The tone-deafness that was Day 2 of the DNC in Philly was encapsulated in this one tweet by David Axelrod:
Mothers of Movement were incredibly moving, but it would have been powerful to have included widows of fallen police officers. #DNCinPHL
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) July 27, 2016
This all takes place against the backdrop of the revolt of millions of progressive voters against a party that is more afraid of its own billionaire backers and the remnants of a once vibrant middle class; one that continues, as it did in the 1990’s, in its demands for tough law enforcement at the expense of Black and brown bodies, all the while it cherry-picks whom to console, in a hypocritical public display of divide and conquer politics. Yes, while the “Mothers of The Movement” deserve our nation’s recognition and support, neither should be exclusive of the daughters and creators of the new movement for civil rights, Black Lives Matter, or the tens of millions they speak for. We are a nation whose racism ranks Black pain and suffering dead last.
Black people are ALWAYS asked to empathize with someone else's pain, to make OTHER people's struggles PRIMARY over their own.
— Son of Baldwin (@SonofBaldwin) July 8, 2016
By failing to give Black Lives Matter even a tacit nod on day two of the DNC convention, Hillary Clinton’s DNC telegraphed to the nation that it will follow in their newly anointed leader’s footsteps and not only snub a movement she should have thrown her support behind, but that they will stand aside in the face of the fraternity of police (FOP) and the conservative establishment’s efforts to brand it as terroristic in nature. That is the only message one can derive from David Axelrod’s commentary:
Axelrod sent out his tweet after responding to CNN analyst Michael Smerconish’ observations on the appearance at the DNC convention of a group of mothers of Black teens who were killed by police in recent years.
Axelrod’s observations are in line with President Obama’s long-held stance that he isn’t the “president of Black America.” This is a stance that has been reinforced, over and over again, as outrage after tragedy were met only with words of comfort, and which only months of protests finally yielded only limited action, following Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, to the eventual discovery of the oppressive nature of that city’s governance and its eventual reversal.
Since then, the FOP has devised a new tactic against the organization it deems its foe: pushing for the legislation and enactment of Blue Lives Matter bills around the nation. Blue Lives Matter exists because police are the starting point for the vicious cycle that created the need for Black Lives Matter. By constantly invoking, deferring to, and affirming Blue Lives in the context of Black lives, Neoliberal Democrats have closed their eyes, ears, and hearts to the resonance and magnitude of Black Lives Matter beyond the most basic symbolism that it is a movement for survival and not racist separatism. In this era of renewed racial consciousness and activism, the Democratic establishment has made a deliberate choice to cast Black millennials aside and pitting them against their elders in the fight for their very lives. Hillary Clinton’s refusal to reckon with the force of nature that is Black Lives Matter, repeatedly, all throughout this primary cycle and on multiple occasions, is a huge bone of contention for younger generations of African Americans.
Acknowledging the pain and anguish of the mothers without, at the very least, recognizing that of a generation of their living Black children is a calculated affront designed to maintain the facade of allyship all the while deepening the generational rift that has emerged over the past year. That affront goes together with the injection of respectability politics into a civil rights crisis with false accusations that the movement is about yelling and not offering constructive policy solutions, as the main criticisms of BLM’s tactics. But what of our leadership? Must it rely solely on the demands of Black Lives Matter to put a stop to the killing of young Black men and women? Does Governor Cuomo need months of unrest over then teen Kalief Browder’s imprisonment in solitary confinement at Rikers? What of his mistreatment that eventually led to his suicide? Does Governor John Bel Edwards of Louisiana have any sympathy for the family of Alton Sterling? If he does, he’s done nothing to stop the retributive action by police against witnesses and protesters since the police killing. In stark contrast, Edwards’ colleague in Minnesota was forthright and needed no prodding to publicly express what everyone knows: had Castile been white, he just wouldn’t have been shot. Racism, whether conscious or subconscious, leads to the same devastation: institutional racism.
Policing in the U.S. is so decentralized and, by virtue of lack of unification as a force, disorganized, because each department is a fiefdom of its own. It is impossible to “reform the system,” because we have a million systems. Any hope of reform must come from the Feds and be binding at the state and local level, if we are ever to end police brutality as it is now.
But real reform begins with the election of leaders whose views are not that “hearts and minds can’t be changed,” as candidate Hillary Clinton believes. Hearts are changed when minds are well-nourished with the meal of a complete and truthful education. Our nation, by design, allows for the incomplete education of its young, ensuring that with every economic downturn, Jim Crow is allowed a new incarnation. If we are ever to banish him, we must endow our children with enlightenment, self-knowledge and knowledge of their fellow Americans. As a nation, we continue to be the leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.
James Baldwin wrote:
“Whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves.”
James Baldwin is still waiting for us to achieve racial justice. We are all infected with the American malady that is racism. We will only and finally begin achieve racial justice when we all work together to prove James Baldwin wrong. Without an all-encompassing plan for racial justice, reforms of various parts of the system will be fleeting. There can be no criminal justice without racial justice. There can be no racial justice without a fundamental reform of the very essence of what we teach our children from pre-K through college. We must band together and be resolute in our
insistence demand for sweeping changes in all of our institutions, and not only those we connect directly with the source of our immediate anguish and pain.
We progress when we stop doing the things we’ve always done. We change when we stop thinking in the same terms we’ve always thought. We are free when we refuse to fear.
Black. Lives. Matter.
Excerpt from Hillary Clinton’s meeting with BLM activists in Keene, New Hampshire, in August 2015:
Clinton: Look, I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws. You change allocation of resources. You change the way systems operate. You’re not gonna change every heart. You’re not. But, at the end of the day, we can do a whole lot to change some hearts and change some systems and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them to live up to their own G-d-given potential, to live safely without fear of violence in their own communities, to have a decent school, to have a decent house, to have a decent future. So, we can have one of many ways. You can keep the movement going which you have started, and through it, you may actually change some hearts. But if that’s all that happens, we’ll be back here in ten years having that same conversation because we will not have all of the changes that you deserve to see happen in your lifetime because of your willingness to get out there and talk about this.