After Considering the Clintons, Black Thinkers Like Bernie Sanders
“Spike Lee is the latest black public intellectual to endorse Bernie Sanders and to question the sanity of black voters and politicians pledging their allegiance to the Clintons, who have done as much harm to black America as any living political couple,” writes Steven Thrasher at The Guardian. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am mystified by robust black support for Bill and Hillary Clinton.”
The case against Clintonian neoliberalism is compelling. I am glad to see black thinkers making a case for Sanders’ democratic socialism and its potential to address structural racism as an alternative. If anyone is smart enough to effectively make Sanders’ case to Black America, it would be the intellectual leaders who have endorsed him thus far.
Take Spike Lee. He is one of the contemporary black geniuses who have helped the nation (and me personally) reconsider race in transformative ways – and the latest to be feeling the Bern. Or Cornel West, who has been stumping for “Brother Bernie” for months. Just as I understood race differently after watching Crooklyn and Jungle Fever, I grew to understand black liberation theology and the radical potential of Christianity by reading West’s books – his influence [has] been immeasurable. And, like much of America, I learned how to better think about the case for reparations after Ta-Nehisi Coates made it in the Atlantic. That’s why it matters so much that [he said] he’d vote for Sanders earlier this month.
Similarly, much of the country first got woke about the scale and racism of mass incarceration when they read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Alexander has not endorsed Sanders or any candidate – “I endorse the revolution” she wrote – but she has offered the most skewering critique on why “Hillary Clinton doesn’t deserve the black vote” in the Nation. She has also reminded black voters that “we are not checkmated” – that we can approach politics with a sense of possibility. […]
Much less intellectually sound are the arguments of Clinton’s black surrogates. When she was endorsed by the corporate-funded Super Pac of the Congressional Black Caucus (not by the CBC itself or by its members), the only reason seemed to be political expediency. The black members of congress seemed intent on maintaining their relationship within the Clinton power structure, no matter how deeply invested it may be in white supremacy. Like Clinton, much of the CBC is beholden to Wall Street. So Sanders – with no connection to Wall Street or to a global foundation ripe for harvesting political chits – offers CBC members little possibility of power except by way of his gamble for the White House.
To me, Sanders is not only appealing because he marched with Martin Luther King Jr or was arrested fighting racism (though I like the idea of a president who has been arrested for social justice). Sanders is most interesting because he offers black Americans a real possibility for change, thanks to his willingness to genuinely critique capitalism. You don’t get to take millions in speaking fees over the years as Hillary Clinton has done – much of it from banks – and get to critique capitalism.
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—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.Wait, before you go…
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