On Monday, New York’s Power 105.1 featured Hillary Clinton on The Breakfast Club, a mainstay of the city’s hip-hop radio scene, as she campaigned for the very last vote in Tuesday's New York Democratic Primary. Towards the end of the interview, co-host Angela Yee, asked Clinton, “what’s something that you always carry with you?” Clinton, without blinking, stated, “hot sauce.” The ensuing 15 to 20-second exchange sent Black Twitter and Black political observers ablaze and the narrative somehow became focused on the former Secretary of State's choice in condiments, leaving the primary somewhere in the ether.
To be certain though, many thought that Hillary’s love of hot sauce was less about taste and more about trying to appeal to Black voters, by making a reference to some of our older relatives—who travel with hot sauce in their purses—or to "Formation," a recent single released by Beyonce, where she sings, “I got hot sauce in my bag, swag.”
But let’s be real, maybe the Democratic front runner just really likes hot sauce. And after digging through the archives, it turns out that is indeed the case.
During her time as First Lady, Clinton maintained a collection of over 100 different types of hot sauces in the White House. Not only that, but in a 2012 Conde Nast Traveler article, she said she keeps Tabasco Sauce in her purse (plus red pepper flakes).
But this interview and the recent encounters between President Bill Clinton and Black Lives Matters protestors in Philadelphia have pushed many to question whether Black voters are making the right choice regarding their candidate. Are they picking a candidate based on their last name, or based on the candidate’s solutions to problems plaguing the Black community?
Since starting her campaign, Hillary has had to confront the consequences of the 1994 crime bill, often cited by Black Lives Matter activists at campaign rallies and fundraisers. They continue to demand answers as to why she endorsed the tough-on-crime measure.
Still, Hillary continues to be very popular among Black voters. Throughout the south and in states like Illinois, Hillary has achieved stronger support than her Democratic rival, Senator Bernie Sanders among African Americans, often by double-digit margins.
African American voters nationwide support Clinton by a 3-to-1 margin, but that margin becomes almost non-existent when you look at younger Black voters. Recent opinion polls show millennial African Americans are more willing to reject an establishment candidate, like Clinton. These voters are more drawn to Sanders’ progressive views on reducing income inequality, lessening the cost of college, and cracking down on Wall Street extortion, then they are to the “stay the course” message being pushed by the Clinton camp.
As for the other side of the aisle, both billionaire Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz have left millions of Black votes on the table. Cruz, a self-proclaimed evangelic, has made no significant inroads into the Black church. Meanwhile Trump cares more about building a wall around our border than about rebuilding America’s urban areas.
Hillary Clinton will likely be the Democratic nominee, and that will be a direct result of Black voters turning out for her. But let’s be real, those votes aren’t the peaceful protestors on the streets of Ferguson, Mo., or those who lead the Baltimore uprising. Those brave, young Black activists are looking for more than just an establishment candidate or a one-off line in a stump speech. They are searching for a revolution. They are seeking an individual that will be transformative enough to hold Washington accountable to those it is supposed to represent.
These voters could serve as a cornerstone for a Democratic Party that cannot seem to win at the state and local level. They are more educated and see the world much differently than their baby boomer parents. And most importantly, these voters can see right through a candidate pandering for votes. Which speaks directly to the outrage from Black Twitter yesterday after Hillary’s hot sauce kerfuffle.
For millennial African Americans, “going along to get along” is entirely unworkable. They grew up in a more connected world and have had experiences that their grandparents could only dream of. But with those opportunities, these young people have also suffered from the rising cost of college, the burdensome weight of student loans, and the encroaching threat of HBCU closings. As all this was happening, they saw their elected leaders do nothing to help. Instead, they saw those leaders vote to bail out Wall Street, pass crippling bankruptcy reform laws, and make cuts to state university systems. These young people are looking for more than handouts, they want real solutions.
Does Hillary Clinton have real solutions to many of the problems being faced by communities of color? Of course, she does. But, those solutions are being lost between the 24/7 news cycle and quest to be "down" with the community. The truth is a candidate doesn't have to be “down,” they just need to be real.
As this year’s primary process comes to a close and we head towards November, both parties must take stock in the fact that minority voters will increasingly decide who occupies the White House. And winning their votes should be less about campaign stops, cultural references, color specific surrogates, or what items someone carries in their purse. It should be based on issues and ideas for moving our country forward.
How does one plan on fixing the unholy trinity of ballooning student loan payments, high-interest rates, and the skyrocketing cost of college? How will one utilize legislation and the Department of Justice to repair the broken relationship between law enforcement and communities of color? How will one work to ensure that Black lives truly matter on the street, in the classroom, and in the boardroom? How will one work to destroy the school-to-prison pipeline? And most importantly, how will one work to make our nation a fairer, more just, and equitable society? These are all questions that each candidate running for President of the United States should be able to answer between now and November.
And as idealist as it may sound, the candidate that answers those questions honestly, without polls or pollsters pointing them to the right answer, is the one that will transform this country for the better.