We’re Going South Now but the Call to the Black Base Has to Become a Constant Chant

The ‘March for Black Lives’ passes by the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015 Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

The ‘March for Black Lives’ passes by the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015 Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

New Orleans    Hillary Clinton established in the debate in Charleston now as the campaign prepares to go South, she is switching strategic gears to cloak her campaign in the power and potential of the black vote. Very interestingly, now that she is an embattled front-runner with Bernie Sanders hot on her heels, she is dropping the regal posture of pretending she’s above it all and should try to distance herself from President Obama and welding herself to him firmly. When the campaign goes South, black votes matter!

To hold onto this part of her path of power, Hillary Clinton is willing to abandon any position around the middle ground. According to the report,

Twice in the debate, Mrs. Clinton sought to evoke outrage about racial inequities. Saying one in three black men may “end up going to prison,” she added starkly, “I want people here to think what we would be doing if it was one out of three white men.” And, referring to the crisis in majority-black Flint, Mich., over lead in the water, Mrs. Clinton discerned a racial double standard: Had the water in “a rich suburb of Detroit” been contaminated, she said, “there would’ve been action.”

On the eve of Martin Luther King Day, why not, but I have to wonder if she realizes that the clarion call to the black base can’t just be a Democratic southern strategy anymore, but an everyday thing. Race is more central to the American debate about our present and future than perhaps at any time since the Civil Rights movement. Certainly, it was an issue – and an accomplishment – as Obama ran and won, but that was a measured and polite dialogue with history in which hate went to the ballot box in secret silence in many precincts around the country but was muted in public discourse. Since then the rabid hate and antipathy to the President and lack of respect for him and his office in many quarters has vacated any claim for a post-racial America. What was coded and covert from Bill Clinton’s ending of “welfare as we know it” in a message to white America and his attack on Sister Souljah, is now, thanks once again to people in motion and the churning of new forms of social protest, front and center.

A New York Times music critic rated Obama’s funeral oration for those killed in the South Carolina church and his singing of Amazing Grace as one of the top ten performances of 2015, while admitting that he would not have normally fit in a category looking at musical concerts. Hillary Clinton called being there in the church a chance to witness history in the making.

Race can’t be just a Southern campaign chorus for Clinton. Sanders can’t just bring on a couple of rappers or change a line or two in his set speech about economic justice to appeal to the base. The Republicans can’t be allowed to continue to campaign for white, right, and all right.

As Reverend King preached, there has to be a mountain top, and we have to judge candidates on whether or not they are willing and able to get us out of the ditch on race, and back on the climb to the mountaintop after President Obama steps down.

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