Opinion: Hillary Clinton and Black Millennial Dissonance

Image: Hillary Clinton
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton hands a phone back to a woman after speaking to her son as she visits the Dunkin' Donuts in West Palm Beach, Florida. Carolyn Kaster / AP

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By Danielle Moodie-Mills

What in the world is going on with Hillary Clinton?

This is a question I’m frequently asked by family and friends alike who sometimes believe that proximity to Washington, D.C. provides inside-the-beltway folks like me with political clairvoyance. While we may be more engaged in the political comings and goings than most—soothsayers we are not.

But a recap of her recent public engagements with people of color illuminate the dissonance between the candidate and communities of color.

Following her Brooklyn debate last month with opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton swung by a senior center in East Harlem to play a hand of Dominoes, and she won. However, the engagement seemed completely forced and out of character.

Even President Obama has recognized the millennial disconnect that Secretary Clinton is having — he incorporated the candidate into his set at the White House Correspondence Dinner.

"I’ve said how much I admire Hillary’s toughness, her policy chops," he joked.

Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, greet supporters in Philadelphia.Dominick Reuter / Reuters

"You got to admit it, though, Hillary trying to appeal to young voters is a little like your relative who just signed up for Facebook. 'Dear America, did you get my poke? It didn't appear on your wall. Not sure I’m using this right. Love, Aunt Hillary.'"

While Hillary tweeted in good nature, "@Potus Nice job last night. Aunt Hillary approves," watching President Obama crush his last WHCD speech is just another reminder of how out of touch Hillary remains from pop culture and millennials in general.

In a radio interview a few weeks ago the candidate was asked to name something she carries with her everywhere, to which she answered, “hot sauce.” Now, while that may be true for many after rocking to Beyoncé’s Formation, it seemed like straight pandering. It’s as if her campaign is listening to Hip Hop radio stations trying to find an “in” and they keep missing over and over and over again. Why not work with the candidate they have instead of trying to make her into a Barack-Star?

Clinton’s campaign to “court the black vote” saw the writing on the wall in 2008 with her hyper-racialized, 3AM call campaign commercial, asking voters who they wanted to answer the call while a little white girl slept peacefully in her bed. The overtone of the commercial was don’t let that black man be the one to answer the call and endanger your white children—subtle, I know.

For years both Clintons have played an aggressive game of political double-dutch between the black community and disgruntled white working class folks—doing very little to build a bridge between the two, instead hopping between the groups they desperately need to secure their path to the White House.

It should never be acceptable to use black pain as a tool to substantiate white dominance, yet that is too often the case.

In the course of their thirty year political careers the Clintons have done very little to establish their agenda for the black community. Instead of producing policies that would help mitigate under-education, over incarceration, police brutality and underemployment, they show up to black churches and establishments—shaking hands, playing musical instruments all while promising that they have our best intentions in mind.

Thanks to social media, the amnesia that the Clintons have banked on is not working with the thoughtful and organized black millennial sect, which ushered Obama into the White House in 2008 and 2012.

It’s often said that you can’t use analog tools in a digital world, so why then does it seem that Secretary Clinton’s campaign is more adept at attending a fish fry than focusing on the issues that countless Black Lives Matter protesters have been pointedly asking of her?

Why is it OK to use the term “Super Predator” to define young black boys in one decade and then use the black mother’s of slain black children in another for political gain? It should never be acceptable to use black pain as a tool to substantiate white dominance, yet that is too often the case.

When challenged on his horrific 1994 Crime Bill, that saw a substantial proportion of black men incarcerated for minimal offenses with maximum sentences—breaking apart black families and destroying entire communities—Bill Clinton’s response was that it was black people’s fault and that we needed to “tell the truth” about who we are defending.

Black millennials however aren’t interested in Bill Clinton and by proxy Hillary Clinton’s half-stepping on the facts. While the black church may have been the Democratic watering hole of the past—digital community mixed with real-time actions are the reality of today’s black community—and trying to fill their coffers with disingenuous and at times inflammatory rhetoric isn’t going to cut it.

While the black church may have been the Democratic watering hole of the past—digital community mixed with real-time actions are the reality of today’s black community.

The reality is black millennials are woke and aren’t interested in any bedtime stories of her role as “white maternal guide,” helping their parents hold onto low paying jobs that did little in terms of building black wealth. Or better yet, how she is sorry for participating in the dismembering of the black community where the rate of incarceration dwarfs the actual population of the black people in the United States.

In a recent episode of ABC’s Scandal, presidential candidate Mellie Grant, claimed that she was “not her husband's keeper” and many have said the same with regard to Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton’s policies—lamenting that she can’t be held responsible for his policies.

Let’s be clear, much like the fictional Mrs. Grant, the real-life Mrs. Clinton was not your average First Lady who stayed out of the Oval and busied herself with ornamental duties. To the contrary, Secretary Clinton made it clear, that she was a boss in her own right as well as her husband’s most trusted adviser.

Yet, as it turns out some three decades later she wants us to believe that she was completely hands off with regard to his policies, and black millennials, with each hashtag, protest and interruption, are reminding her that she can’t have it both ways. You can’t be a professed boss on one hand and the unknowing accomplice on another.

The dissonance that Secretary Clinton is having with black millennials is only maximized by the contrast of President Obama’s success with them.

A recent Washington Post article reminded us that black youth turnout increased a full eight percentage points between 2004 and 2008, with more than half of eligible young black voters casting ballots in the 2008 election.

But what will this November bring?

Black Lives Matter. Black Voices Matter. Black Votes Matter. It’s time Secretary Clinton stop playing games with black millennials.

They are not interested in getting tangled in her ropes, in fact they could sit this game out entirely, and wait for someone who is more in step with their needs.