In the non-stop punditry following Saturday’s South Carolina Democratic presidential smackdown, most talking heads will never truly decipher the reason New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s lost so stunningly to Illinois Senator Barack Obama.
Hillary’s DECISIVE defeat at 27 percent versus Barack’s 55 percent was not about her delectability in Dixie. And this certainly was not about needing to ratchet-up her national delegate count. I submit to you that Hillary was there to tender her application for a ghetto pass. And based on this past weekend’s results, her request so far has unequivocally been stamped DENIED!
Ghetto Pass: Figurative and/or literal approval, i.e. street credibility, given to a non-Black person or a now-successful Black person, from African-Americans. Awarded when one can establish a demonstrative comprehension of the Black struggle while holding themselves and their image out to be a person not necessarily from, but of the ghetto—whether they’re of color or otherwise.
Still confused? Let’s try it in a sentence: In a valiant effort to say I-am-sistagirl-hear-me-roar, Hillary went from one urban neighborhood to the next waving her husband’s platinum ghetto pass.
While most in Black intelligentsia would concede Bill Clinton’s lifetime membership is secure, there is considerable disagreement over whether the former president’s pass extends to Hillary. Ghetto passes, after all, are typically non-transferable. Just because soulful crooner Robin Thicke became the first White artist since George Michael in 1988 to top the U.S. R&B charts with his melodic “Lost Without U” last year, that doesn’t mean Black folks want to start channel surfing Nick at Nite to catch Robin’s dad Allan Thicke on the 80’s sitcom Growing Pains.
With the fiercely loyal African American vote being without question the mother’s milk of Democratic politics, South Carolina provided a fascinating setting to observe both Hillary and Barack suckling from the same lactating teat. After all, where else would someone with White House aspirations be able to successfully nurse multiple constituencies of church folk, old school civil rights warriors, and the White-labor-working class base?
But the race is still early, and right now it’s the former first lady who clearly recognizes that her fate is tied to this notion that the African-American community can be both colorblind and blindly loyal to all things Clinton. Bill Clinton knows that we have done this before, sometimes even at our own peril.
Whether looking out from his office windows in Harlem or testifying at Coretta Scott King’s funeral last year, we love Bill and we’re not about to completely abandon his girl. Not yet anyway. But Camp Clinton realizes that Barack has people swooning. And that’s why Bill’s appearances of late, despite being affectionately dubbed the “first Black president” by author Toni Morrison, have caused some to demand that the once cool cat sporting dark shades and wielding a sax on Arsenio back in the day needs to immediately take a “chill” pill.
Why? Because Slick Willy, as dub by the GOP, is starting to really tick us off. Just look at Hill’s plummeting support from Blacks in national polls. According to the Associated Press, Mr. Clinton predicted last week that “many voters would be guided mainly by gender and race loyalties” and that his wife would lose South Carolina. So if that was a foregone conclusion, why label Barack a fairytale? Why are folks like Magic Johnson inferring that Obama is a bench-warming rookie, or BET’s Robert Johnson insulting this dynamic young politician on the come-up?
Barack’s meteoric rise in star power has awakened the sleeping giant called Black political activism. His campaign is driving up and drawing out young people, particularly the increasingly large independent vote more and more Blacks are gravitating towards. Having chipped away at Clinton’s early lead in a race that is clearly now mano-o-mano (John Edwards who?), the body politic in particular and the country in general needs a competent woman and solid minority duking it out for top dog status.
When it comes to yet another “Year of The White Boy,” we have been there and done that! It’s 2008, and even Black Republicans like me feel it’s time we shake things up. Although Camelot is long gone, the fascination with Barack is reminiscent of JFK some forty years ago. And the frenzy over Hillary versus Jackie O is noteworthy, if for no other reason, than the fact that they were both First Lady’s who left their imprimatur on this nation in ways we’re still dissecting.
The 1960’s era, for better or worse, reflected something unique and different about the country’s psyche. Americans want to believe again, and one of these two candidates will be the benefactor of this current nostalgic feeling that real change is just over the horizon. Having Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy today follow Caroline Kennedy’s weekend endorsement, Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed Deliver blaring in the background, and scores of folks jumping on board after that Bill Clintonesque speech, Hillary made need to find a new voice... AGAIN!
Clearly the final exam African Americans are administering before Super Tuesday on February 5th will consist of the remaining devastation of Hurricane Katrina, illegal immigration, the subprime mortgage crisis, the decline of Black males enrolling in college and marrying Black women, the Iraq war, access to capital, and the lingering effects of slavery and racism. While Obama seems poised to do well on this test, it remains to be seen whether Hillary Clinton will score high enough to pass.
But if the Disneyland “E” ticket she’s coveting equates to securing this prized ghetto pass of which I speak, and folks who see themselves as being Black first before anything else hold sway over how we go forward, everyone in the Democratic party should buckle their seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Kevin Ross n is a Former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge. Ross blogs over at http://threebrothersandasister.blogspot.com. He can be reached at