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Bill Clinton ‘almost’ apologizes to Black Lives Matter activists

Bill Clinton ‘almost’ apologizes to Black Lives Matter activists
April 14
00:00 2016
Former President Bill Clinton speaks during a campaign stop for his wife, Hillary Clinton.

BILL TURNER

GUEST COLUMNIST

Former president Bill Clinton furrowed his brow, locked his jaws and knees, leaned in, narrowed his gaze, wagged his left-handed trigger finger and proceeded to eloquently and condescendingly dress down a group of devotees to the Black Lives Matter movement in Philadelphia last week while defending his presidential candidate wife’s use of the catchphrase “super predators” to describe those powerless, impoverished, and without alternatives Americans; those who prepared the rest of us to accept the 1994 Crime Bill, the result of which has been the mass incarceration of young black men.

POTUS William Jefferson Clinton got his authorization to say what he said and how he said it from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison – think of the title of her book, “The Bluest Eye” – when she christened him, in 1998, in a comment for The New Yorker, declaring that “his 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.”  Phi Beta Sigma – one of the nine predominantly African-American Greek-lettered organizations –made the former president, nicknamed “Slick Bill,” an honorary brother in 2013.

Arkansas-born Clinton, like many black men, is from a female-headed, working-class household; he knew Ebonics, played a soulful saxophone characterizing the “white-boy-as-ah-shucks player,” had the unanimous support of civil rights-era icons like Rev. Jesse Jackson and Congressman John Lewis and the entire Congressional Black Caucus. He golfed with Urban League president Vernon Jordan and the number of blacks he appointed to top jobs in his administration became a matter of legend. It’s said that Clinton didn’t look at program booklets to croon every verse of Lift Every Voice and Sing when he graced the dais at black, black-tie, affairs. Indeed, President Bill Clinton, an exceptionally bright man, a Righteous Brother, took credit for the fact that thousands of blacks entered the professional classes when he ran things, even if not in the same proportion as did those who entered prison.  Clinton mattered to black people; he was, after all – as the Atlantic Monthly noted shortly after Morrison christened him colored –  “the ultimate do-gooder,” with “street cred.”

In 1992, Bill boldly trash-talked black activist Sista Souljah, who said in the music video of her song “The Final Solution: Slavery’s back in Effect” (“If there are any good white people, I haven’t met them”). “If you took the words ‘white’ and ‘black,’ and you reversed them, you might think KKK head David Duke was talking,” Clinton answered back.

Mr. Clinton almost apologized late last week for drowning out the Black Lives Matter protestors while campaigning for Hillary, saying,  “I know those young people yesterday were just trying to get good television; I was not effective in answering it.”  On the campaign trail, the former First Lady – on track to be the first woman president – has apologized for her usage of the words “super predators,” as well as acknowledging the unintended consequences of the 1994 Crime Bill that contributed to the high rates of imprisonment of black men and the present strains between police officers and black communities.

Things, as they always do, have changed.  When Bill Clinton aggressively responded to the Black Lives Matter enthusiasts last week – as smart as he is –he forgot that he was talking not only to those who take their inspiration from the Civil Rights Movement, his aces in the hole, but the new generation’s crusade combines the Black Power, the black feminist, the LGBTQ, the hip-hop, and the Occupy Wall Street movements.  They sprang from the 1968 Poor Peoples’ Campaign, when Dr. King was envisioning the interconnected, overlapping, and interdependent dynamics of race, class, and gender.  He was sounding just like Black Lives Matter – wide-ranging – just before he died.

Those of us in Clinton’s generation must constantly remind ourselves, when talking to this generation, that they are neither our, nor his Mama’s children.  They have ushered in a new worldview on racial matters, just as new realities require.  They go right over our heads at times, like we did to our parents.  We must work, deliberately, not to talk down to them, to put them down, nor ever patronize them. Instead, we must listen to them, take them seriously, give a round of applause when they act like the critical thinkers we taught them to be and eagerly join them to make of this old world a new one.

I sincerely apologize to them on behalf of almost Brother Bill Clinton.

Dr. Bill Turner is a noted educator, writer and thinker who called Winston-Salem home for many years. Reach him at bill-turner@nullcomcast.net.

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