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The Clintons have never been invited to my cookout

Dear Black Voters,

The Clintons have never been there for you.

That’s right – while you were applauding Bill Clinton for being “the first black president,” he and his wife were reinventing the war on drugs and expanding mass incarceration faster than any previous administration. Their support of the 1994 crime bill is what has set the precedent for “Stop and Frisk” and the exponential spike in imprisonment for nonviolent crimes. They’ve made several comments disregarding black lives over the years and have brought endless controversy upon their heads as a result.

So none of us should be surprised when last week, after being confronted by Black Lives Matter protesters at a Philadelphia event, Bill Clinton completely admonished the movement for defending murderers and drug dealers.

The incident started when a protester shouted that “black youth are not super-predators,” in reference to a 1996 statement made by Hillary Clinton (in her speech, she asserted that black youth have no consciences and must be brought “to heel.”) Bill Clinton responded to the protesters by affirming Hillary’s racist and ignorant remark, and stated that the Black Lives Matter movement contradicts itself by defending black people who kill other black people.

Bill Clinton: You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter. Tell the truth. You are defending the people who caused young people to go out and take guns.

Hillary has been called out for her “super-predator” remarks before, and her responses haven’t been any better. In February, she released a statement saying that she “shouldn’t have used those words,” but it is clear that her ideas of black youth still persist – and they affect her husband, too. Hillary claims that her life work has been about “lifting up children and young people who’ve been let down by the system,” and yet the Clinton administration is part of the system that put the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act into place, and put those very same “children and young people” in prison.

Both Clintons clearly have no respect nor empathy for black lives, and yet Bill Clinton is consistently hailed as the “first black president.” The label was awarded to him by Toni Morrison in 1998, when she claimed that even though he had white skin, Clinton had faced many of the obstacles that black men face. “After all,” she wrote, “Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.” Though Morrison never intended for the label to be used as a compliment, people have continued to perpetuate the false label because of Clinton’s “soulful” nature. Either way, at the end of the day, Bill Clinton is, and always has been, an all-white, all-American man who knows nothing of what it’s like to be a black citizen of the United States.

Frankly, I am quite tired of random white people being awarded black cards, especially when they have not been vetted thoroughly enough to look beyond the “swagger” and into their ideologies on race and all of its intersections. The Clintons do not have a black card. Sam White does not have a black card. White people and non-black POC who attempt to do the whip and clap off-off beat together do not have black cards. If you want to have a conversation about being allies, that’s a different story. But I cannot allow anyone who is not black to arrogate that part of my identity, simply because it has not been, and can never be, earned.

If your blacktivism is selective, you are doing it all wrong. The phrase is not “Black Lives (that I deem respectable) Matter.” And it should never be. When I’m shouting “Black Lives Matter,” I am including the drug dealers, the murderers, and everyone else that deserves basic human rights. I am including every black person on every part of the spectrum of respectability. And if I fail to include everyone, I am undermining the purpose of the entire movement.

So no, the Clintons have never been invited to my cookout. Not now, not ever.

Yours in solidarity,

Kassidi S. Jones

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By Kassidi Jones

Kassidi is a second-year student at the University of Pennsylvania, studying English and Africana Studies. They plan on becoming a professor. They're originally from Hartford, CT but spend most of their time in Philly. Their extracurriculars include performing with The Excelano Project, Penn's premier spoken word group, and trying to balance my responsibilities in many student groups focused on the development and improvement of the qualities of black lives.