Is Hillary Clinton Here for Black Women?

by Anna Gibson

With last week's official announcement that she'll be running in the 2016 Presidential Election, Hillary Clinton left very few shocked, but still ruffled quite a few feathers across the political landscape. People have long compared her possible entrance to the White House with her husbands’ presidency, cast doubt upon her campaign based on age, and even compared past legislative decisions to possible future actions.

But what folks are not talking about is: What will Hillary do for Black women? Traditionally, Black people have voted for Democratic presidential candidates. However, as prior legislative decisions demonstrate, Democrats have not always prioritized the needs of Black and Brown people. This is especially true of the issues Black women face. As a matter of fact, Black women are rarely considered in most policy decisions on either side of the aisle between Democrats and Republicans.

In order to figure out whether a Hillary Clinton Presidency would serve the needs of Black women, we must examine Clinton’s history on two of the most influential political issues that affect us: education and healthcare.

According to a 2012 study by the Census Bureau, Black women currently lead all racial groups in college enrollment from ages 18 to 24. However, a recent study done by Bloomberg Business shows college tuitions continue to rise faster than the rate of inflation. Given the statistics, this could mean that Black women could be one of the most economically vulnerable demographics due to being saddled with student loan debt after they graduate.

In the 2008 Democratic primary elections, Hilary was quoted as saying:
I’m a strong supporter of early childhood education and universal pre-kindergarten. I’m against No Child Left Behind as it is currently operating. And I would end it, because we can do so much better to have an education system that really focuses in on [students]…
However, as we’ve seen time and time again, promising reform in one area doesn’t always lead to action or results. Many times, candidates will make promises during elections that they may not be able to keep after being voted into office. However, Hillary does have a strong history of passing laws for education reform such as the No Child Left Behind reform programs, so maybe she will be a champion for us in ways other presidents have not been.

When looking at healthcare, it’s also no secret that Black women have some of the highest rates of breast cancer in the U.S. According to a report from the American Cancer Societies, it was estimated that 26,840 new cases were diagnosed in 2011. During his time in office, President Bill Clinton attempted to offer affordable healthcare to everyone under the Health Security Act, a measure that Hillary Clinton supported then. She has continued to support healthcare reform for Americans, as she assisted in the creation of the Affordable Care Act. Because of this, we could expect greater strides in healthcare if Hillary wins the election, which will affect Black women as well.

While Hillary does seem to take progressive stances on education and healthcare reform, there are still very few policies geared towards Black women or even minorities as a whole. The records of her political accomplishments show a strong leaning towards catering to the needs of white women. This can be seen in such legislative attempts as the Paycheck Fairness Act she brought before Congress. Though the bill "died" on the Congress floor, if passed it was supposed to be “a bill to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, and for other purposes.”

Wage fairness and equality is also a primary concern of African-American women, but a very valid critique of Hilary’s campaign strategy is found in how she caters to the needs of the white majority. People of color and women of color who make up most of the oppressed minority are often left in the dust. Bills such as the Paycheck Fairness Act (if it had been passed) are intended to help women as a whole, but we know Black women are likely to fall between the cracks. Policymakers often fail to recognize we face problems that other women don't due to the intersection of race, gender, and class.

This leads us to the problem I’ve found in my research about what we may be able to expect from Hillary Clinton if she becomes the 45th President of the United States of America: Many of her ‘legislative accomplishments have nothing to do with Black women, despite the fact that we've long been a strong support base for the Democratic Party.

As I looked over the roster of bills she’s attempted to present to Congress—beyond the "token" cultural bills she's presented, such as the one to establish an official African burial ground and museum in the United States—actual patterns of reform suggest that minorities aren’t a priority to Hillary. I understand that as a U.S. Senator and potential President, she cannot only focus on Black women's issues. However, a complete lack of minorities being represented in her legislative decisions does not bode well for us.

If Hillary intends to win this election, she must revisit the foundation that help catapult her into the presidency. By forgetting Black women, she could forfeit the election.

It's time we stop voting for candidates who ultimately don't care about us.

Photo: JStone / Shutterstock

Anna Gibson is a freelance writer at Wayne State University who seeks to create a safe space for people to tell their stories. You can find her on Twitter @TheRealSankofa or on Facebook, where she’s hiding under the name Introspective Inquiries.

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