Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton faces off against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump tonight in their first debate of the 2016 election season, a spectacle that is expected to draw up to 100 million viewers, according to the New York Times.
This debate is sure to focus heavily on women's issues to draw stark parallels between Clinton and Trump; it many even descend into the absurd and repugnant. But it is also the perfect opportunity for Clinton to "speak directly to white people," something that she said "maybe" she could do when she called in to The Steve Harvey Morning Show last week, as reported by The Root.
Clinton not only weighed in on the police shooting of Terence Crutcher but said that "maybe" she could tell white people that this is "not who we are”:
"This horrible shooting—again. How many times do we have to see this in our country?” Clinton asked. “In Tulsa? An unarmed man? With his hands in the air? I mean, this is just unbearable, and it needs to be intolerable.
“You know, maybe I can, by speaking directly to white people, say, ‘Look, this is not who we are.’ We’ve got to do everything possible to improve policing, to go right at implicit bias,” Clinton said. “There are good, honorable, cool-headed police officers. … We can do better. We have got to rein in what is absolutely inexplicable, and we’ve got to have law enforcement respect communities and communities respect law enforcement because they have to work together.
Let me "speak directly" to Clinton here.
Mrs. Clinton, I understand and appreciate the need to issue a statement on these latest instances of black trauma and death that will continue infinitely under the current police state. Despite your saying that police officers and black communities in particular need to "work together"—as if there isn't a dangerous and often fatal imbalance of power that makes that impossible—you are at least attempting to build a platform that is inclusive of people of color, unlike your Republican opponent, who is building a platform that is depending on the racist roaches of society to hoist him on top of the U.S. flag.
Many of my friends with me on the left will say that your statement was nothing more than desperate pandering—and I'm not here to argue that point because it is more than likely true, considering that you said in 2008 that it was "hardworking Americans, white Americans,” who were really needed to win elections. But it is election season, after all, and a statement had to be made. The loud outcry over your saying nothing at all would have been much louder than any charges of dishonesty or hypocrisy.
Perhaps, most importantly, I do believe that the unrelenting power of the Movement for Black Lives has been effective in charting a political course that even you may not have foreseen when you began your second presidential campaign. You called it yourself: It's not about changing hearts; it's about changing systems.
Still, we need to be clear here: Killers like Tulsa, Okla., Police Officer Betty Shelby are not unfamiliar to white people. Genocidal white people in power have pillaged, plundered, raped and murdered their way across the globe. And white people not in power have mimicked that savagery and licked the boots of those in power just to taste it.
That is exactly what whiteness is, what it has done and what it continues to find new ways to do. "Not all white people" is only necessary for babies and racists who don't have the capacity to understand that white supremacy is institutional and racist oppression, not individual indictments.
It is all well and good to tell Steve Harvey and the NAACP that "maybe [you] should talk directly to white people," but, please, go ahead and talk directly to white people tonight about the cruelty and evil that lie at the roots of patriotism and that false idol of a flag. Talk to white people the way President Barack Obama talks to black people. Tell them not to be lazy and not to rely on whiteness to propel them through life; remind them that their whiteness is a construct built on the bones of indigenous people and Latinx people and black people, and they would be nothing if they weren't blessed to live in the "greatest country on earth."
Tell them that an existence free of being occupied by domestic terrorists with badges enables them to navigate the world without worrying that their children's bodies may be lying in the middle of the street when they turn the corner. Tell them to imagine trying to thrive through the Middle Passage, slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the war on drugs, mass criminalization, housing discrimination, shuttered schools, food deserts and generational poverty simply because this country was designed with them as property in mind. Then tell them to shut the f—k up, because they could never.
Don't cater to wealthy white fragility and entitlement—like the time in Charleston, S.C., when you watched security kick out a black woman asking you about your "superpredators" comment; then you said you could turn “back to the issues.” Look them in the face tonight and say that corporations are not people and that not one of their green dollars is worth a damn compared with black lives. Tell them that our criminal-justice system is not broken but that it needs to be, that it needs to be shattered into a million pieces, tossed into a blazing fire and forged anew.
Tell them that the notion of "good cops" is a dangerous deflection from a bad system. Tell white people tonight that they are beneficiaries of a system that judges them not by the content of their character but by the color of their skin—and because of that, more often than not, they will be found not guilty of even the most heinous crimes. Tell them that, yes, 50 percent of Trump's supporters are "deplorable," but 30 percent of yours are.
Put those numbers together and tell them that racism and sexism and xenophobia and classism are party crashers. Remind them that dismantling a system is a lot like unraveling a lie—including the ones they tell themselves about themselves.
Tell the millions of white people tuning in tonight that white supremacy has not changed, only the expectations of how it functions. It destroys communities, discriminates against the people therein and then demands that we participate in the lie that black people were ever supposed to survive free.
This lie that black people are asked to participate in demands that they look at dead black bodies and try to make sense of why this person—this father, this student, this child—is dead this time, when the truth is that state-sanctioned and perpetuated violence has never needed a reason when the faces are black or brown or indigenous.
There can be no reconciliation without truth—and there are long and arduous miles to go in between.
Speak directly to white people tonight, Mrs. Clinton, and tell them, "Racism and violence is our lineage, our legacy and our tradition. This is exactly who we are, and who we can be remains to be seen."
I don't care if it's a "topic" tonight. Make it a priority—make our lives a priority.
Black America is watching.