The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Ma and Pa Clinton Flog Uppity Black Man

with 8 comments

Why Hillary’s race comments matter

I saw two groups excusing Senator Clinton’s suggestion that LBJ made Martin Luther King, Jr., successful.

The first comprised middle-class white people, who reverted to the rolling of eyes and labeling the controversy “just politics” (the implication being that no sensible person would see the comment as anything significant—along the lines of “these blacks are so touchy!“*) The second set was the older, authoritarian set of African-American civil rights leaders (their implication being “The Clintons are icons; we’ll not allow that talk.”)

Ishmael ReedA deeper view was offered by author Ishmael Reed: “[Bill] Clinton was able to seduce black audiences, who ignored some of his actions that were unfriendly, even hostile, to blacks.”

Reed is brilliant (the headline above is his, for instance), and I encourage you to ponder his entire post, which details the Clinton record, then thumbnails the history of black America’s rocky relationship with white feminism. To pique your curiosity, a couple of excerpts, followed by a video of Hillary’s comments:

clipped from
Writing in The Baltimore Sun, I was the first to identify Clinton as a black president as a result of his mimicking a black style. . . . As a result of his ability to imitate the black preaching style, Clinton was able to seduce black audiences, who ignored some of his actions that were unfriendly, even hostile to blacks.
His interrupting his campaign to get a mentally disabled black man, Ricky Ray Rector executed. (Did Mrs. Clinton tear up about this act?)His humiliation of Jesse Jackson. His humiliation of Jocelyn Elders and Lani Gunier. The welfare reform bill that has left thousands of women – black, white, yellow and brown destitute, prompting Robert Scheer to write in the San Francisco Chronicle, “To his everlasting shame as president, Clinton supported and signed welfare legislation that shredded the federal safety net for the poor from which he personally had benefited.” (Has Ms. Clinton shed a tear for these women, or did she oppose her husband’s endorsement of this legislation?) . . .His administration saw a high rate of black incarceration as a result of Draconian drug laws that occurred during his regime . . . He advocated trade agreements that sent thousands of jobs overseas. . . . He refused to intervene to rescue thousands of Rwandans from genocide . . .His behavior demonstrated that regardless of Bill Clinton’s admiration for Jazz, and black preaching, he and his spouse will go south on a black man whom they perceive as being audacious enough to sass Mrs. Clinton. In this respect, he falls in the tradition of the southern demagogue: grinning with and sharing pot liker and cornbread with black folks, while signifying about them before whites. . . .Having been educated at elite schools where studying The War of the Roses was more important than studying Reconstruction, the under educated white male punditry and their token white women, failed to detect the racial code phrases that both Clintons and their surrogates sent out-codes that, judging from their responses, infuriated blacks caught immediately. Blacks have been deciphering these hidden messages for four hundred years. They had to, in order to survive.
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We white Americans have yet to realize that we speak an inherited language tinted with shades of supremacy. Hillary’s failure to get it, and Bill’s subsequent trembling rage against Barack Obama, demonstrate that racial assumptions are still at work that much of America simply cannot see.

* I wrote to a friend this week, “Strange how four hundred years of getting screwed leaves one with a negative attitude.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Monte Asbury


Written by Monte

January 18, 2008 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Politics, Poverty, Race, Religion

8 Responses

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  1. I just realized that I made a comment ealier under the name Ben, sorry for the confusion.


    January 25, 2008 at 5:51 pm

  2. A lot of authors have inspired me in this kind of thinking-Walter Wink, Brian McLaren, Shane Claiborne, MLK, and really what all of these authors point to is Jesus being the one who started this way-the way of conquering through self-sacrifice. I think that, in addition to being forgiven and being empowered to live a new life, this revolutionary movement is the most important element of the Gospel.


    January 25, 2008 at 3:02 pm

  3. Ben – Where’d you learn that? Who were your influencers?


    January 25, 2008 at 1:27 pm

  4. I don’t know that America would be much different if MLK was ever elected president. I don’ think that the kind of changes that last and are affective come from places of power. Instead, I think the changes that last and that mean something are the ones that come through suffering, and through self sacrifice-much like the civil rights movement that MLK was a part of. Although I appreciate being able to vote for a president, I don’t beleive that lasting change that makes the world better comes from the top down very often, but instead starts with lowly people who force the world to listen to them by their willingness to suffer, and by their unwillingness to play by the violent power hungry rules of this world.


    January 25, 2008 at 12:05 am

  5. Thanks, DarthBen and Terry! DB, I have often made this case in our own Church of the Nazarene; I think we need General Assemblies to be held outside of the US, and leaders chosen from 3rd world nations, if we are ever to become more than paternalistic in the USA. Time to learn, and to admit that having money doesn’t mean we know anything.

    Terry, thanks for showing me one function of this post. It’s gratifying and encouraging to be a part of spreading views that help people understand another side of the story.

    By the way, I understand many black people didn’t want Obama to run out of certainty that he’d be killed. Shocking, to think that America still is that kind of place or still is perceived to be that kind of place. Surely it’s hard for white folks like us to understand the other reality.


    January 24, 2008 at 10:24 am

  6. I hadn’t heard Hillary’s original remark and the media references to it I’d heard certainly didn’t help me understand the controversy. It seemed to be politics as usual. So thanks for this post. Nancy’s mention of MLK as president has sure caused me to wonder (with some longing) what America would be like today if it had happened.


    January 24, 2008 at 7:19 am

  7. I don’t want to vote for a candidate simply because they’re black, however, if I had to choose between two candidates, and they were both close as far as how qualified they were, and one was black and one was white, I would definitely vote for the black person, cause I think we really need a different perspective in the white house.


    January 19, 2008 at 10:21 am

  8. Yeah, I don’t get her remarks AT ALL! What is she saying, that a black man who instills hope and vision – make that false hopes – will never change America. It takes a President (white?) to make it happen? Well, MLK was not campaigning for president when he filled hundreds of thousands with “false hopes”- Barack Obama is not a religious leader who is simply creating groundswell optimism, he is a viable presidential candidate. Is she saying it takes a white power broker/DC insider/game-playing politico to create new legislature?

    If her comments have any coherence at all, I’d rather have had MLK as President over LBJ any day or decade. I hate to be negative, but I have never liked the wide self-serving slipper side of the Clinton’s – saw it from day one and never respected them afterwards.

    I cannot believe the “pass” she has gotten on this one. Monte, you’ve got me all riled up!

    Monte Says: Thanks, old friend! Stay riled up – justice waits for Americans to get riled up enough to address their own nation’s sin.


    January 18, 2008 at 5:27 pm

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