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Clinton Supporters' Anti-Black Attitudes and Why I'm Still a Democrat

New America Media , Commentary//Video, Jasmine Cannick Posted: Jun 03, 2008

Editor's Note: As Obama moves closer to winning the Democratic nomination for president, passionate Clinton supporters and older Blacks in congress are less quick to embrace the change he represents and its implications for the party.

On Saturday in Washington D.C. as the Democratic National Committees rules and bylaws committee ruling came down that it had decided to seat all of Florida and Michigans delegates at the convention in August with a half-vote each, an angry Clinton supporter exclaimed that the Democratic Party was throwing the election away on an inadequate Black man and that if Sen. Hillary Clinton wasnt the nomineethen hello McCain! Can you imagine the fallout if an Obama supporter had been quoted in the media calling Clinton an inadequate woman, let alone an inadequate white woman? The media would have a field dayno make that week!

Video:Angry Clinton supporter crashes DNC meeting.

At election time, I fully expect the Republican Party to try and incite mass hysteria at the polls under the guise of moralityand the Old Testament. What I dont expect is for members of my own party to throw temper tantrums and put aside common sense choosing to side with the opposition just because their candidate is losing.

These alleged Democratsthe same ones screaming for universal healthcare, gay marriage, and an end to the war in Iraq, are willing to throw it all away if their candidate doesnt get the nomination.

Statements of Obama being an inadequate Black man clearly show that the Democratic Party, as liberal as we might want to claim ourselves to be, still carry anti-Black attitudes among its rank and file members. Attitudes that up until this point were for the most part covert, but over the past year have now become blatantly overt as Clinton supporters lash out in angerand desperation.

Id like to believe that the anger expressed by Clintons supporters is because of their devotion to her as a candidate and perceived injustices. But after a bevy of racist comments from Clintons supporters and the Clintons themselves, I am more inclined to believe that there is a strong segment of Democrats, mostly white, who see Obamas ascension as threatening and it has nothing to do with Clintons experience.

I came to this conclusion after repeated charges by Clinton supporters that if she didnt win the nomination that they were either not going to vote or were going to vote for McCain. Well that and Clintons own admission that shes the more electable candidate, which if you listen to her closely sounds a lot more like shes touting her skin color than her experience.

This is much bigger than the notion that Clinton is the better candidate. Because if it was about her being the better candidate, then it would have been Obama is an inadequate man verses an inadequate Black man. And Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro would have blamed Obamas popularity on his sex rather than his race. No, this is about fear related to the unresolved racial tension between Black and white America in a country that has yet to officially apologize for its role in slavery and the years of institutionalized racism that have since followed leaving a bitter taste in the mouth of many Blacks.

With my one Democratic vote, I know I can voice my opposition against the Republican Party, their failed policies, and conservative principles that further promote economic and social depression.

What I struggle with is how to voice opposition in my own party where even those elected to represent my interests have conformed to the point where their own status within the Party and with the Clintons has taken precedence over standing up against the Partys recent racist tirades. Tirades, that while mainly directed towards Obama, are a direct reflection of the Partys lingering anti-Black attitudes among some of its white members.

Theres all this talk of party unification among Obama and Clinton supporters going into November, but very little has been said about reconciling with Black Democrats who after its all been said and done, spent the last year watching Obama, a Black man, being called everything but a ni--er (in public) and his wife Michelle a washer woman. As one of those Black Democrats, am I expected to just turn the other cheek and continue on in a Party that is fine having Blacks as members, but divided on whether or not were capable of serving as leaders or the Commander-in-Chief?

Its been 37 years since Democratic Representatives Shirley Chisholm, William Clay, George Collins, John Conyers, Ronald Dellums, Charles Diggs, Augustus Hawkins, Ralph Metcalfe, Parren Mitchell, Robert Nix, Charles Rangel, Louis Stokes, and DC Delegate Walter Fauntroy founded the Congressional Black Caucus. And even though Democrats are on the verge of having a Black presidential nominee, and we have 43 members currently serving in the CBC, the Democratic Party itself has been and continues to be mostly white led (male and female). From the DNC officers and Democratic Party organizational leadership, Black faces are far and few between on the leadership pages, which could explain the lingering pre- Reconstruction anti-Black attitudes among some white Democrats regarding Obamas ascendancy.

Earlier this year California Representative and CBC member Diane Watson said that when people her age in the Party are dead and gone that people Obamas age and younger could come in and run things. I just dont think I can wait until thenin fact, I dont think the country can wait until then.

We need change now and not just a change in the White House, we need change in our own party before we self-implode. For far too long, Black voters have participated in political deference when
we should be asking our CBC brothers and sisters why, regardless of whom they are supporting for President, they are silent when members of the Party refer to their colleague (Obama is in the
CBC), as an inadequate Black man? If hes an inadequate Black man, what does that make them? The Democrats need to be challenged on why minorities, females, and those under 30 are encouraged to vote, but not to lead, and why when they attempt to lead their voices are quickly drowned out. I need to know why its more of an asset in California to be a gay male or female in the Democratic Party than to be Blackstraight or gay.

Democratic Presidential frontrunner Obama says its time for change and Clinton says that shes got the experience. Well my experience with change is that it doesnt come without a struggle, but it does come. If I owe anything to these two candidates its gratitude for awakening the need to ask why and to challenge the status quo in my own Party, which is much more gratifying at the end of the day than walking away in disgust with the whole damn process and declaring myself an Independent.

At 30, Jasmyne Cannick is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop culture, race, class, sexuality, and politics as it relates to the African-American community. A regular contributor to NPRs News and Notes, she was chosen as one Essence Magazines 25 Women Shaping the World. She can be reached at www.jasmynecannick.com or www.myspace.com/jasmynecannick.

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