I’m glad I’m not the only who was bothered by this statement uttered by President Clinton1
But the part of the interview that worries me comes next, when President Clinton said,
“While I have devoted my life to getting rid of racism, I think this [health care] is a fight that my president and our party — this is one we need to win on the merits.”
This statement required a double take. President Clinton said that he has devoted his life to getting rid of racism? And no one challenged this assertion?
President Clinton has a very checkered past involving racial innuendo, stereotypes, and racialized political strategies. When he first ran for President in 1992 Bill Clinton attacked hip-hop artist Sister Souljah during his speech to Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition. He likened her to former Klansman David Duke. After the 1984 and 1988 defeats of Democratic candidates, Clinton knew he needed to signal his independence from Jesse Jackson and the racially progressive wing of the Democratic Party. His unprovoked attack on Souljah was part of that active distancing. But, Clinton’s strategy was complex. During that same election, he also appeared on the Arsenio Hall show where he played the Saxophone. Clinton has always been masterful at both embracing and pushing away from black communities, black voters, and black interests based on his own political needs at the moment
Clinton used welfare reform and crime legislation to cement his position as a moderate “new” Democrat. Clinton’s policies made life substantially more difficult for poor black mothers and led to the incarceration of tens of thousands more black men. Repeatedly during his presidency Clinton found his way to the center by ignoring the material needs of black communities. He refused to fight for his nominee and law school friend Lani Guinier who was viciously and inaccurately labeled a “quota queen.” And when his wife was battling Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination last year, President Clinton’s own voice sounded shrill in precisely the same ways as some of Obama’s current opponents.
Despite his office in Harlem and his efforts in Africa, I am unconvinced by President Clinton’s assertion of a lifetime commitment to battling racism.
[Click to continue reading I’m not a racist…I’m a Democrat.]
An opportunist politician, in other words. Not claiming Bill Clinton is a racist, don’t misread me, but not deserving of the laurel he awards himself either.Footnotes:
- in italics below [↩]