Opportunistic at best, hypocritical at worst.
If you keep up with either Democratic nominee, you’ve probably heard of a comment regarding race made by Bernie Sanders during the March 6th debate. Asked to identify any racial blindspots that he might have, Sanders said, among other things,
“When you’re white you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto. You don’t know what it’s like to be poor.”
Even I can admit that this comment is a little off-base, but on the other hand I was not alive during the Civil Rights Era. It’s important to remember we’re talking about a man who witnessed state-sponsored police-violence against non-violent protestors. Either way, that’s beside the point.
What’s really interesting was the reaction among Clinton Campaigners, specifically, Zerlina Maxwell. Maxwell, the “Digital Progressive Outreach Lead” for the Clinton Campaign, was quick to jump onto Sanders’ comment and point out that white people have the potential to be disadvantaged, too.
There’s just one problem with Maxwell jumping to the defense of white people: Before her tenure as “Digital Progressive,” Maxwell was a columnist for a number of online publications, one of which, Mic.com, hosted her article called “7 Actual Facts That Prove White Privilege Exists In America.”
The listicle, which was written in 2014, reveals a different attitude towards the potential of white people to be disadvantaged in anything. Quoting Peggy McIntosh, Maxwell affirms,
… The concept of White Privilege [is] an “invisible backpack” of unearned rights and privileges that white people enjoy.
The problem here isn’t Maxwell’s position on White Privilege(whatever that may be), the problem is with Maxwell’s willingness to view the issue with differing rates of severity, which calls into question the nature of her criticism of Sanders’ comments. Can white peoples’ poverty be comparable to minorities’? If she believes that whites have a larger safety net and often avoid the consequences of low income, then doesn’t that provide some context to what Sanders meant when he said “White people don’t know what it means to be poor?” The truth is Maxwell probably wouldn’t see an issue with these statements if they came out of the mouths of anybody but the opponent of her boss.
At any rate, it shouldn’t surprise anybody that a campaign staffer for a candidate that flip-flops as often as Hillary Clinton would have a few opportunistic “evolutions” of her own, but in future fights for states where race will be a relevant issue, I won’t be surprised if Maxwell relapses to her previous position several times before the decision.