No, White Women, I Will Not Be Voting For Hillary
By Olivia Olivia
This story is part of The Establishment’s ongoing series exploring the political dialogue surrounding the democratic presidential candidates, progressivism, and feminism.
The day an older white woman tried to get me fired for calling her racist started with a Facebook post about her voting for Hillary. The woman — let’s call her Cheryl — shared her thoughts on every vote being important, and the value she placed in staying civil with her white Republican friends and family because everyone’s “opinion” was valuable.
It was a moment many of us will see as women of color on social media, one where white people discuss our humanity as something that is just a matter of opinion. “My GOP friends and family reading this are quite moderate,” she said in the post, defending the conservatives in her folds who would later threaten me at work and school. “They wholly support same-sex marriage, closing the wage gap, and HATE the racism threading through this year’s Republican crop,” she added, as if racism and white supremacy weren’t fully integrated into both of America’s fairly right-centered parties, and as if her Republican friends were less racist then the ones on television. And then: “We live in a nation where none of us will be incarcerated for criticizing our candidates, elected officials, or each other. Free speech: hell yes,” she added. But for whom?
This is an election season marked by Republicans leaning toward policies and rhetoric that most Western countries would recognize as sanctioned fascism. Whether or not I or my family can get food stamps, health insurance, or access to birth control is not an opinion to me.
You know what else isn’t an opinion? The Republican competition about who can build an electric fence across the border that divides my family; an artificial border created by colonizers who get to decide which side I deserve to live on.
White liberals and conservatives alike have increasingly shown extreme disregard and hostility toward the needs of people of color in this election. You have Madeline Albright, Gloria Steinem, and the other white feminists talking down to young women voters, explaining that voting for anyone but Hillary is a form of self-hatred, some weird concoction of heterosexual desires, regardless of the fact that some of us aren’t even interested in men or forming relationships with them based off our political affiliation.
Cheryl was extolling the wonders of voting in the United States, and her happiness that we could all be “civil.” This a word that itches me every time I hear it, because I know that its antithesis — “incivility” — is a not-so-euphemistic code for “savagery,” and I know what it means when a white woman calls me that.
It is not uncivil to detest the state of this American election. It is normal, in fact, to be terrified of who will lead this frightening republic next. Who will nuke the children in Iran? Will it be the democratic socialist who promises to lower our tuition, or the white woman who tried to call herself my “abuela” on Twitter while simultaneously being responsible for the school-to-prison pipeline that gets girls like me killed and imprisoned? Only now that she’s running for president does she claim to reject the racist policies she helped create. I have no reason to trust that her history as an imperialist warhawk responsible for the racist drug and welfare laws we suffer through now will be undone because white feminists thinks she’s the second coming.
Or better, will it be one of the picks of Cheryl’s close friends and family members — Ted Cruz? Donald Trump? What if the Republicans had nominated Carly Fiorina, a woman? And she had run against the other white woman, Hillary? Which white woman would we have been obligated to pay homage to this time, Cheryl? I’m not sure. But I do know that when Shirley Chisholm ran for president as the first Black Woman to do so for the Democratic nomination in the 1972 Presidential race, there were no white feminists declaring women traitors for not supporting her.
This idea that my life, my sanity, or my need to survive is a matter of opinion, is what’s driving this election further away from the hands of me and other voters of color. When I told Cheryl I was taking my leave from being her friend online because I could no longer stomach her proximity to fascism (or the idea that fascist ideas are tolerable as opinions), I also simultaneously blocked her. Why? Because I knew the typical white feminist response to a woman of color erecting boundaries to protect her own humanity is to feel attacked, horrified, and enraged. In short, I knew she would lash out. And she did.
She and her friends reached out to schools I worked at, as well as to my clients, hoping to have me removed for what she called the greatest indignity of her life — being called a racist on the Internet. Her next step — while negligible in light of her hunting me down in real life — was to accuse me of being a Bernie supporter in public forums on Twitter and Facebook, even though I have seldom uttered the man’s name in all of this election season. In truth, I hadn’t really mentioned anyone’s name — no less offered my support or vote — because until recently, I couldn’t vote in this country, and neither could my family. I spent most of my college years trying to naturalize as an American, and not all of my Salvadoran refugee family has been so lucky.
But in truth, being able to vote for which American will control one of the most dangerous and volatile world powers of our time is only stomach-churning to me; it’s not a right I’m sure will create meaningful change. Which candidate, really, would say no to watching the Middle East get carpet-bombed? Which one of them would stop one of my aunts or uncles from getting deported or killed? The answer is I don’t know — there are lot of things we still don’t know.
This week, Black Lives Matter decided it would not be endorsing any of the presidential candidates, and I feel the same way. If anything has scared me more, it’s this idea that we must somehow try to reform a system that was intended, from the get-go, to hurt us — one that was built off of hurting native and African people.
Happily, when Cheryl and her friends harassed me at work, I found myself surrounded with the women who actually care about my right to truly pursue free thought — and safety — in this country. Women, professors, employers and, yes, Americans came out of the woodwork, on Facebook and in real life, to make sure I was okay during an election season that has shown us the most gruesome of white feminism, fragility, and hatred of the poor.
Cheryl continued shouting to herself on social media — “slander and defamation” is what she was calling it — but my professors, fellow writers, editors, and literary community were sympathetic to the idea that our “right” to free speech might also include acknowledging the shadow of fascism looming even over our liberal discourse. And I am grateful that we are far outnumbered, for now, by people who understand that America’s turn towards conservatism, fascism, and imperialism in not an “opinion” we can afford to tolerate.
Lead image: Secretary Clinton speaks to a large crowd at Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. All photos by Zach D Roberts.
More stories from The Establishment’s political series:
Let’s Not Pretend Electing The First Female President Wouldn’t Be Radical
Why I Prefer Bernie’s Revolution To Hillary’s Boardroom Feminism
When It Comes To Discussing Gender In Politics, Everyone Is Losing
Stop Telling Marginalized People Who They Must Vote For
To Move Forward, We Must Stop Enabling The Democratic Party