Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton should be leery of ever trusting the word of another black person, especially the word of elected officials, celebrities and other elites. She most certainly should never again trust the word of black preachers.
Too many blacks have betrayed Clinton. They have been disloyal. They have lied to her, many to her face.
From the moment she entered public life after graduating from law school and before her opponent, Barack Obama, started to move up in the polls and won some major caucuses and primaries, Clinton worked with blacks and supported their causes. She was mostly popular among blacks nationwide and was treated as a trusted friend because she was a trusted friend.
To wit: While Obama was still wet behind the ears, Clinton was advocating for the Children’s Defense Fund, an organization that improved the lives of countless black children in urban and rural America.
When the U.S. Supreme Court of John Roberts last year rejected integration plans in two major public-school districts in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle, Clinton showed her disappointment in a speech shortly after the decision.
In part, the New York senator said: “Today, the court turned its back on the promise of Brown vs. Board of Education that students of different racial backgrounds deserve an opportunity to attend school together. At a time when our nation’s schools are increasingly segregating, we should be championing local efforts to pursue integration and reduce racial inequalities in schools.”
Whenever members of the Congressional Black Caucus needed extra clout to help them with black-related legislation, they turned to Clinton. When black leaders needed a powerful voice to add weight to a symbolic gesture, such as the commemoration of a civil-rights cause or an event, they called Clinton. When they needed a keynote speaker for this or that gala, they called Clinton.
She had no way of knowing that reality would be turned on its head and that all of her good deeds and generosity would be forgotten and that many blacks would one day paint her as their enemy. She misjudged her supporters as did the character in Shakespeare’s play, “Henry VI,” who said: “In thy face I see the map of honor, truth and loyalty.”
What Clinton saw was the face of Judas and a map of dishonor, duplicity and betrayal. The ugly irony of the betrayal is that Clinton is the same as she always was. She has not changed. All of the votes she cast for urban policies that aided blacks remain in the Congressional Record. That has not changed.
Blacks, worshipful of Obama, have changed.
Elected officials, including a growing number of superdelegates, who were committed to Clinton and had told her so, now support the Illinois senator. Blacks who once eagerly took Clinton’s telephone calls are now magically unavailable. For most, incumbency trumps loyalty. To get re-elected, they will throw away a decades-long friendship.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., epitomizes this group. Referring to black Clinton supporters, he said: “Many of these guys have offered their support to Mrs. Clinton, but Obama has won their districts. So you wake up without the carpet under your feet. You might find some young primary challenger placing you in a difficult position.”
Not all blacks have betrayed Clinton. Some have honorably, and courageously, stayed with her. New York Rep. Charles Rangel is one. Ohio state legislator Eugene Miller is another, telling The New York Times: “I believe in sticking to my word. … Some people call me an Uncle Tom. There’s a lot of pressure to switch sides. There’s a lot of emotion. All I can say is thank God it’s winter and no one is outside, because there would be more than angry words on the street.”
New York political consultant Basil Smikle told Politico.com: “This is all about loyalty and the strength of relationships that the Clintons have engendered over the years. It’s going to be hard to look them in the face and say, ‘I can’t support you.’ ”
Win or lose, Hillary Clinton has earned the right to never trust the word of another black person. Somewhere between the Bible and the pseudo-wisdom of the barbershop, many blacks abandoned any sense of loyalty and betrayed a woman who has been a friend.
(Bill Maxwell is a columnist and editorial writer for the St. Petersburg Times. E-mail maxwell(at)sptimes.com.)