academics and publicl intellectuals feasted at the White House. Many were the recepiant of honors and awards, but now the advent phenom many are singing a new tune. Then again, as I prepare for Holy Week, the irony hits me of how Jesus was roundly-applauded as he triuphany entered Jerusalem and then, by the end of that same week, many of the same people vigerously shouted: Crucify Him! It would appear that fickleness is not only directed toward a jew of first-century Palestine.