Lead Like You See Us

Dear Hillary,

I need your help. I’ve been struggling during this exceedingly long campaign season, and I think you’re the only person who can resolve the challenge I’m having.

I imagine you have black people advising you–black women even. But I also know how pragmatic you are. I’m also quite pragmatic. But our times don’t call for pragmatism.

I understand just about every move you’ve made–every decision of which I’m aware. Those things you’ve said and done that cause me pain, I can see how you got there. I may not like it, but I get it. You’re brilliant. You’re strategic.

Your email on July 8th was circumspect and seemed to address multiple facets of our current dilemma regarding black men being particularly susceptible to dying at the hands of police who then go on to escape accountability. I saw and understood your pragmatism there. Two black men died and then 5 police officers died. You had to address both of those incidents. Your suggestion that we listen to each other is a reasonable one.

Today though, I need something else. One morning last week my wife broke down sobbing upon learning about Alton Sterling. The next morning I found it impossible to hold it together when learning about Philando Castile. I have incredibly well educated, highly compensated, Wellesley sisters who are grieving and afraid for our fathers, sons, cousins, friends, and neighbors. For ourselves. We are but a miniscule fraction of the black people in this country who are hurting and afraid. Who are angry. We are among the most privileged black women in the world. And we are unsure of our safety in our own country.

I need you to look past how low our numbers are. I need you to toss aside the advice on how to win campaigns that tells you to moderate your response to this. I need you to lead like a woman. I need you to find that place in yourself that grew Chelsea in your womb and see the lives that are being lost as the children of women.

I need you to call out white supremacy as the root of the institutional violence that has been killing black people for centuries and is killing on video across the nation today.

I need you to acknowledge unequivocally the ways you have contributed to all of this and what you will do–not just plan or promise but will do–to begin to repair the damage.

I don’t think you’re crooked. I don’t think you’re any more dishonest than any politician. In fact, from what I’ve seen, you tend to be rather truthful. I do know, however, that you are a white woman who can say and do things that a black man couldn’t without being destroyed. And given how you keep going in the face of the ugliness and pettiness that republicans have been throwing at you for decades, you are formidable.

Be formidable for us. Show us that you will lead our nation toward justice. Show us that you see us. Show us that you recognize our humanity.

Be the leader that America needs right now and shine a light on the hateful principles in our founding documents that got us here. Be the leader that America needs right now if this country will ever live up to the lofty principles also in our founding documents.

Lead like you see those of us who are being executed in the streets with formal institutional sanction.

Sincerely and with great anticipation,
Adriane Johnson-Williams
Wellesley College, Class of 1996