Why Hillary Clinton's "RUN HRC" Isn't Okay
May 29, 2015 at 1:30 am
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner for 2016 Presidential election cycle, has been garnering a wave of endorsements from Black artists recently. About two weeks ago news spread of Beyoncé attending a Clinton fundraiser in Manhattan. We can count a number of others who have likewise expressed support for Clinton, including 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Ja Rule and even Clinton’s brief presidential opponent, Waka Flocka Flame. Jimmy Fallon made note of this by writing a thank you note to Clinton on The Tonight Show for her slew of rappers’ endorsements. But by Tuesday, Hillary hit up Twitter to show her appreciation to Fallon with a remixed rendition of a classic rap group’s logo.
“RUN HRC” was a chance for Clinton to one-up Fallon’s “Ghostface Hillah.” Was Clinton successful? It’s hard to tell because I’m still trying to make sense of the latest workings of cultural appropriation for presidential pop-culture points.
Make no mistake, celebrity endorsements can act as a source of major social capital during election season, especially for younger voters. If not as a sort of compass, celebrities’ particular alliances and actions can, at the very least, serve as catalysts for conversations. Even if we weren’t yet old enough to vote, many of us still remember Diddy’s “Vote or Die” campaign during the 2004 presidential election, which saw an increase of almost 4.6 million voters in the 18-29 age group in comparison to the 2000 election. And this past Friday Janet Mock’s latest So POPular! clique took up Bey’s Clinton endorsement as a moment to highlight Clinton’s contentious relationship with Black women voters and the potential for Bey to assuage some of our reservations.
But are Bey’s and Snoop’s respective endorsements enough to give Clinton a pass? Is this just a simple RUN DMC reference or is she capitalizing on our cultural cool without accountability to issues that uniquely affect us?
Her announcement to begin her campaign for the White House on April 12th was met with as much support as shade. As the #Hillary2016 campaign trended, so did the memes, the best of which included a “Ready for Hillary [Banks] 2016” banner and the photo of the Black girl most unamused by Clinton’s presence.
But the lack of enthusiasm for Clinton among black voters is inextricably linked to her and her husband’s actions. Bill would have the gall to play the saxophone in shades on the Arsenio Hall Show, only to implement policies like redirecting $1 billion of state spending meant for higher education to building prisons, in addition to his push for harsh sentencing. Hillary echoed similar sentiments during her tenure as FLOTUS and as a New York state senator, calling for more police and support for the three-strikes sentencing. These kinds of policies created the contemporary prison industrial complex, one that many millennial voters want dismantled, as evidenced by the recent #WhatWeNeed2016 twitter campaign.
Who could forget the Clintons’ weaponization of their whiteness during the 2008 Democratic primaries? As Obama came to align himself with the civil rights dreams of MLK, Hillary was quick to note LBJ was the real seed for change because he happened to have passed the legislation. A classic symptom of White savior syndrome. Bill was also caught with his foot in his mouth during that campaign trail. The proverbial first Black president explained his wife’s lack of support from African-American voters as simply Black people backing the first Black person with a chance for his old residence. We weren’t regarded as being complex enough to actually find Obama’s policies and orientation better than those of his partner. In both cases, the Clintons patronized black voters as either unable to realize our own dreams or incapable of voting for our best interests, according to people who are not a part of our community and whose actions have contributed to its destruction.
So while I’m sure the Clinton campaign strategists are excited about her recent hip-hop boost, is that going to redirected toward the struggles many of those same artists discussed in their own music, struggles that Clinton had a direct hand in creating, if not exacerbating?
We are not just swagger to be exchanged. We are people standing eye to eye with a future we are trying to imagine anew in this country as it continues to imagine itself through our erasure. If Clinton wants to begin sincerely courting us for more than celebrity support, she must be willing to love us and our issues as much as she loves our musical legacies. She cannot bank on us having her back if she does not have ours. Our voting block, particularly Black women, have the potential to guarantee Hillary a victory. But she has to earn it, which will take more than rebranding through clever tweets.
I look forward to the moment her affiliation with my community extends beyond mere logos. For the sake of her campaign, I hope she does, too.
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