“I don’t expect things to get much better for marginalized people, especially people who are Black, Brown, sexual assault survivors, and incarcerated, whether Biden or Trump wins the election. Although I do feel defeated, I am determined to continue fighting for Black liberation by organizing towards a world abolished of prisons, and by creating spaces for other Black folks to express what we stand for.” – Stephanie Younger
By Stephanie Younger •
When I learned that 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden won 10 states on Super Tuesday on March 3rd, I couldn’t help but think of his political legacy of fighting for segregation, and enforcing the criminalization of Black and Brown people. Appalled by the amount of Virginians that chose Biden in this primary, I re-read an excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
“First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.””– Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”
This quote applies to the way VA voters proved MLK’s point—that they are voting for white moderates who have a vested interest in maintaining white supremacy, as much as the alt-right conservative. “Voting blue no matter who” isn’t effective when it doesn’t benefit the most marginalized people.
As a young Black organizer I have been tokenized, given unsolicited, condescending input from strangers about my own work, and spoken down to by people who say they stand with me. In the recent weeks, those who insist they stand with Black youth consistently let me down. I never thought much of these patronizing comments until I came across several Facebook posts dismissing Black youth, who don’t “vote blue no matter who,” as “disrespecting of our elders” and deprived of experience. Black youth, especially Black girls who could be voting for the first time this year, don’t deserve to be spoken over or to have people decide what’s best for us. We don’t deserve to have our experiences invalidated based on our decisions to not “vote blue no matter who,” as a result of not being afforded the convenience of glossing over the racism of white Democrats.
“Voting blue no matter who” comes from a place of privilege. Black people don’t have the privilege of overlooking the racist words and actions of white Democratic politicians such as Joe Biden—just to name a few examples, where he stands when it comes to desegregation busing, the Hill vs. Thomas case, where a Black woman named Anita Hill was sexually harassed by Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas, and the 1994 Crime Bill, which continues to enforce mass incarceration of Black and Brown people, especially youth, to this day.
Like the 2016 election, Black youth aren’t being listened to, despite our warnings that the interest of many of these candidates is to preserve white supremacy. Before someone questions why I (a Black girl who would have been voting for the first time), will not be supporting Biden (nor Trump), and lectures me on why I should do so, question why 52% of white female voters chose the interest of preserving white supremacy, by voting for Trump in 2016. Then, read Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” and look for the part where he said that he “has been gravely disappointed with the white moderate (shown in the second paragraph of this article). After that, watch the recent CNN clip where a white female Biden surrogate attempted to water down MLK’s words, attempting to lecture Nina Turner on how MLK somehow didn’t really say what he said, and say that Biden somehow isn’t an example of “the white moderate Dr. King warned us about.” Look into the part where the white woman called Turner an “angry Black woman” on Twitter. As long as white moderates isn’t affected, they are complacent with injustices that affect the most marginalized people.
Two weeks ago, the hashtag, “#IBelieveTaraReade” went viral on social media. A few white women unfollowed and unfriended me on social media when I stated that I believe Tara Reade, a survivor who recently went viral for speaking out about being assaulted by Joe Biden. I am disappointed by the amount of people who are so eager to vote out a racist and a misogynist and replace them with another oppressor of their favor. People often preach, “listen to young people,” but as soon Black youth challenge the status quo, people show that they don’t want change by shutting us down.
In 2016, Black and Brown people spoke out about Trump’s racism, and women spoke out about Trump’s misogyny. 52% of white female voters turned their backs on both communities of color and survivors for the sake of preserving white supremacy. Black people have been saying that Biden embodies MLK’s warning of the white moderate, and many women came forward to share their stories about being assaulted by Biden. In 2020, a lot of self-proclaimed (white liberal) feminists are also betraying the people they claim to advocate for. I see a pattern here, and I fear the same thing that happened in 2016 is going to happen again because of their complacency.
When I say that I’m not supporting a problematic candidate, I also shouldn’t have to be met with white moderates who ask me, “Well, who are you voting for then? What’s your solution? If you’re not supporting them, then you’re being divisive and helping Trump.” Before someone tells me that I “want four more years of Trump,” for not glossing over the racism of white Democratic politicians, please remember that 94% of Black women who voted in the 2016 election didn’t choose Trump. Despite the Clintons’ complicity of heavy policing of Black communities, Black women stood with Hillary Clinton in November of 2016. Despite the atrocious display of white feminism of the Women’s March, Black women still marched in solidarity in January of 2017, and advocated on the front lines of many other fights for gender justice since then. Will we ever get that same solidarity in return? Why is the response is always “we need to vote him out first,” when Black youth call for the abolishment the oppressive systems that got Trump elected in the first place?
Dr. King’s words about the white moderate and Angela Davis’ quote “in a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist,” relate to why I am more included in the womanist movement started by Alice Walker. The most distressing racism I’ve faced was not only at the hands of people who openly discriminated against me as a Black girl, but also those who called themselves feminists and said they stood with me, but remained disingenuous and complacent to something that was happening right in front of them. I’m tired of liberals’ complacency and complicity with candidates, who I’m expected to stand with, when I know they haven’t and will not do the same for communities of color. Several people have responded to me by saying that I should see Biden as the “lesser of two evils,” or the “lesser of distasteful choices.” White moderates have the luxury of conveniently brushing off issues that don’t affect them, and that is where complacency occurs. Complicity occurs when white moderates are actively enforcing these systems, and shaming Black people into doing so. White moderates are complicit when they claim to stand with Black people, but do the opposite when they elect candidates who are complicit in policing of Black communities.
Today, I learned that it is far more than likely that Biden is the presidential nominee. The Democratic Party alienates Black youth by attempting to force those who could be voting for the first time, into a position where we have to choose between two people who have spent generations marginalizing Black people. The white moderates who claim to care for Black people threw us under the bus again at the polls. I can only imagine that we’ll be blamed for the division in this country, like we were in 2016, even though most of Black people don’t support Donald Trump. Regardless, white moderates will continue to accuse Black youth who could be voting for the first time of “dividing Democrats and helping Trump,” when it’s not self-serving, despite the fact that the women who helped Trump, were 52% of white women who voted in 2016. Whether Biden or Trump wins the election, I don’t expect things to get much better for Black and Brown people, sexual assault survivors, and incarcerated people. Although I am disappointed, and feel defeat, I am determined to continue fighting for Black liberation beyond the electoral system by organizing towards a world abolished of prisons, and by creating spaces for other Black folks to express what we stand for.
Stephanie Younger is a 17-year-old student activist and writer who advocates for womanism and the abolition of youth prisons.