Why Blacks Shouldn't Vote for Hillary

An African American Reporter Comes to Terms With a Taboo Subject

Unlike scores of my disillusioned relatives and friends, I've only recently come to the conclusion that African Americans should not vote for U.S. Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. The other day, I tore up my invitation to celebrate Mrs. Clinton's 53rd birthday at an October 25 "Show at Roseland Ballroom to benefit New York Senate 2000." My $1000 contribution would have entitled me to a gold ticket and given me entrée to a cocktail reception and preferred seating at a "celebrity cabaret" featuring "Hillary players" such as Whoopi Goldberg, Robert De Niro, and Cher. I know that some of you are saying, "This Uncle Tom done lost his god-damn mind." Indeed, I've joined the anti-Clinton campaign, but not the vast conspiracist subculture found in right-wing populism. I still believe, as essayist Ralph Melcher put it, that "the right wing has succeeded in doing what it set out to do . . . make Bill and Hillary into political monsters."

Maybe the time has come to gain respect for ourselves and from our patronizing oppressors in the Democratic Party by withholding our vote and acting, for once in our political lives, on the basis of principle and racial pride.
Peter Noel: to hell with the party line.
photo: Robin Holland
Peter Noel: to hell with the party line.

For me, it's all about Mrs. Clinton's brand of racial politics. For the past week, I've been mad thinking about the stranglehold that both liberal and conservative Jews have on her campaign. And I am now firmly convinced that we as black people cannot trust her with our lives. Last Thursday, the flip-flop artist all but warned us she would sell us out like she sold out the martyrs of the current Palestinian intifada. Mrs. Clinton's remarks at the pro-Israel rally—"I believe it is imperative that we stand clearly with Israel" and her description of the UN resolution condemning Israel's use of force against the Palestinians as "shameful," adding that it "ignores the reality of the situation"—conjured memories of those awful battles between New York's blacks and Jews. I argued to some of my skeptical black activist friends who are supporting Mrs. Clinton that it is not impossible that violence similar to that in Israel—sniper shootings of protesters, rocket attacks by helicopter gunships against high-profile targets—could happen here.

I likened the controversial visit to the Temple Mount by Ariel Sharon (the "butcher of Shabra and Shatila"), which touched off the violence that so far has killed more than 100 people—nearly all of them Palestinian—to a hypothetical foray into Crown Heights by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who called Hitler "a very great man," Judaism a "dirty religion," and Jews "bloodsuckers" of the black community. Although Farrakhan is no Ariel Sharon, outrage erupts. The cry goes out: "Every Jew, a .22!" Former mayor Ed Koch—who still refers to the 1991 riots as a pogrom against Jews and blames then mayor David Dinkins for allowing blacks to vent—asks Mrs. Clinton, "How can you ignore the reality of this situation?" Mrs. Clinton rallies to the side of Hasidic Jews.

I suspect, owing to Mrs. Clinton's fragile alliance with Jews, that she lobbied feverishly behind the scenes to assure her role in last week's anti-PLO rally. But isn't it odd that Mrs. Clinton has never participated in a grassroots demonstration in support of victims of police brutality? What is her excuse for not showing up at the recent "Redeem the Dream" rally in Washington, D.C., to protest racial profiling? While Mrs. Clinton grabs every chance she gets to atone to Jews (no more calls for a Palestinian state, no more hugs and kisses for Suha Arafat), she always seems to confound African Americans. First, she described the killing of Amadou Diallo as a "murder," then pulled back after a barrage of criticism from the mayor and the white media, and in the face of mounting evidence that the NYPD is out of control, she has refused to join the call for a federal monitor of the department. She supports the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, who gave America's top secrets to Israel, but she won't question the conviction of Mumia Abu Jamal, who is on death row in Pennsylvania for killing a white cop.

Her appearance at St. Luke AME Church in Harlem on October 7 is a glaring example of the chicanery black voters have become accustomed to. As booming gospel music dies away, a jam-packed audience focuses its attention on Mrs. Clinton standing in the pulpit. She's talking about Harriet Tubman in a narrative she's perfected in visits to black churches after initially confusing Tubman with Sojourner Truth, then correcting the error after Our Time Press, a black monthly, demanded an apology. It's the story of a runaway slave who returns to the South to lead others to freedom, but in Mrs. Clinton's telling, it becomes a metaphor for how she views herself: Hillary the persecuted woman who won't back down. It's a theme her campaign can't get enough of, and it's a message that plays well today. "If you hear the dogs, keep on going. If you hear gunfire, keep on going. If you hear shouts and footsteps, keep on going," intones Mrs. Clinton, evoking Tubman urging on the slaves. Then, as cries of "Yes!" fill the church, the first lady reverts to politics.

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