Why My Support for Hillary Clinton is Hanging On by a Thread.

Via Gayle Fleming
on Feb 27, 2016
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Keith Kissel on Flickr

“We need to bring them to heel.” ~ Hillary Clinton

These words have profoundly affected my already anemic support of Hillary Clinton, even though they were spoken over 20 years ago.

I know Hillary Clinton is not inspiring young people. I’m not young. I’m old—her age in fact. And I’m black. Most older, black folks support Hillary. I desperately wanted to be an all out, without reservation, Hillary Clinton supporter. But I can’t.

I desperately want to see a qualified woman president and I believe she is qualified. She is a capable, experienced, former Secretary of State.

Only a few days ago I was defending her to some young women at my gym. I explained to them that all of the mischaracterizations that they were buying into were propagated and perpetrated by men—starting way back when she declared, during her husband’s campaign, that she didn’t bake cookies. I do believe that there has been a mostly, male, mostly right-winged conspiracy to discredit and diminish her for many years. And a lot of people, including women, have bought into it.

Until now, the thing that had given me the greatest pause, and dampened my full-fledged support for Clinton, are her ties to Monsanto, her perceived support of GMOs and the fact that her top campaign advisor is Jerry Crawford, a former, long-time lobbyist for Monsanto.

Until now, I had given her the proverbial “pass” on the controversy over her support of the stiffer sentencing legislation that was part of her husband’s 1994 crime bill. Contrary to popular rumor (sometimes spread by her erstwhile opponent’s camp) that legislation did not increase the already vastly disproportionate black incarceration rate. But it did lengthen sentences—which lead to more people in prison.

And it must also be pointed out that long before the 1994 bill, black leaders had been crying out for stiffer (read that longer) sentences for crimes committed in black communities.

Bill and Hillary Clinton both admit that the law was flawed and that the incarceration aspects of it were ill advised. There is nothing wrong with hindsight in my view.

But on Wednesday, January 24th, at a $500 per person fundraiser attended by mostly white people, a Black Lives Matter activist held up a sign that said, “We must bring them to heel.” The ardent young woman then asked Clinton to apologize for calling young black teens, “super predators.”

Keep in mind, that this young woman (or the group she represents) paid $500 just like everyone else to be there, so she didn’t crash the party. Hillary Clinton read the sign the young woman held up and dismissively said, “We’ll talk about it.” And then got downright testy when that didn’t shut the protester up.

As I watched the video, I couldn’t help but think what a teachable moment Clinton missed out on. She could have—and should have, in my opinion—stopped her canned stump speech, addressed the questions and shown her solidarity with ardent, young activists on the issue of the murder and mass incarceration of mostly young black men.

So let me be clear. It’s not actually the words she spoke 20 years ago that has my support for her teetering on the edge. It was her angry dismissal of the issue and the young woman—a young woman who should have been her ally—that angered and upset me.

Hillary Clinton has long been an advocate of children and young people. She has a long association with The Children’s Defense Fund and was a staff attorney right out of law school. She has said, and I believe her when she says, she regrets these words.

“They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators,'” Clinton said in 1996, at the height of anxiety during her husband’s administration about high rates of crime and violence. “No conscience, no empathy, we can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”

In a written response to Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post on Thursday Clinton said, “Looking back I shouldn’t have used those words and I wouldn’t use them today.”

However her tone deaf attitude towards the issue and the young woman at the time of the incident, make me wonder if her overwhelming desire to be president is impeding her sense of empathy, or even simple logic.

Many attendees could be heard calling Ashley Williams, the 23 year-old activist, who initiated the encounter, rude and inappropriate. Ashley responded, “I am especially not always in control of how I’m perceived when I’m raising my voice to speak out against injustices. So I’m not surprised that I was told that I was being rude.”

As a former ‘60s activist, Black Panther, anti-Vietnam War protester and Women’s Movement advocate, I wholeheartedly agree that being polite is not always the best way. People don’t always take you seriously. And if you’re young and passionate about an issue, you want to be taken seriously.

So my advice—if my words were to ever reach Clinton’s ears—are that, it is your actions, not only your words that matter. How you treat and respect this new generation of passionate young activists is important. This is a movement. And it will not be stopped or diminished.

Given all that I’ve said, the question might arise, why am I still supporting Hillary and not Bernie Sanders? I have no intention of making this a comparison article. But I will say this. I’ve known Hillary longer. I’ve followed her life and career for the past 26 years. I’ve agreed with her on more things than I haven’t. I think she was an exceptional Secretary of State, in spite of the Republican attempt to smear and discredit her. And I think she rocked the Benghazi hearings, which for me, really showed the mettle of the woman.

I know what she’s capable of. So although I was disappointed in her reaction to the Black Lives Matter protester, I still feel like she is the candidate to beat the Republicans. So for all it’s worth, I’m still hanging in there with her—even if, at the moment, it might be by a slim thread.




Author: Gayle Fleming

Editor: Travis May

Image: YouTube still


About Gayle Fleming

Gayle Fleming is a writer who has finally come out of the closet. A lifelong wordsmith, she has decided to live her authentic, creative life out loud. She is on the hunt for a literary agent for her novel, Omission, one of two books she has written. Gayle has been a yoga teacher and yoga practitioner for many years. She is passionate about social justice and the environment. She is the grandmother to three smart and funny girls who never cease to bring her joy. Connect with Gayle  on Twitter at ecogayle and on Facebook at Gayle Fleming Writer.


8 Responses to “Why My Support for Hillary Clinton is Hanging On by a Thread.”

  1. Florence Ferguson says:

    So she shows her true colors and you still support her? No worse than a Trump supporter; he can do or say anything and they fall in line. I too have followed her and her husband. I've watched what they did not only to minorities, but our economy–NAFTA ring a bell? Guess you ignore her big donors too–the for profit prisons that lock up your brothers and sisters. Hmmm. Well, let me state something to you that I said on another thread:
    I have fought my whole life for every creed. Been a democrat raised in a very active family. If Hillary Clinton gets the nod over Bernie Sanders–whose plans benefit us all greatly and is NOT BOUGHT LIKE HILLARY— if she gets the nom, and the White House—I wipe my hands clean of ever fighting for any of you any longer. I shall take care of those around me; and all others fight their own fight and for their own rights. I am just shy of 1/2 Cherokee; but I am a white woman, getting the better treatment I see whites getting—and I've fought for every race; sexual orientation ect….but no-more—you can lie in the bed $hillary makes for you, and I will step right over your cold hard bed and not give a damn. She is bought, she is for the rich, she is not for any person of color unless it benefits her. I bet you never even looked up the 2 bills she wrote that became law while she was senator—naming a post office and and street—it did wonders for the Blacks in New York! So go ahead, vote for her. And I like many white people won't give a damn when you are living the status quo of injustice—-ALSO— how much money youmake? 6 figures? Is your support for her due to the fact that being a 6 figure income you'll pay more in taxes under President Sanders? We all know $hillary has you rich people covered!! SMFDH!!!!!

  2. Gayle Fleming says:

    Excuse me! "I wipe my hands clean of ever fighting for any of you any longer." How dare you! That statement alone tells me that you are a racist hiding behind a liberal, left leaning persona. Check yourself, honey!

  3. Corinne says:

    You totally rock!! Great article!

  4. Ublonga says:

    Florence, I'm not sure I understand. It's great you're contributing to the Elephant community of mindful readers, however this comment, particularly, confuses me: "I wipe my hands clean of ever fighting for any of you any longer. I shall take care of those around me."

    Surely you're not implying that Gayle is speaking for every person of colour, or that because you disagree with her on who deserves the Democrat nomination, you're through with solidarity? I don't get it (kind of "WTF" response, actually, to be honest with you.)

    Kind of related, I watched this TED Talk today called "10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation." It's pretty quick, and quite worth the listen: https://www.ted.com/talks/celeste_headlee_10_ways

  5. Jeff says:

    I just wanted to echo Florence’s sentiment, but with a bit more clarification.

    If Hillary gets the nomination over Sanders, considering the power of the Internet and the ease with which you can actually research and investigate all of the candidate’s pasts, my mind is BOGGLED by how anyone can still support her.

    Monsanto, GMOs, NAFTA, the TPP, the Keystone pipeline, the Iraq war, the repeal of Glads-Stegal and the effect that has had on our financial sector and subsequently the entire economy, the overthrow of Libya, marriage equality, literally every single scandal the Clintons have been involved in and the cherry on top, the Clinton Foundation. If you are still not familiar with these issues and where all the candidates where on them throughout history, then there’s really no one else to blame but yourself when we end up getting the politicians we deserve. And I too will be giving up on everyone, myself.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Great piece – thoughtful and super informed. Florence is way out of line and comparisons between Trump and Hillary are completely off base and totally irresponsible. I'm with Hill without reservation. But, you're spot on in offering a different way for Hillary to interact with young, passionate protesters. I understand Hill's response – she has been interrupted by many people, many times, sometimes with irrelevant or mean things to say. But your advice is sound. I hope her people are getting it to her…

  7. Gayle Fleming says:

    Please do not imply that I am "not familiar" with these issues." I am a very well informed and thoughtful person. Please don't condescend to me. You make your decisions based on the facts of the issues as you know them and I have done likewise. You and Florence need to know that you don't get to dictate to other intelligent people how to think and behave based on YOUR analysis of the situation. Like I told Florence–check yourself!

  8. Gayle Fleming says:

    Thank you.