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In today’s news of “If white people just minded their own damn business.”
Former U.S President Bill Clinton spoke at former U.S. Representative and civil rights icon John Lewis’ going home ceremony today. For some bizarre reason, Clinton took an opportunity to bash Stokely Carmichael’s (who later changed his name to Kwame Ture) brilliant, brave, and groundbreaking involvement in the civil rights movement.
During his speech, Clinton said, “Just three years later, he lost the leadership of SNCC to Stokely Carmichael because it was a pretty good job for a guy that young and from Troy, Alabama. It must have been painful to lose, but he showed as a young man there are some things that you just cannot do to hang on to a position because if you do, then, you won’t be who you are anymore. And I say there were two or three years there, where the movement went a little too far towards Stokely, but in the end, John Lewis prevailed.”
Now, there is so much to unpack here and I’m not going to get to all of it, just listen really quickly.
First and foremost, Clinton’s history with the Black community is one of tasteless trickery and foul fraud. Clinton did the good old fashioned bait and switch on us just like he did with his wife and his famous mistress. Our parents and grandparents were hypnotized by the sax-playing and had no idea who Clinton really was until he released his 1994 crime bill, featuring the infamous “three strikes” law that emptied out Black communities and resulted in the imprisonment of millions of young Black men.
Clinton is damn near solely responsible for the shitstorm of mass incarceration, and he has the nerve to say that Kwame Ture was out of line for standing up for Black people? Who is Clinton to say that one Black male leader has prevailed over another? He might as well have said, “Thank god Lewis prevailed, otherwise Kwame Ture would have ruined the reign of white supremacy a long time ago.”
And Lord knows the whites ain’t letting their racism go for nothing.
Yeah, Kwame Ture was a radical. He screamed Black Power, he called out police brutality and was no non-violent enthusiast.
Kwame Ture’s approach to Black American liberation was more aggressive than Mr. Lewis’s strategy, sure. However, Black Liberation, Black culture, Black men and their views on civil rights do not exist in a vacuum. Furthermore, what if Kwame Ture had “prevailed,” and justice for Black people was served? Is Clinton trying to say that that would have been a little too much?
What is Clinton trying to say?
Thank God that Black people are still struggling for the same rights that Lewis marched for in the 1960’s? Thank God that Black Americans still live in a violent and oftentimes deadly police state? Thank God that Lewis’s non-violent approach “prevailed” over Kwame Ture’s clap back rhetoric otherwise Black people would be standing up for themselves too much and whites would no longer be able to go without sentencing for killing us?
John Lewis walked tall and proud, and he fought for justice until the day he died. However, not much has changed since he gave his speech in 1963, where he said: “We are tired of being beaten up by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again.”
We are still tired of being beaten up and killed by policemen. We are grieving the loss of our men to mass incarceration. We are still marching in the streets for justice. If anyone prevailed in the civil rights movement it was Clinton and wealthy white men like him, because the same systemic racism that elected Clinton and demonized Kwame Ture still fuels America’s obsession with her Black citizens.