By Stephanie Younger •
When I learned that 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 communities. Appalled by the amount of Virginians that chose Biden in this primary, I shared an excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
“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; “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”
I added, “This quote applies to the way VA voters proved my point yesterday that they are still capable of voting against Trump, but also voting for moderates whose interest is 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 who has been tokenized, given unsolicited input about my work, and spoken down to by people who say they fight for me, I have scrolled past Facebook posts dismissing Black youth who don’t “vote blue no matter who,” as disrespectful of our elders and deprived of experience. One week after Super Tuesday, I wrote:
“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.”
Even in the face of backlash Black and Brown people are met with when some of us state that we simply can’t afford to look past Biden’s racism, I was consistently and increasingly being let down by the complicity of those who insist they stand with Black youth, within two weeks after Super Tuesday. I expressed my frustration in a lengthy Facebook post that read:
“Voting blue no matter who” comes from a place of privilege. White “progressive” voters must understand that Black [and] Brown voters don’t have the privilege of overlooking racist words and actions of white politicians – for example, the photo of VA Governor Northam wearing blackface, and where Joe Biden stood when it came 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 [and] Brown voters aren’t being listened to. We keep warning white voters that the interest of some of these candidates is to preserve white supremacy.
Before someone questions why I, a new Black female voter, am not supporting Joe Biden, and lectures me on why I should be supporting him, 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 anchor tried to lecture Senator Nina Turner on how MLK didn’t really say what he said [and] how Biden isn’t an example of “the white moderate Dr. King warned us about.” Look into the part where the anchor called her 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.”
Days after posting that, 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. In response to a white woman who unfollowed me on Instagram for believing a survivor, I wrote another lengthy post on Facebook profile:
“Today, I got unfollowed by someone I knew for nearly a decade, 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 appalled at the amount of people who are so eager to vote out a racist/misogynist, by voting another racist/misogynist into office. People often preach, “listen to young people,” but as soon as young Black women [and] girls 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 their experiences with 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 words about the white moderate, and women have been sharing their stories about being assaulted by Biden. In 2020, a lot of self-proclaimed (white) 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.”
The next day, I emphasized the significance of that message by writing:
“When I say that I’m not supporting a problematic candidate, I shouldn’t have to be met with, ‘Well, who are you voting for then? If you’re not supporting them, you’re dividing Democrats and helping Trump.’
Before lecturing Black women for saying that we don’t benefit from looking past the racism of white 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. But will we ever get that same solidarity in return?
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 seeing this 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.”
People have been responding to me by saying that I should see Biden as the “lesser of two evils.” White moderates have the privilege of choosing to brush off these issues, as long as they are not affected, and that is where complacency occurs. Complicity occurs when white moderates are actively enforcing these systems (and forcing marginalized 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 will be the presidential nominee. I don’t want Black youth and other marginalized youth, especially those who are voting for the first time, including me, to be put in a position where we are forced to choose someone who has spent generations marginalizing Black and Brown people, especially Black and Brown women and youth. 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. I don’t expect things to get much better for marginalized people, especially those who are Black, Brown, sexual assault survivors, and/or incarcerated, whether Biden or Trump wins the election.
Stephanie Younger is a 17-year-old student, organizer and writer who advocates for womanism, diversity in S.T.E.A.M, the juvenile justice reform and gun violence prevention.