Interview with Ashley Williams

Confronting Hillary on Her Attack on Black Youth as “Superpredators”

March 7, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


Revolution Interview
A special feature of Revolution to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music and literature, science, sports and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.


Editors’ note: In 1996, when campaigning for Bill Clinton’s re-election, Hillary Clinton said: “They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called superpredators. No conscience. No empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.” Activist Ashley Williams confronted Hillary Clinton with this quote at a fundraising event on February 24. Revolution talked to her about why she did that.

Revolution: Why did you confront Hillary Clinton about her statement?

Ashley Williams: I thought it was important to talk to her about that because I’ve seen the effects of mass incarceration in my own community. And in my opinion, Hillary Clinton has had a legacy of courting Black voters and selling out Black communities. And so I wanted her to explain her record to us, and I wanted an apology for mass incarceration.

Revolution: Referring to them as “superpredators” and then using the literally dehumanizing term of bringing them to “heel.”

Ashley Williams: Yeah, that language, you know, even if she didn’t say Black youth or youth of color explicitly, that language is right in line with the language of today and the language being used currently to kind of pathologize that in the bodies of youth of color and Black youth. So it’s just very interesting to me that she’s going to Black communities and other communities asking for support while she continues to make decisions that continue to marginalize us. I think it’s inconsistent and I think the voters really need to wake up.

Revolution: I don’t know if you caught this, but  Bill Maher, the comedian who hosts a show on HBO, attacked you. Did you see this?

Ashley Williams: Yeah, I saw it.

Revolution: I think it is fair to characterize his attack by saying he cited some poll that showed that 20 percent of Donald Trump’s supporters in some state were actually against the Emancipation Proclamation. And then on that basis said that it’s nuts and even worse what you did to call out Hillary Clinton. And I wanted to get your thoughts on that, that in the face of an overt white supremacist, fascist program we have to be silent on the kinds of things Hillary said, that you called her out on.

Ashley Williams: Yeah, I saw it. I think it’s kind of insulting to voters and also people who are affected by both overt and covert kinds of racism and white supremacy. It is not that we cannot be critical about Hillary Clinton and about Donald Trump in terms of white supremacy that I think he represents. I know for me, I can’t afford to have Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump be president. So I want to be allowed to have that affirmed, I want to be allowed to say that. And I want people to understand what I mean. And I think that folks who don’t understand what it’s like to be so marginalized by overt and covert types of racism, they don’t understand what’s at stake if Hillary gets the presidency or gets the Democratic nomination. Like Black people believe that it’s a different kind of image, but the image is still the same. It’s a different kind of horror, but a horror still the same. And I need for people to understand that.

Revolution: I expect you knew you were gonna get a lot of flack from this, not just or even in this particular case mainly from Trump and his fascists, but from liberals, just to be frank, right? I’m coming from the need for revolution, but I think people of conscience more broadly can appreciate the importance of telling the truth and not fitting that into “acceptable choices.” So I was wondering what gave you the courage to go up in the face of whatever flack you anticipated you might get?

Ashley Williams: I have to say first that even through all the negative things, I felt very supported. Especially by my community here in Charlotte. I felt empowered, and I felt like I was ultimately doing the right thing and in the right way. And there isn’t anything that I would’ve changed about what I did. I have to say, though, that I believe that the negative criticisms that I’ve received are from people who again don’t understand the kind of covert racism that I think Hillary Clinton represents, as well as her campaign. And I think that people don’t really understand what the situation is for Blacks. And when I’m saying Black, I mean, you know, affected by people like Donald Trump and by people like Hillary Clinton. And so I hope that all the voters and everyone who’s paying attention is thinking critically about people’s records and about what people have stood for and currently stand for. ’Cause I think that’s what it’s really about.

Revolution: There are people who don’t understand the kind of police terror and mass incarceration and million other forms of white supremacy that Black people face, and also there is a question of whether people are willing to confront that. I think that speaks to the importance of what you did—to push people out of their comfort zones. Because that’s so needed.

Ashley Williams: Thank you.



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