Sister Souljah in North Carolina today

Hah! Jon Ham’s a humorous guy ;) He noted at the John Lohn Locke Foundation’s Right Angles blog that Sister Souljah, the rapper/activist whose name gave me the idea for my own, will be speaking tonight at NC Central (which is in Durham) at 7.

Souljah is most famous (or shall I say infamous?) for being verbally smacked down by then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton in what is now commonly referred to as a “Sister Souljah moment“:

The term originates in the 1992 presidential candidacy of Bill Clinton. In an interview published May 13, 1992, the hip-hop MC, author, and political activist Sister Souljah was quoted in the Washington Post as saying,

“If Black people kill Black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?”[1]

The remark was part of a longer response to the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The quote was later reproduced without the context of the complete interview[2] and she was widely criticized in the media.

In June 1992, Clinton responded to the quote, saying,

“If you took the words ‘white’ and ‘black’ and you reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech.”

Clinton thereby repudiated the “extremist” position that Souljah’s quotation represented.

Clinton’s response was criticized by members and leaders of the Democratic Party’s African-American base, such as Jesse Jackson. However, it also produced the image, in the eyes of moderate and independent voters—particularly white voters—of a centrist politician who was “tough on crime” and “not influenced by special interests.” Since moderates and independents represent swing votes, whereas the party base will not usually leave for the other party, Clinton’s condemnation probably won him more votes than he lost.

Clinton’s Sister Souljah moment, whether born of political calculation or not, was consonant with his larger strategy to move the Democratic Party to a more centrist stance on many issues. Clinton went on to win the presidency, and the term Sister Souljah moment subsequently entered the political lexicon.

Here’s a little tidbit you may not have known about Souljah: back in the 80s, she worked as a legislative intern in the House of Representatives for Republicans.

From the looks of her picture at the NC Central website, she’s toned things down several notches. She looks mature and grown up. At her website, you can view her lecture topics, and some of them oddly enough (if we go by the topic titles) promote good values (like encouraging a stable family environment as well as good relationships between black men and women, putting an emphasis on a strong education). The NC Central website page on her has this in her bio:

Currently, Souljah is the executive director of Daddy’s House Social Programs, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation for urban youth, financed by Sean Combs and Bad Boy Entertainment. Daddy’s House educates and prepares youth, aged 10-16, to be in control of their academic, cultural and financial lives. The students progressing through the program earn support to travel throughout the world.

This isn’t to say I’d ever recommend Souljah for a speaking engagement, because some of the other lecture topics on her website look a little scary to me, but it does suggest to me that perhaps she’s changed some from her earlier years of blaming the white man for everything. We can all change – I’m living proof of that, and my change, ironically enough, happened just a few years after Clinton’s Souljah moment. If Sister Toldjah can change for the better, so can Sister Souljah.

If Souljah is on the right path in terms of promoting the power of the individual by teaching that the individual himself is in charge of his own destiny and not the government – then I wish her much success. If she’s not, I hope she one day will choose the road less travelled. It may be difficult at times to navigate, but the rewards in the end make choosing that road worth it.

Comments are closed.