On the Breaking Down Barriers Moms

[Content Note: Racist violence; misogynoir.]

I noted earlier that I am trying to be very thoughtful about how I report on the Breaking Down Barriers tour that mothers of black women and men lost to racist violence are on with Hillary Clinton. And part of the reason, in addition to not wanting to appropriate black women's lives and pain to solicit support for a candidate I'm supporting, is that it's difficult to find coverage of the tour that doesn't center Clinton.

Even though she is leveraging her enormous privilege to do exactly what people with visible platforms should do—literally turning over the microphone—the news coverage focuses almost exclusively on what their support means for Clinton's campaign. They are quoted talking about her authenticity and her compassion.

And their perceptions and experiences are important. But Clinton did not reach out to these women in order that they would shore up her credentials as a decent human being.

That's the charge, naturally. There is an enormous amount of criticism being levied at Clinton for cynically exploiting these women.

Which is only underlined by the coverage of their Breaking Down Barriers events. As the media centers Clinton in their reporting, it only serves to reinforce the notion that Clinton wants them to be props.

This is a neat trick by the media. They created the narratives that Hillary Clinton is a cold, opportunistic, narcissistic monster who will stop at nothing to get elected, and then the selectively cover events where she meets with black mothers of dead children in a way that disappears those women's lives and suggests Clinton only reached out to them to contradict the narratives the media created about her, thus somehow proving those narratives.

This is more can't fucking win for Clinton.

But worse than that, it's profoundly insulting to Sybrina Fulton, Geneva Reed-Veal, Gwen Carr, Maria Hamilton, and Lucy McBath.

Because they are saying things that need to be heard at these events. They are telling the stories of their children's murders. They are talking about the need for institutional reform. They are asking for help for their communities. They are seeking justice.

They are not props for Hillary Clinton. She merely gave them a place on the stage so they could be advocates for themselves and for their needs.

It isn't Clinton's fault—and it certainly isn't theirs—that the media insists on failing to meaningfully represent what they are doing and saying, in order to play its usual contemptible game of destroying Clinton.

Buried at the very end of this piece on one appearance, headlined "Clinton just got the five most powerful endorsements of her campaign," reducing their participation to nothing but an endorsement, are these two paragraphs:
Of course, it might be easy for Clinton critics to dismiss this latest campaign flourish as a cynical ploy to use the wrenching stories of the five women's losses to win votes. The speakers bristled at this suggestion. "We are very strong women," said Fulton. "I don't think they could have made us [endorse her]."

As Gwen Carr pointed out, their decision is ultimately focused on the best interests of the community. "We all collectively want to help each other. So we feel like if we endorse Secretary Clinton, that we can get the job done, because she is with us," said Carr. "We're endorsing her because she endorsed us."
Attacking Clinton as an opportunist necessarily includes the implication that these women are too stupid to know they are being used and obliges them to defend their own integrity and considered assessments of the candidates.

What racist, misogynist, dehumanizing garbage—care of people who purport to give a shit about the Breaking Down Barriers Moms.

Ostensibly, the attack on Clinton is meant to be justified by their concern for these women, concern that Clinton is using them. But it isn't Clinton who is ignoring their agency and treating them like fools.

I deeply respect what they're doing, even as I hate the circumstances that necessitated their doing it. I hope desperately that people will stop using their participation in the Democratic process, however they see fit, to score points, and instead listen to what they have to say.

To the Breaking Down Barriers Moms: I see you. I hear you. And I believe you.

[For the record: I feel exactly the same about the relatives of victims of racist violence who support Bernie Sanders, and I will abide no criticism of their choices in this space.]

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