Even though it’s political season and there are lots of commercials that indicate that every vote counts—vote or die and shit, Wu Tang is here forever and all—forcing politicians to do everything to court the votes of communities not like theirs, I kind of wish Hillary Clinton would stop trying to win the Black vote now. Or, at least, cut the shit.
What’s the shit?
The shit is her doing things like going on The Breakfast Club morning show—a hip-hop-centric radio show broadcasting from 105.1 on your FM dial if you live in New York City—and telling motherfuckers that she hot sauce is the one thing she carries with her everywhere. The Breakfast Club is a hip-hop linchpin with a huge audience, especially in New York City, that is specifically known for the interviews it conducts with artists, activists and politicians alike, which is probably why Clinton’s camp made her interview possible. Bernie Sanders made an appearance there in February.
To end the wow-that’s-a-softball-question interview, this exchange took place:
Angela Yee: What’s one thing that you always carry with you?
Hillary Clinton: [Without missing a beat.] Hot sauce.
Charlamagne tha God: You know folks are going to see that as pandering to Black folks.
H.C.: Is it working?
Look, maybe it’s true. Maybe she needs her Texas Pete. I feel her. But I don’t for one minute think that answer would be the same on Des Moines, Iowa’s biggest radio station. I just don’t.
While the Black community is not a monolith (we know, we know), and shouts to that BuzzFeed video, the truth is, almost all of us have at least one auntie who at all times keeps hot sauce in her bag. For her, it’s practical: Most restaurants carry hot sauce, but they don’t carry her hot sauce.
Some of you have hot sauce in your bags right now, or the drawers in your cubicle or in that closet in your office, especially if you’re in the South. It’s just a thing. It’s not a big deal, and rarely does it surprise me when I see one of our cousins pull out some hot sauce or Tupperware from their purse at the restaurant or at the next-door neighbor’s dinner table.
And to be fair, I absolutely know that white people do this, too, especially down South. I’d imagine it would be similar to any old guard of an ethnic group carrying certain seasonings with them to give them the flavor they like. It all sounds pretty reasonable and normal to me.
Somehow, though, it’s become a stereotypically Black thing. And something of which I’m sure Clinton is aware. She answered that question almost as if her team provided it to Angela Yee, who lobbed it to her specifically so that she could say “hot sauce.” This would mean that she was doing the “keeping it real” pandering that is so annoying coming from politicians, but especially coming from her.
If Michelle Obama informed the masses that she carries hot sauce with her at all times, it would be one of those nods to “keeping it real” and not forgetting where she comes from. It’s not mandatory, but when you find that somebody in a position of such prominence does something that we often align with the behavior of “regular Black folks,” it’s comforting.
When Hillary Clinton does it – and she’s shown she’s about that life – it’s annoying and trying too hard, pure and simple. Look, I don’t care if she spent a considerable amount of time in Arkansas because of President Bill Clinton (a man who should be losing any of that saxophone-playing Black credit he got many moons ago) and loves hot sauce and puts it on her doughnuts and yams. I find it hard to believe that the automatic answer to the question, coming from Dave Smith in Billings, Mont., or Deonte Freeman in Harlem, is always hot sauce. Shit, that response could ONLY have been more Black had she said, “hot sauce for my chitlins' and a deck of cards in case somebody on my staff wants to play Spades between debates, or tonk! OMG I love tonk!”
Again, maybe it is true for her life, but that nugget seemed out of place and a little bit too intentional. I suppose she couldn’t say her iPhone or Blackberry so she could keep up with her emails, since, ya know, emails … but to go directly to hot sauce? I’m calling shenanigans.
Recently, she was playing dominoes up in a senior center in Harlem, too. Here’s the thing: I know that she has a team, inclusive of Black people, who created opportunities to “reach the Black and Latino community” in New York City. But she’s really pushing it right now. Dominoes and hot sauce? If she were to go to Hot 97 and start talking about growing up in a Kool-Aid family or always wanting to wear braids, I wouldn’t even be surprised at this point.
I just wish she’d stop. We get it. I know that she has that whole superpredator thing to get over and she is trash at dealing with Black Lives Matter activists and nonactivists, and pretty much any Black person with an opinion counter to hers, and Bernie is really popular among younger Black folks, but good gotdamn. She’s running for president and is a white woman. If she doesn’t play dominoes or carry hot sauce in her purse, is she going to lose the Black vote? Of course not.
Playing up momentary bouts of cultural connection for the sake of getting the Black vote, while common, is pretty annoying. Just run your damn race. If she likes to eat lots of mayonnaise and nonseasoned chicken, that’s OK. We’re not going to judge her based on what we expect. Nobody is expecting Hillary Clinton to show up at a cookout with the best ribs known to man or, God forbid, potato salad. Shit, I don’t think she cooks. If she showed up with some juice and some cookies bought from the grocery store, it’s a win.
Part of the reason people connect with Bernie Sanders is that he seems pretty genuine. None of us expects him to win, but at least we think that we know what we’re getting. Clilnton is out here trying to show how down she is, and that doesn’t do anything to change the struggles of the community.
So, just run your race, Hillary. I don’t particularly care for you (it’s not personal; I don’t care for any of you hopefuls), but I’d really not mind if you didn’t say another thing that sounded like pandering to the Black community. Like, it’s totally OK. Pinkie swear.