Feminista Jones is Consistent: Receipts from the DNC
We asked black women at the DNC about HRC. Feminista Jones was one of them.
As she indicates in her most recent Medium piece, Feminista Jones has been “saying publicly what [many black women] will be doing privately” for quite some time — at least, when it comes to supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton for president of the United States.
It is true that black women are one of the most consistent voting demographics, and this year, we are largely in support of Hillary Clinton. I and my colleague Maya Holder spent the 2016 Democratic National Convention asking black women who exactly Hillary Clinton was to them. We didn’t ask these women folk at the DNC was whether or not they’d be casting their ballots for the former Secretary of State (but being that Hillary is generally the candidate favored by women and given the context of the interviews, it was safe to assume they’d be checking off “Clinton” at the voting booths).
Still, in spite of the overwhelming support for Hillary Clinton we observed at the DNC, there were clear concerns about her potential presidency that were not going to be settled any time soon.
Black women told us why Hillary Clinton makes them uneasy.
We asked Feminista Jones to compare Hillary Clinton to a woman in her own life, and that comparison was not so positive:
“I would compare Hillary to my boss or supervisor, because, for one, they’re both white women. I think of the white women who theoretically and fundamentally want to be helpful, but can’t always see past the impact of their own whiteness on people’s lives. I don’t believe in allies, so I don’t call them allies, but I believe that these are women who have a certain level of power to make change. Sometimes, they coddle us as if they don’t believe that we are capable of doing for ourselves. And I think it comes from a love of wanting to help people, but without really understanding the magnitude of their privilege and power, and how patronizing it can be sometimes.”
And while Hillary notably has strong a relationship with the political dream team The Colored Girls, and with the at least 38 black women leaders within her campaign, Jones expressed concern about Hil’s relationship with the rest of us:
“I think that she could do better to strengthen her relationships with women of color. I think that she might be at a point where she’s not fully aware of how to do that, in a way that won’t come off as pandering.”
Gizelle Clemmons, a 29 year old non-profit professional, agrees with Jones. We asked Clemmons what superpower she would bestow upon Clinton:
“It would be the ability to literally stand in someone else’s shoes to fully and better understand what different citizens are dealing with in this country.”
A 13 year old from Madison, Wisconsin, knew that Hillary would need to be almost superhuman to overcome the biases and expectations held against her. That 13 year old, Danielle Crim would give Clinton the power of super-speed:
“Then, she could get as much done as she possibly could. It takes a lot of time to get things done, and she’d only have four years as president.”
And while Jones argues that claims of Hillary Clinton’s dishonesty are often unfounded, she did agree that HRC “could be more transparent.” In fact, this was one of the first things she thought of when asked about the Democratic candidate. This idea of whether or not Hillary makes good decisions, and is transparent about the bad ones, popped up again and again as we talked to women like my own mother, a 53 year old nurse practitioner and avid Hillary supporter. Her name is Aminata:
“I was disappointed with her decision to use a private server. Not because I thought she was hiding something or I did not trust her, but I was concerned that she was willing to take the responsibility of maintaining a private server when even government servers are routinely broken into or hacked.”
Cierra Lewis, a budding journalist and senior at Rowan University in New Jersey was a little more disappointed and a lot blunter:
“I sense Hillary Clinton’s untrustworthiness, and the private email usage was a good example of that. Me, as a media person, I feel like if your credibility is shot, pardon my French, but I can’t really f*ck with you. Didn’t you see that thing on MSNBC around the email scandal? And everything she said was practically a lie? If there’s no transparency, why should you have my vote? That being said, I am unwillingly a Hillary supporter. She’s kind of my last resort. Obviously Trump isn’t an option.”
Black women also gave us (much more enthusiastically than Cierra Lewis) the reasons that they’ve got Hillary’s back.
We also asked Feminista Jones to compare Hillary Clinton to some of our favorite, scandal-less pop stars, like Beyonce, a black girl favorite. We did give Jones the opportunity to compare Secretary Clinton to more controversial icons, like Taylor Swift, Iggy Azalea or Mariah Carey, too. Instead of sticking within the parameters of our question, Jones described Clinton as a pop icon in her own right:
“I mean, the woman has a Grammy. I think she’s incomparable, which is what I think makes her so magnificent. I think even when we have our issues with her, we cannot deny how brilliant, savvy, and magnificent Hillary Clinton is. I get all of the complaints and trust me, I’ve raised a lot of them, but ultimately, this is one of the most brilliant women we’ve ever seen. Ultimately, I think she is cunning and elusive as the men in politics are, but she get was more crap for it because she’s a woman. I think no matter what she tries to do, some people are just not here for it. I think in some ways, she is her own pop icon because people hold her to certain standards and idolize her — or they vilify her in ways that you only see happen with people in pop culture. She’s not just a politician. She is a rock star.”
To Karen McRae, the COO of the National Congress of Black Women, Hillary is a star, too:
“I worked for [Hillary Clinton’s] husband, previously. I helped him with debate prep while he was running for office. I think one of the things that I’m most proud of is how she’s grown since she was First Lady of Arkansas. She’s always been evolving. My first actual encounter with Hillary Clinton was when she was at the Children’s Defense Fund and I was at the Congressional Black Caucus. Seeing her evolution as a person is what I’m most proud of, because a lot of people don’t grow. They’re stuck. But she’s gotten better; more informed over time. Specifically, she’s grown in her grace under fire. She’s taken more arrows and jabs than anyone. My pastor used to say ‘you know you’re on a battlefield when you start being attacked, but you also know you’re on the right path.’ If folks didn’t see her potential, they wouldn’t have attacked so hard. You can see that there’s something unique, something special, that God had something more planned for her.”
Though Carri Twigg is young, she is a longtime political activist, like McRae. Twigg is an Obama campaign veteran, and she’s #WithHer:
“There’s definitely a lot of moments in which I’ve liked, respected, and trusted Hillary Clinton. As somebody who worked for both the President’s campaigns, I think she’s comported herself with dignity throughout her service in the administration. I think particularly [of] her entire tenure as Secretary of State. Being the global ambassador and representative on behalf of the United States and President Obama is incredible. The various ways she had supported the President, besides their contentious beginning, would be the moments in which I most respected her.”
A woman we met named Tabatha is not deeply ingrained in the political world, like Karen McRae or Carri Twigg. Tabatha is a 36 year old bartender from Philadelphia — one who really wanted Bernie Sanders, or even Corey Booker, to be our next president. But she’s putting her faith in Hillary to defend one particular set of rights:
“I know a lot of people think that the system is broken and we should now rely on a third party, but I’m a woman who relies on Planned Parenthood and a million other social services. I’m employed, but I still rely on them. The idea of Donald Trump coming in and stripping them is upsetting, so I feel forced to vote for Hillary. However, I do consider myself a feminist and do think it would be a step forward for our country to have female president. I do believe it’s possible, if she gets in, to hold her accountable to the things she promised, and make sure she is looking out for everybody.
Why is Tabatha so sure?
“I feel like [Hillary] has allowed herself to be in situations where she didn’t have all the answers or was uncomfortable, but she still spoke to angry black people, and angry black feminists specifically. She spoke to them directly. She went on ‘Another Round’ and [Heben and Tracy] asked her about her husband’s policies, about three-strikes and all that, and she didn’t shy away from it, and I appreciate that. If you’re going to do those things [policy wise], at least say ‘hey, I made a mistake.’ She said she made a mistake, she gets it, and we’re moving forward.”
Shirmel Wiggs is part of the Black Girls Vote executive board, and she had three words to defend her support of the democratic nominee.
“Hillary is strong. She is assertive. She is powerful.”
For these reasons and more, I am #WithHer too.