12. Bill Clinton Responds to Sister Soulja
Date: May 13, 1992
The Moment: In the '92 election, Clinton faced a press crisis explicitly concerning the African-American contingent who would ostensibly elect him over his Republican opponent, sitting president George H.W. Bush. In an interview published by the Washington Post, black activist and MC Sister Soulja—in response to a question about whether or not the '92 L.A. riots were "wise" or not—asked "If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?" Soulja had previously explained in a music video "If there are any good white people, I haven't met them."
Enter Clinton, who, while delivering a speech to Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition, noted of Soulja's remarks that "If you took the words 'white' and 'black,' and you reversed them, you might think [white supremacist] David Duke was giving that speech."
The Impact: The quip was an attempt by Clinton's campaign to distance himself from Jackson, who wasn't all that popular with "moderates" or "undecideds," and some of his more extreme politics. Naturally, Jesse Jackson was pissed, and attacked Clinton for taking on Soulja over what he considered a mis-contextualized quote. Sister Souljah released a statement lambasting Clinton as a draft-dodger, a reefer-smoker (her words), and someone who supports the lobotomy of prisoners, among other things.
The Upshot: The impact of Clinton's take on Sister Souljah is still being debated—whether or not there was one, and what it was—but one thing is indisputable: African-Americans helped elect Clinton not once, but twice. Sister Souljah went on to become a lecturer and successful urban lit author. But more importantly, the term "Sista Soulja Moment" grew out of the controversy, going on to define any instance in which a political candidate distanced themselves from what they might consider to be an uncomfortably extreme association with elements potentially considered unsavory by waffling voters.