Michelle Alexander, attorney and celebrated author of The New Jim Crow, wrote a provocative article recently – Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote. This week, she shared a post on Facebook explaining why she’s not going to continue belaboring the Hillary v. Bernie argument. This is a lady who really knows how to elevate important issues above the noise and the point she makes is an excellent one: no matter what happens in the external world of politics, each of us needs to busy ourselves with the hard work of improving society. Ms. Alexander writes:
This is the last post that I intend to write about the primaries for quite awhile. I am sharing this article because it makes two important points that seem to be lost in all the sensational media coverage of Hillary vs Bernie:
1) Although Bernie ultimately voted for the 1994 crime bill, he argued strenuously in opposition to it on the floor of Congress, calling it a “punishment bill” and chastised legislators for their obsession with proving their toughness on crime while millions of people were going hungry and sleeping on the streets. He said “let’s not keep putting poor people into jail and disproportionately punishing blacks.” This was around the same time Hillary was calling black children “super-predators” and saying they must be “brought to heel.” Bernie reportedly voted for the 1994 crime bill only because the Violence Against Women Act was attached. I wish he had voted against the bill. But I think it ought to be acknowledged that while our nation was awash in “get tough” mania, Bernie stood up and spoke out against a bill that aimed to escalate the wars on poor communities of color.
2) Despite all evidence to the contrary, the media still seems to act as though there is some real question whether Bernie has been a steadfast supporter of civil and human rights throughout his life. This article ought to end that debate. Whether or not one agrees with every position Bernie has taken throughout his political career, there is not doubt of his longstanding commitment to civil rights.
This is my last post about the primaries for awhile because I fear the discussions are too often toxic and unproductive. There is much more that I could say about this election, but the conversation that I most want to have right now doesn’t have to do with Bernie or Hillary. What I most want to talk about is this: What kind of revolution do we think we want and need? And what, exactly, are we willing to do to bring it to life?
I am grateful that Bernie Sanders has called for a political revolution, and that millions are responding with energy, enthusiasm and a genuine desire to build a movement that will give our nation a chance at having a real democracy where people actually count more than corporate dollars. But the truth is that the political revolution did not begin with Bernie Sanders and it certainly will not end with him – whether or not he is elected. And it’s also true that we need much more than a political revolution; we also need a moral, cultural, and spiritual revolution – an awakening to the dignity and value of each and every one of us no matter who we are, where we came from, or what we’ve done.
We saw this revolutionary spirit on the streets of Ferguson, Baltimore and beyond when signs were held high saying “Black Lives Matter” even as tear gas flowed. We saw this revolutionary spirit when undocumented students literally risked everything by coming out of the shadows to protest mass deportation. We saw this revolutionary spirit when thousands flooded the streets in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, calling for an end to corporate exploitation and greed – greed that not only caused a global economic crisis but that is driving climate change and threatening life on the planet itself.
It is this revolutionary spirit – a revolutionary love for all people and for life itself – that will ultimately determine our collective fate. The work of defining and building this revolution will remain exactly the same no matter who is elected president. This is not to say the election doesn’t matter. It matters a great deal. But whether or not a bold and beautiful revolution is born has nothing to do with Bernie, Hillary, Trump or any other candidate. It has everything to do with us – whether we, as a people, decide that we will no longer play politics as usual and will dare to imagine that we can make America what it must become. The odds are against us, for sure, but we are destined to lose in the long run if we never muster the courage to stand up for what we truly believe and build a multi-racial, multi-ethnic nonviolent army of artists, activists, teachers, health care workers, formerly incarcerated people, currently incarcerated people, parents, students, elderly people, academics, hourly workers, health care workers, and everyone of conscience who is willing to bring an end to the politics of punitiveness and division, and birth a new America.