#GirlIGuessImWithHer?: Battling Conflicted Feelings About Hillary As a Black Disabled WomanLeave a Comment
On social media a couple of weeks ago, the hashtag #GirlIGuessImWithHer trended on Twitter that showcased voters, particularly Black Millennials like myself, reluctance to support presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Some of the tweets had a humorous flair, while others displayed the true confliction many are battling about whether to support Hillary in the general election come November. The hashtag got me thinking about my own unease in realizing that I may have to eat crow and vote for Hillary in November, and I felt that being a politically active disabled woman, it would be fitting to give my thoughts on the topic.
Why I Chose Bernie Over Hillary to Support
Truthfully, Hillary has never been a candidate I have backed – it did not happen in 2008, and did not occur for this presidential cycle. In 2008, I had the great fortune to meet then Sen. Barack Obama when he visited Winthrop University (my alma mater) during the college campus touring he did for the SC Democratic Primary. I was a senior gearing up to graduate that May, and had heard all of the buzz surrounding him, and decided to investigate for myself why this man, this Black man specifically, wanted my vote and support. Hearing him speak and watching the way he energized the crowd won me over that day, and I was very proud to cast my vote for him that year (and in 2012). For me, he embodied the kind of president I wanted in the White House – Hillary could not hold a candle to him, not by a long shot, in my 22-year old eyes.
Fast forward almost 8 years later, the same excitement I felt with President Obama stirred up again with Senator Bernie Sanders. Of course, there are stark differences between Bernie and the President, but both had powerful messages that resonated with me. Though I am no longer that 22-years old senior, the issues that both focused on still pertained to me at 30 years old. The way Bernie and President Obama were able to connect with the issues that mattered to Millennials, those “older” like myself and younger, cannot be disputed. Education, student loans, employment, retirement were just a few of the issues that Bernie highlighted during his campaigning; all of these are concerns that are constantly on the minds of those I know and also myself. His approach for change, which to some degree mirrored the one the President vocalized 8 years ago, resonated deeply, especially to those who are affected by the status quo and have a challenge achieving the American dream we work vehemently to make a reality.
Though Bernie is not the perfect candidate, he is the one I, and many, viewed to possess fewer offensive “flaws” in comparison to Hillary. Some of Hillary’s political policies, those that she was a part of and/or supported as First Lady and then as Senator and Secretary of State, have meant grave consequences to the identities I have, particularly my Black identity. Those consequences are still felt today, as we see how Black and Brown bodies endure the effects of racism, police brutality, and discrimination within the criminal justice system. Though Hillary has fervently claimed that she has “seen the light”, and now understands the effects the policies she once supported or endorsed and has vowed to work hard to roll back the ones that are still wreaking havoc within our communities, is that good enough for me?
Most importantly, is that enough to give Hillary my Black disabled female vote?
My Black Disabled Female Vote Is NOT Free
One thing I am adamant about as a voter – my vote is not free. I do not give it haphazardly because I share identities with a political candidate. Being Black was not the sole reason I supported and voted for President Obama. The issues he wanted to fight for and the way he connected with everyday people like myself drew me in; him being Black was a “bonus” factor for me. Regarding Hillary, I do want to have a female president as much as the next Womanist/Feminist, but being female cannot be the ONLY reason I vote or support you. Female political candidates must bring more than their gender identity to the table for me. I believe that the shaming some female supporters of Hillary have uttered to women voters like myself who have hesitations in giving her our vote are offensive and a true turn-off. There are many factors that are at play when selecting a candidate that goes beyond gender identity, and being female does not mean that we automatically see eye-to-eye on issues that matter to me and many others. Furthermore, though Hillary is a woman and is now a serious contender for the coveted “prize,” is she the right woman President I want to have? That is another key question I have asked myself, especially now being that we are less than 5 months away from the election.
“What’s Good For The Race Is Good For Me” – My Voting Mentality
My mentality as a voter is heavily influenced by my Black identity, more so than my female or disabled identities. For me, my Blackness comes first – when I look into the mirror, I see Black before I see disability, before gender. When I go out in the world, they see a Black person, specifically, a Black woman in a wheelchair who is under 4 feet tall. My pride in my Blackness flourished first before my pride as a disabled person or as a woman. Being Black and living in unapologetically Blackness has shaped the way I view everything, especially the political arena.
The way I think, view, react to, and participate in politics stems from the group mentality Blacks have about their voting power: what’s good for the race is good for me. The policies, mandates, and politicians that respect my personhood and life experience, and support my way of life as an American citizen individually, as well as members within the collective racial group, are what and who I strongly believe I should support and/or vote for.
Voting this way also works in the favor of my other identities, as the policies and mandates that support racial minorities may also directly or indirectly impact the livelihoods of those who are disabled and/or female. The political intersection for me, especially since all three groups experience oppression and marginalization differently and similarly, works when I support candidates that not only respects my Blackness and the Black experience, but may also support these identities and the policies and issues that matter to respective members of those groups as well.
Not Voting Isn’t A Choice I Will Be Making in November
Though I am struggling with the likelihood of Hillary being the Democratic presidential candidate,I will be quite frank: not voting in November is NOT an option. How so? It is so because I know the importance of voting as a Black American that stemmed from the teachings of my Grandmother – a woman who was born during the Great Depression, lived under Jim Crow, and did not have the right to vote when she was my age. Her influence on why it is crucial to understand politics and to vote heavily weighed in on my low-key political obsessions and adamant stance about being politically involved as I have been for the past four years within my community. Being raised by her taught me that the ability to vote is not a right to take lightly; folks died for me, a Black woman, to be able to cast a vote in the first place. To not vote at all is inconceivable in my mind, and though I may have my issues and hesitations about Hillary, sitting out this election season is not a privilege I have as a triple minority.
How Can Hillary Become The Candidate I Can Trust?
Honestly, I do not know. And truthfully, I do not think I would ever trust her, even if she won the presidency or were to elect a person of color (or a woman of color) as her running mate. However, when she is made the “official” Democratic nominee next month, I will vote for her because voting for the alternative is not feasible just as not voting at all is.
If she wins in November, it would be imperative for her to take a concrete stand on the issues that has many of us unsure about her proactiveness on affairs that matter to minority groups from all backgrounds. I do believe that individuals can change their views as they learn and interact with people who are directly affected by the political decisions they make as public servants, and if Hillary has had those genuine moments of clarity over the years, then I hope to see it when she is elected.
To go back to the first half of the title… I guess I’m with her…? I know I am not the only disabled advocate, especially those of us of color, who are coming to terms with the realities of what has transpired this election season, and the decisions we will make in the voting booths in November. This election cycle has unfolded like a very bad reality TV series with antics that has made many of us ponder why in the world have we allowed a two-party system to exist in our democracy. If I sound like a disgruntled and unimpressed voter, that is an accurate inkling to gather. I expect more from those who are vying for such an important position, and I believe that the main two candidates from both parties still have a great deal of convincing to do to the American people as to why they belong in the White House.
(Featured headlining image: Courtesy of Pixabay.)