#CivilRights Debate Questions for Hillary Clinton vs. Bernie Sanders

2016 Presidential Election

Questions for Hillary Clinton:

  • Will Hillary use this opportunity to detail her personal experiences with segregation? Or her earliest work in human rights?
  • Will Hillary reveal her motivation to defend activists and students who were victims of discrimination?
  • How will Hillary Clinton use this moment to address the 1994 Crime Bill that her husband, Pres. Bill Clinton, signed into law?

Questions for Bernie Sanders:

  • Will Bernie discuss his motivation for joining CORE and the lessons learned from taking part in student activism?
  • Which of Sanders’ peers can stand up for Sanders in the debate over his activism?
  • What is the status of youth activism on college campuses, today?
  • Which of his political colleagues in the Senate would Sanders consider to be activist politicians?

The Politics of Recognition: John Lewis vs. Bernie Sanders

What does it mean to be seen?

Today, distinguished Congressional Rep. John Lewis, ignited a political storm when he said he ” … never sawBernie Sanders at a period in both men’s lives when they were student activists fighting for racial equality in the United States of America. By invoking this disciplining gaze, Lewis opens the door for Sec. Hillary Clinton to discuss her evolution from Goldwater to undercover investigator, to politician. Essentially, Lewis asks Sanders to prove his activist credentials, therefore opening the door for Hillary Clinton to do so, as well.

But the disciplining gaze of John Lewis also turns to Sec. Clinton who carries the married name of the President who signed the controversial 1994 crime bill cementing the U.S. reputation for high incarceration. John Lewis saw them (The Clintons), at a time in history when that mattered. Voters must decide the degree to which the disciplining gaze determines the outcome of national politics.

Rhetoric of Discipline

Students of philosophy, criminology, sociology, undoubtedly are familiar with Foucault’s discussion of Bentham’s Panopticon and the disciplinary gaze. To learn more, visit the library, or just Google it.

Disciplinary rhetoric is not only limited to civil rights activists, but women’s rights activists and advocates, employ this rhetorical strategy, too. Recently, distinguished diplomat Madeline Albright stumped for Hillary Clinton, reminding the audience that “There is a special place in Hell for women who don’t help each other!” This classic dictum shared throughout progressive political circles came as no surprise to people like my own mom. But it may have caused some young voters (and potential voters) to feel ashamed for considering Bernie Sanders. Such is one function of the gaze, to levy shame.

Another example of the disciplining gaze is activist and writer Gloria Steinem’s insinuation that young ladies backing Bernie Sanders do so because young men also tend to be big Bernie Sanders supporters. Check out this hilarious parody video.

Cultural Studies scholars, like me, live for such political rhetorical moments that reveal insight into power. Absurdity rears its’ head, as well. To reference never having set eyes upon someone, is to conjure the gaze. To not be seen to be available to lend assistance at will,  is to not be seen as useful. To not be seen by someone, especially someone in power, is to not exist in a certain time and space — at all.

But in the case of Sen. Sanders, the past may not really be in the past. Not necessarily. Not in terms of cultural politics. For as John Lewis illustrates, to him, and to his peers, the time and space of the ’60s extends to 2016.

People will want to know: What has Bernie done lately? And Hillary, too. Only when this discussion occurs will people even care about Republicans’ domestic policy.

Cultural Demographics

John Lewis’ endorsement of Sen. Clinton gained him much press coverage and as a result, the name “John Lewis” was a trending topic on Twitter, today.

The demographics of Twitter yield insight. Most users are urban, black and between the ages of 18-and-32. These are young people who have likely been made aware of the contributions of  civil rights activists. Perhaps they have seen the movie, Selma.  Another reason for the trending topic is the number of Clinton and Sanders supporters who flock to Twitter to  support and defend their respective candidate.

Cultural Politics

John Lewis and his gaze. Add to this the commentary of Madeline Albright, and writer and activist Gloria Steinem. The result? A new way for debate moderators to structure a discussion of the civil rights debate of the 2016 Presidential campaign. Many doors now stand open, but who dares enter? New audiences must help define and decide the future. Television and print journalists must get Democrat and Republican candidates, to talk about civil rights and human rights.

The risk in not having this conversation is to further alienate voters whose presence is too often ignored. Namely, those not connected to the establishment. Think of the folks who would be leaders, yet are minorities within their communities, cut off from access to the power brokers. Now, think of the power of social media, making it possible for people to access presence virtually — without the clandestine boardroom, or the grit of the street. Alienating the disenfranchised from public policy debates risks the democratic ideals upon which the nation was built. Alienating those who would be President of the United States from honest discussions about institutional racism, structural inequality and social and economic disenfranchisement invites abuse of power.

2016 Presidential election

Questions for Hillary Clinton:

  • Will Hillary use this opportunity to detail her personal experiences with segregation? Or her earliest work in human rights?
  • Will Hillary reveal her motivation to defend activists and students who were victims of discrimination?
  • How will Hillary Clinton use this moment to address the 1994 Crime Bill that her husband, Pres. Bill Clinton, signed into law?

Questions for Bernie Sanders:

  • Will Bernie discuss his motivation for joining CORE and the lessons learned from taking part in student activism?
  • Which of Sanders’ peers can stand up for Sanders in the debate over his activism?
  • What is the status of youth activism on college campuses, today?
  • Which of his political colleagues in the Senate would Sanders consider to be activist politicians?

Conclusion

I  could benefit from hearing what Clinton and Sanders learned from their respective decades of advocacy and activism. I have learned a great deal from reading the works of President Barack Obama about how his youth shaped his advocacy. But when it comes to Sen. Sanders and Sec. Clinton I am a bit in the dark as to what forces and experiences shaped their own sense of justice and equality of opportunity for all.

 

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#WaterCrisis in “Formation”: Beyonce Political Philosophy 101

In “Formation,” Beyonce spotlights the struggle for survival in the midst of corruption. Think of it as a womanist thesis. 

Beyonce Political Philosophy 101images

After watching Beyonce’s “formation” video, I wondered: What local institutions exist to protect minorities from those in power who do not prioritize the needs of the vulnerable? What colleges and universities (besides Virginia Tech) work in tandem with local governments to safeguard the public trust? Note the existing controversy about the failure of local academic institutions to intervene in the Flint, MI water crisis.

Beyonce brings her brand of feminism to the world and graduate women’s studies classrooms flip out. Women’s studies departments are debate-grounds for discussing feminist vs. womanist discourse during a time when the “vs.” part should be ignored in favor of solidarity. During a time in America’s history when the potential exists for voters to elect the first female President of the United States, controversy abounds as to why more Millennial women do not appear to be behind Hillary Clinton. Are traditional Second Wave Feminists counting on feminism to save Hillary Clinton? If the answer is yes, then someone better call Beyonce — or at least one of her squad — because feminism has changed since the rise of the Millennials.

Politicians on both sides of the political spectrum may have trouble negotiating with various diverse constituents including democratic socialists, liberals, fiscal conservatives, feminists, womanists, and POCs. But Beyonce’s-style of feminism resonates with many youth. But how well does it resonate with traditional Second Wave Feminists? This question is purely hypothetical and meant to illustrate a potential cultural gap that could have significant implications this presidential election season.

I personally know how hard it is to be a feminist, a womanist, and a female person of color. Although I rarely see my perspectives reflected in public policy or political discourse, I’m still an avid consumer of news and public policy “White Papers”.

Public policy decisions that impact people’s relationship to infrastructure concern me most. The tale’s been told before: the citizens of Katrina, the citizens of Flint, the citizens of Southern West Virginia: Poor people, at the mercy of public policy makers, risking lives to stay afloat, and to avoid tainted water.

One cannot help but grieve, whether the grieving comes filtered through the lens of womanism or feminism.

More About The Video

Arresting imagery from daily life in New Orleans is the focal point of “Formation”. We see Beyonce resting atop a sinking police car wearing a red-and-white gown, maintaining characteristic poise despite (in spite of) her precarious position. The scene dramatizes the relationship between nature, the State, and the black body. Always precarious. A water-logged police car slowly, slowly becoming indistinguishable from the muck. Thus, it begins.

Gothic Horror & Iconic Southern Style Through a Southern California Lens: Beyonce’s “Formation” ‘Slays’

When looking at Beyonce’s “Formation,” keep in mind migration. Sometimes the best way to get a handle on a situation is to change geographic location.

In “Formation,” Beyonce’s epic video, we see an ode to a people’s relationship to both the land and the American cultural politics of geography. Mood? Dark. Chic. Magic. The video was released the weekend of Super Bowl 50, a contest pitting the Panthers against the Broncos. This video appears early in 2016, when echoes of American activism sift through layers of soundbites and marketing ploys.

Part of the conceit of “Formation” is a commentary on American cultural politics. The video was not shot in the South, but in California. Perhaps this suggests that when the subject of commentary is systemic structural inequality, the vastness of Los Angeles, with a nod to Hollywood’s Gothic Westerns, provides an artistic safe space for exploration and creation.

“Formation” collapses history by reinterpreting Southern life. With copious references to historic events in African American culture and the human will to survive, this video provides echoes of a traumatic past merged with the promise of a future. Today’s struggles, whether for clean water, as in #Flint, or the struggle to thrive, spotlighted by #BlackLivesMatter, are part of the tapestry of “Formation”.

Beyonce Political Philosophy 101

After watching Beyonce’s “formation” video, I wondered: What local institutions exist to protect minorities from those in power who do not prioritize the needs of the vulnerable? What colleges and universities (besides Virginia Tech) work in tandem with local governments to safeguard the public trust? Note the existing controversy about the failure of local academic institutions to intervene in the Flint, MI water crisis.

Beyonce brings her brand of feminism to the world and graduate women’s studies classrooms flip out. Women’s studies departments are debate-grounds for discussing feminist vs. womanist discourse during a time when the “vs.” part should be ignored in favor of solidarity. During a time in America’s history when the potential exists for voters to elect the first female President of the United States, controversy abounds as to why more Millennial women do not appear to be behind Hillary Clinton. Are traditional Second Wave Feminists counting on feminism to save Hillary Clinton? If the answer is yes, then someone better call Beyonce — or at least one of her squad — because feminism has changed since the rise of the Millennials.

Politicians on both sides of the political spectrum may have trouble negotiating with various diverse constituents including democratic socialists, liberals, fiscal conservatives, feminists, womanists, and POCs. But Beyonce’s-style of feminism resonates with many youth. But how well does it resonate with traditional Second Wave Feminists? This question is purely hypothetical and meant to illustrate a potential cultural gap that could have significant implications this presidential election season.

I personally know how hard it is to be a feminist, a womanist, and a female person of color. Although I rarely see my perspectives reflected in public policy or political discourse, I’m still an avid consumer of news and public policy “White Papers”.

Public policy decisions that impact people’s relationship to infrastructure concern me most. The tale’s been told before: the citizens of Katrina, the citizens of Flint, the citizens of Southern West Virginia: Poor people, at the mercy of public policy makers, risking lives to stay afloat, and to avoid tainted water.

One cannot help but grieve, whether the grieving comes filtered through the lens of womanism or feminism.

More About The Video

Arresting imagery from daily life in New Orleans is the focal point of “Formation”. We see Beyonce resting atop a sinking police car wearing a red-and-white gown, maintaining characteristic poise despite (in spite of) her precarious position. The scene dramatizes the relationship between nature, the State, and the black body. Always precarious. A water-logged police car slowly, slowly becoming indistinguishable from the muck. Thus, it begins.

Beyonce and Squad as Cultural Creatives

Another part of this video shifts the focus to domestic life and features antebellum architecture. Yet, Beyonce and her team shot the video in Southern California, not in the U.S. South. Beyonce’s team scouted the Fenye’s Mansion in Pasadena for the “Formation” mansion. Without giving too much away (although the link about Beyonce’s crew visiting the Fenye’s Mansion provides some details), the production team’s attention to history, and to re-creating and re-interpreting the past, deserves commendation. This is Beyonce, the artist with a team of cultural producers, creating art, re-interpreting history, making history.

There’s a scene featuring Beyonce that also made me think of black-and-white photographs I have seen of the late painter Georgia O’Keefe who said, “To create one’s own world takes courage”. The word courage, typically associated with militarized tales of valor and bravery, takes on new meaning when applied to people of the Diaspora. Survivors feature prominently in “Formation” with all of the trials and tribulations. Despite the treachery of policy-makers and the betrayal of infrastructure, people survive to build new worlds.

Could Beyonce’s “Formation” be the beginning of a healing?

 

 

Beyonce, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Mark Ronson, and Bruno Mars: Super 21st Century Culture

Would it have been OK for Beyonce to rock a kinky blond ‘fro to the halftime show? Well, culture, the expression of power, renders the question moot. Beyonce iterates. Her most recent message: “Formation” materialized at the Super Bowl halftime show which also coincided with the announcement of a tour and new songs heralding America’s penchant for grassroots transformation. This message contrasted colorfully with Coldplay’s appeal to grand themes of affinity for all humankind. 

Beyonce, long, golden waves flowing, cast light upon a squadron of dancers at Super Bowl 50’s halftime show. Her squad, all donning black Afros adorned with black berets, paid homage to American grassroots youth of the 1960s.

Coldplay, plus Mark Ronson, and Bruno Mars, tapped into respective masculine energy unleashing multi-variate tones and textures. The stage, at once floral and firey, featured Chris Martin’s free-spirited, improvisational leaps and circling of the stage contrasted with the regimented dance moves of Beyonce and Bruno Mars. 

This trailblazing halftime show referencing American 1960s-nostalgia, romantic love, and universal love, presented a rainbow of alternate solutions to life’s trying circumstances including the current Presidential primaries, the Flint water crisis, the Zika Virus, and the North Korea missile launch.

Collaboration seemed to be the unifying theme of the Super Bowl 50 half-time show. Perhaps the purpose of being alive in the 21-st Century is to inspire cross-cultural collaboration. We see collaboration in campaigns like He for She, and #BetterMakeRoom, for example.

Could society be heading toward a day when the Super Bowl, and the 15-minute halftime show, ends national and global conflicts through competition, music, and dance?

If only national and global politics were as simple — and dramatic — as the Super Bowl.

The world needs an annual global festival.  One with gladiators, a goddess, her squad, and rockstars.

Anyone agree?