With the next presidential election around the corner, Spike Lee released an endorsement for a fellow Brooklyn native, Senator Bernie Sanders. Although he has galvanized the vote of young voters regardless of race, one demographic that Sanders has had difficulty in winning over is the older black vote.
The older black generation’s lack of familiarity with Sanders is juxtaposed with their long-standing relationship with the Clintons. The Clintons have been a household name since 1992, and they maintained relative popularity amongst the black community because of qualities such as Clinton’s his Southern working-class background, his diverse cabinet member appointments, and his cultural fluency. Others joke about Bill Clinton being the “first black president” because of his saxophone solo appearance on Arsenio Hall’s show, which could be compared to Hillary’s perceived pandering to the black community.
This was even asked as a question in the 2008 democratic debate directed towards the Senator Obama:
The quote that Bill Clinton is the first black president originally appears from Toni Morrison’s quote in a 1998 New Yorker article on Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The full quote states:
African-American men seemed to understand it right away. Years ago, in the middle of the Whitewater investigation, one heard the first murmurs: white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas. And when virtually all the African-American Clinton appointees began, one by one, to disappear, when the President’s body, his privacy, his unpoliced sexuality became the focus of the persecution, when he was metaphorically seized and body-searched, who could gainsay these black men who knew whereof they spoke? The message was clear: “No matter how smart you are, how hard you work, how much coin you earn for us, we will put you in your place or put you out of the place you have somehow, albeit with our permission, achieved. You will be fired from your job, sent away in disgrace, and—who knows?—maybe sentenced and jailed to boot. In short, unless you do as we say (i.e., assimilate at once), your expletives belong to us.” -Toni Morrison
Morrison, therefore, compares Clinton to being black not only because “Clinton displays every black trope of blackness,” but also because of his treatment among the public eye. Despite all that he has achieved, he is regarded as “already guilty, already a perp.”
With these generous parallels between the Clinton’s and the black community, how is it that we have not seen the negative aspects of his administration? It was under Clinton’s administration that the 1994 Crime Bill passed which led to the mass incarceration of black people as well as the Glass-Steagall Act, which deregulated banks and partially caused the 2008 recession. It is also important to note that at his side, Hillary Clinton was redefining the position as first lady as a political one and is complicit in the actions of that administration.
With the current democratic candidates, Lee inserts himself to endorse Bernie Sanders, an unfamiliar face, with one that they trust, his own. He integrates his movies with his campaign, using Radio Raheem’s “LOVE HATE” rings from DTRT and the line “Wake Up” from School Daze, as a true seal of approval of Sanders as the candidate from Lee himself. Lee uses platforms like Instagram, Vimeo, YouTube, articles, and the radio to help out Sanders. What is interesting is that he used radio advertisements in South Carolina where Clinton received 75% of the South Carolina black vote.
In his recent Sanders endorsement video, Lee incorporates an all-star cast of Dr. Cornel West, Harry Belafonte, Shaun King, Erica Garner Rosario Dawson, Gaby Hoffman, and more to highlight Sanders stance with issues concerning education, healthcare, jobs, and the prison-industrial complex for the betterment of the black community.
My main question is how effective is Spike Lee’s approach to this campaign? Do you think that he has helped lessen the generational gap that exists among and beyond the black community when it comes to Sanders? Is Bernie deserving of the black vote? Or is it relative to Hillary who does not?