Election 2016: Do Black Lives Matter to 3rd-Party Options?

Ahmad Greene-Hayes
Former New Mexico governor and Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

On June 22, I attended CNN’s Libertarian Party town hall featuring Govs. Gary Johnson and Bell Weld. I was hesitant to attend because I am exhausted by this election. Chatter that privileges certain voices, monetizes certain platforms and disparages those who can recognize the bulls—t is the white noise that my black ears refuse. Black people are still dying, Palestinians are under siege, queer and transgender people can’t catch a break, the poor and immigrants continue to be criminalized, and women are infantilized by men with fragile yet equally toxic masculinities.

I accepted CNN’s invite because I am fed up with the two-party system and am open to a third-party candidate. Donald Trump, who is the presumptive Republican nominee, represents all that I despise about America. He is a racist white man who lauds bloodstained money, taunts immigrants and Muslims, and dehumanizes those of us who happen to be black, queer, woman, poor, working class, and so on and so forth. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is no different. Facades do little when historical track records, political archives and black intergenerational memories tell stories antithetical to what comes out of Clinton’s mouth.


Trump’s religious neoliberalism, fueled by evangelicals who misrepresent the true ethos of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and Clinton’s ever-changing politricks, along with her performance of white male acts of violence here and abroad, are what we have been handed as our “democratic” options. This is not democracy; this is oligarchy. When the Clintons can attend Trump’s wedding and deny friendship with Trump in light of election season, we should be wary.

Some say that a Trump presidency is likely, given the ways he speaks to the souls of racists, homophobes and xenophobes. Others argue that Cinton’s womanhood, along with her political experience, makes her the most qualified candidate. Both of these schools of thought make perfect sense, but as Fannie Lou Hamer admonished, we must question what “likely” and “qualified” really mean in a system that is rigged, anti-black and resistant to truths that are not resemblant of the age-old planter class: white, male, cisgender, heterosexual and wealthy.

Having been frustrated by Trump’s and Clinton’s antics, I researched Green Party nominee Jill Stein. I first learned of Stein in an article on The Root by Kirsten West Savali. “Many voters dwell in the land of ‘lesser of two evils,’” she wrote, “a place of fearful pragmatism and resignation, where borders and walls prevent them from reimagining what true democracy could and should be.”

Stein’s platform is admirable but lacking. As Savali notes, Stein supports police reform, climate change, reparations, anti-war policies, and immigration and education reform. Even still, her slip is showing. When an image of her in a room packed with white constituents at a vegan soul food restaurant in Philadelphia emerged, Zoé Samudzi, in a Facebook post, pointed out, “Jill [S]tein's political praxis isn't all that much better than the establishment she regularly decries.” The erasure of black folks at a “soul food” restaurant—vegan or not—showed a blatant disregard for the black “soul” that keeps our food, our culture and our communities thriving. Samudzi continued, “The aesthetics of electoral politics: the way white people prefer to curate photo-ops of other whites ‘doing the work’ but literally contort themselves to avoid doing the labor of grassroots coalition building [also known as] having an appealing and relatable political conversation with black constituents.”


Similarly, I found Johnson’s and Weld’s political babblings to be underwhelming and insulting. When I was handed the mic from the audience, I said, “It has been repeatedly stated by numerous Libertarian candidates in the media that they respect but do not endorse the Black Lives Matter movement. Others have said that they do not support the Movement for Black Lives entirely. Where do you stand on supporting, protecting and upholding the human and civil rights of black people and people of African descent in the United States and across the Diaspora?”

My question has since been mischaracterized. But what is significant here is that Johnson and Weld answered the question by defaulting to white liberal discourse—picking “colors” from the American palette as charitable effort and ignoring structural racism, white supremacy and capitalistic maneuvers, in which they are complicit, that destroy black and brown lives.


Indeed, a third party will not work here in the United States unless we confront how third parties reinscribe oppressive ideologies under the auspices of inclusion and collective liberation. Homopatriarchy, femme patriarchy, woman patriarchy and anti-capitalist patriarchy are all still patriarchy. And anti-blackness and white supremacy recoded as “diversity” and “multiculturalism” liken to renaming demons, even though those demons still exist. Audre Lorde told us (pdf) that the master’s tools cannot destroy the master’s house, and Jesus asked the question, “Can Satan cast out Satan?”

Until the two-party system is abolished and third-party options repent and reckon with their bigotries, U.S. politricks will remain business as usual. At some point, we should become tired of moving the same tired pieces on an oligarchic chessboard dripping with the blood, sweat and tears of those who built this country or were robbed of land, only to be repeatedly swindled.


Ahmad Greene-Hayes is a writer, a Just Beginnings fellow and a Ph.D. student in the department of religion at Princeton University. Follow him on Twitter.

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