Race, politics and Black power according to Marc Lamont Hill
Marc Lamont Hill loves a great debate. On any given day, you can catch him on a 24-hour news network or social media debating politics, academics, race, music and culture. So it came as no surprise that Hill remained in debate mode during his photo shoot and interview at rolling out’s corporate headquarters in Atlanta.
For Hill, a Morehouse College professor and the host of “VH1 Live!,” Donald Trump, nor Hillary Clinton were viable presidential candidates. Hill shared why he went against the national norm to cast his vote for Green Party nominee Jill Stein.
“People expect me to be a proud card-carrying Democrat and that’s not who I am,” Hill says during his interview. “I have an unshakable belief that we can organize our way into a better world. We need a new freedom dream and a radical imagination. Toni Morrison once said, ‘If you want to fly, you gotta get rid of everything weighing you down.’ We are locked in a space where we have to choose a lesser of two evils. We have to think practically as well. Donald Trump is a monster. As an activist, I want to figure out a way to stop the threat of fascism without compromising our moral authority and values. We are giving our moral authority away by saying, ‘I’m with Hillary’ as she bombs innocent people and exploits Black and Brown people through bad policy in the ‘90s. I’m not voting against something, I’m voting for something and to me, that’s the Green Party. Clinton has done and said things that for me are moral non-starters. I can’t vote for someone that believes in drone attacks that are killing innocent people and supports the death penalty, and such vicious legislation. I can’t support that or vote for that.”
Following the election, Hill used Twitter to share his thoughts on how Trump became the president-elect. “This is not about third parties,” Hill wrote. “This is not about minority voters. This is about White supremacy. Anything else is just a distraction. White people watched Donald Trump demonstrate no knowledge of the issues, lose the debates, and insult everyone. They still chose him.”
The false notion of a post-racial country became more evident after the 2016 presidential election. Trump’s victory proved that a large number of White Americans still embrace the most hateful aspects of a nation that once allowed slavery and Jim Crow laws to exist. It also proved that America is deeply divided as protests against Trump’s election continue to take place across the country.
Trump will walk into the White House in 2017 and the direction of America could change drastically. However, the Black community has suffered under every president.
While Americans got an opportunity to witness the first Black president over the last eight years, we also witnessed the brutality against Blacks by law enforcement as cellphones and other video devices recorded the killings and abuse of unarmed Black people. Hill believes that the only way to solve the issues of police brutality and mass incarceration is to destroy those archaic systems.
“I don’t try to reform prison or the police,” Hill says. “I want to abolish prison and police. My worldview is different. Reform or tweaking or overhaul implies that the system can work. We need a new system because it’s not in our best interest.”
The abuse and killings of unarmed Black people also gave the voiceless an opportunity to speak out as organizations such as Black Lives Matter and BYP100 emerged to speak against issues plaguing the Black community. And entertainers and athletes also used their powerful platforms to share their views on social injustice in America. Hill shares why he was proud of Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the national anthem.
“He had the most to lose and he sacrificed it all,” Hill says. “I support him and I stand with him. I’m excited about the energy that surrounds him. I’m happy that people all around the world and country are taking that knee with him. It represents a possibility and a spirit of resistance. It sparks a conversation. This movement sparked in 2014. People thought the movement would stop but it didn’t. We are fighting and we are going to win. I’ve never stood for the national anthem. It’s a principle response to imperialism and injustice. Players stand to show love and faith in a system and tradition that hasn’t been good for us or included us. When Americans are patriotic, they fly the flag. When we take a knee, we are saying we see the flag, but we have to kneel because of the last 400 years.”
Kaepernick turned off many of his supporters by not choosing to vote in the 2016 election. Some viewed his unwillingness to vote as a missed opportunity. On the other hand, some still believe that by taking a knee he’s sharing the truth of the voiceless to a wider audience.
Hill, who is also a prominent music critic, thinks that it’s important for artists such as Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, and Solange to express the complexities of Black life through song. He says that Solange captured the essence of being Black in America with her latest album, A Seat at the Table.
“It’s a Black album,” Hill says. “It’s beautiful. It’s well crafted. It’s well-produced. The interludes and storytelling conjured something. Beyoncé’s Lemonade did that in a way by visually telling a story of Blackness. But when I hear Solange, it’s the overall stories that she tells. She’s trying to make sense of her relationships, her hair, and her place in the world. All of it is a gumbo of an experience. Then there is ‘Cranes in the Sky,’ which is all of that times 10. She’s articulating an experience that resonates with Black women and men.”
In Hill’s new book, Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, he reveals how Black bodies are viewed as disposable. In an excerpt from the book, Hill wrote, “Michael Brown was treated as if he was less of a person, much less an American. He was disposable.”
Hill shares his views on that quote.
“I always wanted to tell a story about the vulnerable because we talk about the rich and middle class all of the time,” he says. “My job was to tell that story, and when Mike Brown was killed I wanted to tell a deeper story about America vs. the vulnerable. The book is a deeper story about how America has waged a full-on war against its most vulnerable.”
Hill suggests America can only begin to heal when Blacks and all minorities are treated as humans instead of objects without value. It’s the reason Blacks’ bodies are often exploited and killed without repercussions.
“Even if you are an athlete, you’re disposable,” Hill says. “Colin Kaepernick became disposable when he didn’t follow the ritual of the national anthem. They loved Dwyane Wade in Miami until they couldn’t make as much money off of him anymore. Black bodies are disposable and exploitable. We get what we can from them and then dispose of them when we are done. There’s no inherent value in them. We don’t invest in their minds, bodies, souls and spirits. If you are homeless or mentally ill, we lock you up. We close mental institutions and make it illegal for those with mental issues to be on the streets. The same with drug addicts. Then you have to work for free in prison and that’s exploitation. Now you are valuable as a prisoner. Mike Brown represents all of that. Mike Brown went to Normandy School District, which was a form of violence. The jobs were gone; that was a form of violence. The public housing in St. Louis crumbled; that was a form of violence. Mike Brown is a microcosm of everything in America, in terms of how we treat the vulnerable.”