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 my point—that they are still capable of voting against Trump, but also voting for white moderates who have the the same interest in maintaining white supremacy. “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 fight for me. Those who insist they stand with Black youth consistently and increasingly let me down, by degrading Black people who state that we are not afforded the conveniences of looking past Biden’s racism. I never thought much of the patronizing comments until I came across several Facebook posts dismissing Black youth, who don’t “vote blue no matter who,” as disrespectful of our elders and deprived of experience. I want to live in an America, more specifically a Richmond, where Black youth, especially new Black female voters, weren’t being blatantly erased, from being tokenized, to having some speak over [and] decide what’s best for Black youth, while others invalidate our experiences, but an America that genuinely pushes for intersectionality.
“Voting blue no matter who” comes from a place of privilege. White “progressive” voters must understand that Black and Brown people don’t have the privilege of overlooking the racist words and actions of white Democratic politicians—for example, where Joe Biden stands when it comes to desegregation busing, the Anita Hill vs. Clarence 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. We keep warning white Democrats 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), am not, and will not be supporting Biden, and lectures me on why I should do so, please question why 53% of white female voters chose the interest of preserving white supremacy, by voting for Trump in 2016—then Google MLK’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” and look for the part where he said he is “gravely disappointed with the white moderate (shown in the second paragraph). After that, watch the recent CNN clip where a white female Biden surrogate, attempted to lecture Senator Nina Turner on how MLK somehow didn’t really say what he said, and how 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.
The bottom line is, as long as white moderates aren’t affected, they are complacent with injustices that affect the most marginalized people. Two weeks ago, the hashtag, “#IBelieveTaraReade” went viral on social media, and I was compelled to stand in solidarity with this survivor, even if that meant being ostracized by people I’ve known for a while, and this wouldn’t be the first time. I was unfollowed by some white women I knew from my earlier childhood, when I stated that I stand with 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, by voting another racist and a misogynist into office. People often preach, “listen to young people,” but as soon Black youth challenge the status quo, we’re shut down by people who don’t want change.
In 2016, Black and Brown people spoke out about Trump’s racism, and women spoke out about Trump’s misogyny. 53% of white female voters turned their backs on both communities of color and survivors, for the sake of preserving white supremacy. Black and Brown people have been saying that Biden embodies MLK’s warning of the white moderate, and women have been sharing 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 with racism and misogyny. Unless we do something now, the future of this country looks bleak.
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? If you’re not supporting them, you’re being divisive and helping Trump.” Before lecturing Black women for saying that we don’t benefit from looking past the racism of white Democratic politicians – who say they stand with us, but their actions say otherwise – please remember that 94% of Black women who voted in the 2016 election didn’t choose Trump. Black women stood with Hillary Clinton in November 2016, marched in solidarity in January 2017, and advocated on the front lines of many other fights for gender equality. 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 white 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 conveniently brush off issues that don’t affect them, and that is where complacency occurs. Complicity occurs when white moderates are actively enforcing these systems, and urging Black people to do so, by saying that they stand with Black and Brown people, but won’t bring that same energy to the polls when they elect candidates who they know have clearly done the opposite for us.
Right now, I feel utter defeat, and it isn’t even November yet. Today, I learned that it is far more than likely that Biden is the presidential nominee. I am tired of being convinced that this party stands with Black people, when it alienates me by attempting to force Black youth 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 fight for Black and Brown people threw us under the bus again at the polls, and I can only imagine that we’ll be blamed for the division in this country, like we were in 2016, even though most of us don’t support Trump. Regardless, white moderates will continue to accuse new Black female voters of “dividing Democrats and helping Trump,” when it’s not self-serving, despite the fact that the women who helped Trump, were 53% of white women who voted in 2016. 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 is a 17-year-old student, organizer and writer who advocates for womanism, diversity in S.T.E.A.M, the abolition of youth prisons and gun violence prevention.