With Hillary Clinton set to talk ‘to’ rather than ‘with’ white Americans about race relations, the country needs a real discussion—not a monologue
By Mark Cromer
The smoke had hardly cleared and the bodies just removed from the ambush-style slaughter of five white police officers in Dallas by a black racist gunman before presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was making the rounds on news shows, where she promised CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that she was “going to be talking to white people” about race relations in America.
Talking to white people.
Not with white people, mind you, but talking to them. Actually, talking at them.
Her language was once again informative and unfortunately all too familiar to the vast majority of nearly 200 million white Americans: they’re gonna get a talkin’ to by Clinton. They’re in for yet another lecture, another dressing down, yet another long verbal walk to the woodshed.
And the song remains the same.
White America, Clinton advised Blitzer, simply hasn’t been listening to the grievances of black Americans against what she evidently agrees is an inherently racist and rigged system that is the rotten institutional framework of the United States, one that unfairly elevates whites economically, environmentally and educationally at the expense of virtually everyone else—but especially blacks.
“I will call for white people, like myself, to put ourselves in the shoes of those African-American families who fear every time their children go somewhere, who have to have ‘The Talk,’” Clinton said. “About, you know, how to really protect themselves [from police], when they are the ones who should be expecting protection from encounters with the police. I am going to be talking to white people, we’re the ones who have to start listening to the legitimate cries coming from our African-American fellow citizens.”
Of course there is nothing intrinsically wrong with what Clinton said, as surely in the polyglot ethno-racial patchwork that is America, be it 1775, 1865, 1965 or 2016, asking any particular population demographic to honestly consider the challenges, struggles, hopes, heartbreaks and fears of another racial group within the extended American family is not only the smart thing to do, but the right thing to do. The trouble is that isn’t what Clinton did, nor is it really what she intended to do. She didn’t misspeak, she didn’t phrase it awkwardly, she didn’t not think it through—that’s Trump’s territory—no, she said what she meant and she meant what she said: white Americans need a talking to, and she’s going to let them know it.
And so here we go again.
There’s never been a real discussion on race relations in America, only a lecture series directed at racially profiled whites.
And white America knows what to expect, as they’ve heard it all before from the political class that Clinton represents: whites need to understand and accept how they didn’t really work for what they have or earned it through their own blood, sweat and tears, but rather they reaped the rich inheritance of their bigoted ancestors while blacks and other ‘peoples of color’ actually built the national house that whites now live luxuriously in like a vast suburban Sandals resort: all inclusive for them, but white privilege cards will be checked at the door.
It’s the same boilerplate narrative that’s recycled through ethnic studies departments at universities across the nation and regurgitated at mandatory corporate ‘sensitivity training’ retreats, delivered as sermons from on high that are preached by the martinis-in-Malibu crowd.
That narrative was highlighted yet again in a video that went viral of 14-year-old Royce Mann’s slam-poetry performance of a poem almost certainly penned by his wealthy progressive activist mother, with Mann bemoaning his own ‘White Boy Privilege’ and begging forgiveness for being born, as he claimed whites are, with “a success story already written for me.” Not surprising, his expletive-laden rant (perhaps the profanity was salted across the verse to make it seem more plausible that a 14-year-old actually wrote it) of faux-self loathing brought the house down at the elite private academy he attends.
It is the politically-correct equivalent of the ‘balloon boy’ debacle some years back, this time with an activist and aspiring actress of a mother who now appears to be her teen son’s manager, drafting his script and issuing his comments for him to a fawning media.
For all his coached remorse at being white and privileged, Mann and his parents have notably not offered to give up his spot at the private academy as an act of personal reparations and offer it to a black student that Mann could trade places with from say a public school in Baltimore or the southside of Chicago or in Detroit.
The rich irony of any of this is not lost on Hillary Clinton and her six to nine-figure annual income comrades in country clubs and on movie sets as they offer icy reprimands to the white working and middle class—they just don’t care. Brazen hypocrisy has always been their strong suit, and so they sneer down their plastic noses at a people they somewhat still resemble but are simply no longer a part of. As a black activist once brilliantly observed: “sometimes your skin folk ain’t always your kin folk.” And working white America hasn’t had a close family member in the Oval Office or many of them up on Capitol Hill in generations, probably not since Richard Nixon.
So Clinton’s casual dismissiveness of working whites isn’t really a shocker. Coming from a scold like Hillary, it’s old hat to most Anglo-Americans now. And Mann’s pathetic cries of phony self-immolation onstage at his school assembly is just the latest sad garnishment to this cold dish, though not nearly as funny as the freak show spectacle that Rachel Dolezal’s desperate attempts to identify as black was last summer, when the Spokane, Washington, NAACP chapter president was ‘outed’ as actually being white, prompting her to unravel in a surreal public meltdown.
Which is one of the things that makes Clinton’s qualifier of “white people, like myself” such a laugh-out-loud moment to most real white people—versus WINOs* like Hillary (*White In Name Only)—as she’s been talking with those white people, like herself, for years now, albeit at about $250,000 per 25-minute pop. A ‘happy ending’ guaranteed. No tape recorders allowed, no press, and no transcripts released, of course, but it doesn’t take a psychic to get the gist of what she’s been saying to the corporate heads of state all these years.
And while Hillary Clinton has been talking to and at working white Americans for years, she surely hasn’t been listening to them on any substantive basis since the early 1990s at the latest on the issue of race relations. Sadly, she has little political incentive to start doing so now. Clinton may well hemorrhage more white votes in November than any Democratic candidate has since 1968, a bleed-out at the ballot box that she can only electorally survive with a massive transfusion provided by black and Latino voters—and even that might not save her campaign. It’s worth noting that the Democratic Party has lost the white vote in every single election since 1964 and only remains a viable national party today as a result of the sustained waves of mass immigration that exploded in the mid-to-late 1980s.
But given her comments in the immediate aftermath of the ambush and slaughter of five white police officers in Dallas, it seems Clinton has decided there’s no turning back now and she intends to double-down once more on the narrative that America is a land where ‘whites only’ signs still hang over every critical institution in the nation, a country where the majority population are racists only demarcated by degrees, either rabidly active bigots or semiconscious xenophobes that are accomplice to the crime by nature of their inaction against it.
Real political leadership—and bravery—would inspire Clinton to not only encourage whites to walk a mile in a black man’s shoes, but to challenge blacks to suspend their assumptions about white Americans lives and seek a better understanding of its actual reality, as not seen on TV. Clinton could legitimately and more profoundly declare ‘History Made!’ if she sat down with a room full of working white Americans that were prescreened for nothing more than weapons and talk with them at length about their views on race relations and encourage an open, unfettered airing of opinions, and to do it on live television.
Now that would be Herstory Made.
But that’s not going to happen.
Rather, a course synopsis of Hillary’s upcoming lecture series was heard onstage at the BET Awards in June, when millionaire actor Jesse Williams, who stars in ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, accepted his ‘humanitarian award’ by issuing a stark warning to white Americans:
“And let’s get a couple of things straight, a little side note. The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That is not our job,” Williams said. “If you have a critique for the resistance, our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest, if you have no interest in equal rights for black people, don’t make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.”
Williams’ remarks reflect a contempt for white Americans who hold a different view than that of the narrative that is sanctioned and approved by the media and academia, and the confidence of those who now brandish that contempt as a threat.
And his remarks serve as the Cliff Notes version of what white Americans can expect from Clinton: sit down—and shut up.
But she shouldn’t be surprised when a large number of her audience simply replies: “make us.”
Then we’ll see what happens. But here’s a prediction: it won’t be good for anyone and an open, candid and honest discussion with everyone at the table would have gone a long way toward national reconciliation rather than divorce as a result of irreconcilable differences.