“Although I don’t expect things to get much better for us, I am determined to remain committed to fighting for Black liberation by organizing towards a world abolished of prisons, and by creating spaces for us and by us.” – 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 criminalizing Black youth. Disappointed by the amount of Virginians who supported him, 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”
In the recent weeks, those who claim to have listened to Black youth have let me down. The tokenism, the condescending, unsolicited input was eye opening, when 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 would have been 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 some of 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.
Many people in Virginia proved additionally MLK’s point—that they are voting for white moderates who have a vested interest in maintaining white supremacy, as much as the next alt-right conservative. “Voting blue no matter who” isn’t effective, in the sense that it comes from a place of privilege, and does not liberate the most marginalized people. A lot of Black people don’t have the privilege of overlooking the racist words and actions of Democratic politicians such as Biden. Just to name a few examples, Biden fought for segregation as a Senator. In 1991, a panel of white men, including Biden, subpoenaed Anita Hill (a Black woman who spoke up about experiencing sexual violence by Clarence Thomas), and gaslighted her after demanding that she recall the violence she experienced in its entirety. Additionally, Biden co-authored the 1994 Crime Bill, a piece of legislation that continues to enforce mass incarceration of Black and Brown people, especially youth, to this day.
Black youth aren’t being listened to, despite our warnings that the interest of many of these politicians is to preserve white supremacy, and that the interest of white moderates is complacency. 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 Hilary Rosen (a white female Biden surrogate and Democratic strategist) manipulated MLK’s words to lecture Nina Turner (a Black woman who is the co-chair of the Bernie Sanders Campaign), and defend Biden from critiques that he is the white moderate MLK warned us of. Look into the part where the white woman further silenced Turner’s voice by calling her an “angry Black woman” on Twitter.
In 2016, 52% of white female voters threw the communities Trump targeted with his racism, misogyny etc., under the bus to preserve white supremacy. Despite the Clintons’ complicity in heavy policing of Black communities, 94% of Black women who voted in the 2016 election chose Hillary Clinton. Despite the atrocious display of white feminism at the Women’s March, many Black women still marched in January of 2017, and continued to advocate on the front lines of many fights for gender justice, while white women fought against it. Will we ever get that same solidarity in return? Two weeks ago, the hashtag, “#IBelieveTaraReade” went viral on social media. A few white women deleted me on social media when I stated that I believe and stand in solidarity with Tara Reade, a survivor who recently went viral for speaking up about being sexually assaulted by Biden. In 2020, a lot of self-proclaimed (white liberal) “feminists” are also betraying the people they claim to advocate for; specifically, the communities that Biden has targeted. They have been silencing Black folks’ warnings that Biden is the white moderate, and silencing the survivors that came forward about the sexual violence Biden has inflicted on them. I see a pattern here, and 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.
When I stood by my decision to not “vote blue no matter who,” and challenged the intentions of those who preach about “listening to young Black people,” they have shown that they do otherwise. White moderates often demanded a “solution” from me, and even said, “Well, who are you voting for then? If you’re not supporting him, then you’re being divisive and helping Trump.” By dismissing these important critiques as “wanting four more years of Trump,” white moderates are silencing those who are organizing to abolish the systems that got Trump elected. Peoples’ responses to these critiques are often “we need to vote him out first,” instead of advocating for the abolishment of the systems that allowed someone like Donald Trump to be elected in the first place.
“By telling us we need to remain patient for the US political stratosphere to miraculously adopt a conscience and allow moderate and largely temporary reforms through the electoral approach and the Democratic establishment. This is telling the most oppressed people that you can paternalistically set the timetable for our liberation,” Joshua Briond wrote in an article entitled, “The New White Moderate: Liberalism, Political Coercion, and the Failed Electoral Strategy” for Hampton Institute.
The most devastating anti-Black racism I faced was not at the hands of people who have openly shown that they hate me, but also those who called themselves “progressives,” while remaining disingenuous and complacent with the issues that are happening in plain sight. Liberals’ who claim to care about Black lives, while being complacent with politicians who throw Black lives under the bus has been disappointing, especially from those who advised me to 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, electing people who are oppressors of Black communities, and shaming Black people into doing so.
The Democratic Party, and the electoral system as a whole, have shown that they do not have a vested interest in Black liberation, in the sense that Black youth (who could be voting for the first time) are being shamed into supporting our oppressors, while masquerading as our allies. Young Black women who critique the Democratic Party and the electoral system will continue to be met with accusations of “dividing Democrats and helping Trump,” despite the fact that the women who helped Trump were 52% of white women who voted in 2016. Regardless of the outcome, I can only imagine that white moderates will continue to blame Black people, especially Black youth, for the division in this country, and other oppressive systems that we didn’t create. Although I don’t expect things to get much better for us, I am determined to remain committed to fighting for Black liberation by organizing towards a world abolished of prisons, and by creating spaces for us and by us.
Stephanie Younger is a 17-year-old student activist and writer who advocates for womanism and the abolition of youth prisons.