The news media and others say Hillary Clinton has a “firewall.” Apparently it’s you — the Black voter.
And your wall is supposed to take position South Carolina, the next state to hold a Democratic presidential primary and where Black voters make up 50 percent to 60 percent of the likely voters. Use your spotlight wisely.
So far, you’re being painted as a monolithic, unthinking electorate. If you’re not, you need to let the candidates and international observers know that, preferably before your spotlight fades away.
Black Lives Matter – but so too do Black housing, jobs, education, incomes, childcare needs, health care and economic opportunity. And “riots” aren’t the only time they matter.
And what’s with your love, love, love for Hillary?
In Iowa, where Clinton won the Democratic caucus by a hair, and in New Hampshire, where she lost the Democratic primary to Bernie Sanders by a double-digit margin, the voting electorate was more than 92 percent white. (Nevada, which has a caucus Feb. 20, is more diverse as whites makes up about 78 percent of the population).
But in South Carolina, where primary voters go to the poles on Feb. 27, Clinton is leading by a whopping 37 percentage points, according to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist poll.
Why the big lead? It’s due to the heavy support of Black voters.
Blacks are apparently backing Clinton by a spread of 74 percent to 17 percent. Seventy-four percent?
To what do we owe such solid loyalty?
Some people trace the beginnings of it to that night many years ago, when Bill Clinton appeared on the Arsenio Hall Show and belted out a jazzy solo on the saxophone behind a pair of dark shades. Literary Queen, Toni Morrison, called him “America’s First Black President.”
But Clinton lost that mantle when he dismissed then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s unexpected South Carolina primary win over Hillary in 2008 with the quip, “Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in ’84 and ’88.”
And then as the world began falling hard for candidate Obama and as his message of unity began taking hold, Hillary mocked: ““The skies will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect.”
And you all dropped her like a hot potato.
Sometimes we all fear what we don’t know more than what we do know. And we know Hillary. She has been on the political scene since 1972. And she has relationships – with our top Black political and religious leaders. She came to Philadelphia last month and met with scores of Black preachers on the historic grounds of our own Mother Bethel AME Church. They encircled and laid hands upon her.
Thursday morning, the Congressional Black Caucus’s political arm endorsed Clinton – or at least the majority of the 20-member board of the Caucus’ Political Action Committee did. Three members declined to vote, including the high-ranking Rep. James E. Clyburn, a legendary political figure in South Carolina.
Keep them dangling a little, congressman. Hoards of media and several presidential candidates are about to descend on your state. Use your spotlight wisely.
Sanders has taken some requisite steps toward attracting the Black vote, making media surrogates of well-spoken former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, meeting with Al Sharpton, gaining the endorsement of former NAACP chief Ben Jealous and hiring Blacks to go door to door for $15 an hour.
When attending the University of Chicago, Sanders was a student organizer for CORE (Congress of Racial Equity) and SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). He led a rally in the administration building to protest the school’s segregated housing policy. And he was in the crowd for Martin Luther King’s March on Washington.
More recently, he has focused on income inequality and our nation’s “rigged” economic system. When he points out that Wal-Mart, which made businessman Sam Walton so rich, pays wages so low that its employees have to turn to the public for economic, health care and food assistance to make ends meet, that sounds at least Black-ish to me.
Clinton sat on Wal-Mart’s board of directors for six years.
Sanders is right. Our nation’s economic system is rigged.
But it has always been rigged against Blacks, so we’re not suffering the culture-shock being felt by whites who thought going to college, buying a home, investing in stocks and working hard everyday was going to really get them somewhere.
While a familiar history and the backing of respected political leaders and Black clergy are notable, Blacks need to pursue some commitments that are more specific and transformative.
So dig a little deeper, Black voter. Your spotlight is coming. Be ready.
Sheila Simmons is an award-winning journalist and a public relations specialist. She is the author of “Memoir of a Minnie Riperton Fan.” She can be reached at email@example.com or http://www.simmonssheila.com.
Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune