Hillary Clinton Talking To White People Instead of Cops: The Election From Hell
Hillary Clinton made several appearances on Monday and Tuesday, September 19 and 20, 2016. Terence Crutcher, a stranded motorist in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was shot to death by police officer Betty Shelby on September 16, 2016. On September 19th, another African American, Keith Lamont Scott, was killed by police in Charlotte, North Carolina. His killing by police set off civil unrest. The Clinton campaign did not release a statement on its website or comment via Clinton’s Twitter account until after she made an appearance on the Steve Harvey Morning Show on September 20, 2016.
During her appearance, Hillary Clinton made the following comment:
“Maybe I can, by speaking directly to white people, say, ‘Look, this is not who we are.’ We have to do everything possible to improve policing, to go right at implicit bias. There are good, honorable, cool-headed police officers. We’ve seen them in action in New York in the last, you know, 48 hours because of the terrorist attacks. We can do better. We have got to rein in what is absolutely inexplicable and we have got to have law enforcement respect communities and communities respect law enforcement because they have to work together.”
Mrs. Clinton’s public approach to dealing with police brutality and easing racial tensions has not changed since she met with Black Lives Matter activists in Keene, New Hampshire. She continues to present herself as an intermediary to white America, rather than its leader. Her phrasing is non-committal: “Maybe I can, by speaking directly to white people…” Maybe? What will it take for Mrs. Clinton to decide that leading white America on race is at the very top of her mission? Mrs. Clinton goes on, “Look, this is not who we are.” The fact that there is only a 2-6 point difference between her and Donald J. Trump only proves that this is indeed “who we are,” and that any leader who claims to be progressive must place police brutality and institutional racism at the very top of their agenda.
By directing the focus on the nebulous “white people” from the megaphone of a radio show whose audience is primarily Black, Secretary Clinton continues on the same path she’s always followed. She panders to those she senses need appeasement in times of crisis but doesn’t tackle the politically-expensive but necessary job of leading those who most badly need to be led: the white middle class and white-controlled police forces and fraternal orders.
“We have to do everything possible to improve policing, to go right at implicit bias.”
Mrs. Clinton’s grasp of the severity and urgency of the problem with policing leaves much to be desired. At the point we are today, it no longer is a matter of merely ameliorating things, but making fundamental reforms. Going right at implicit bias, as Mrs. Clinton stated, is meaningless. Police forces don’t exist in a vacuum any more than individual Americans do. As a society, we are racist. Police officers are recruited from the same pool of Americans we call American society. So, getting at implicit bias must, by definition, include all Americans, without exception, from every aspect and angle one can imagine and then some, starting with our system of public education, and including how we train our police forces in police academies and law enforcement programs at universities throughout the nation. It must also mean devising policies whereby all police departments are proactive in rooting out racist elements within their workforce.
Mrs. Clinton ended that part of her remarks with:
“There are good, honorable, cool-headed police officers. We’ve seen them in action in New York in the last, you know, 48 hours because of the terrorist attacks.”
What Mrs. Clinton completely failed to grasp from “those policemen in action in New York,” dealing with the arrest of the naturalized Afghani American who perpetrated the bombing in Manhattan, is that his survival of a gun fight as he was being caught by police reinforced only one thing to African Americans who were watching: if you look white, police will bend over backwards to take you into custody alive. It is absolutely incomprehensible that no one from among Clinton’s circle of advisors pointed this out to her.
Just as we are long past the time and place where cajolement is appropriate with bankers, we are long past the point where supplication of one’s white voting public meets any kind of urgent need. Mrs. Clinton’s use of the same reverent tack most politicians use whenever talking about police is very telling.
How does the following portion of her statement match up with any kind of police reform:
“…we have got to have law enforcement respect communities?”
The Oxford dictionary defines respect as “admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” So, if one were to translate Clinton’s statement into policy, it follows that in order for police to respect the communities in which they serve, police officers would have to admire them. Surely, that is not the appropriate moral basis for the relationship between law enforcement and the people they are tasked to serve. The moral value required here isn’t respect or admiration but, rather, placing the preservation of life above all other values.
With hundreds of Black men, women, and children being killed by police each year, what is needed is far less talk at the wrong people and immediate policy-making. Mrs. Clinton could have opted to give a press conference or appear on CNN to address the latest police killing. At a time when she desperately needs every vote she can get, especially the Black vote, she could give a policy speech and in it, boldly announce her intention to condition the passage of her first budget bill upon the legislation and passage of a national police law. Taking the initiative in such a fashion would differentiate her from her opponent and demonstrate, quite clearly, that she has every intention to reform police and end the wave of brutality. As things stand, she’s not recently made any policy policy speeches, while her opponent openly called for Stop and Frisk to be used nationwide:
“”I would do stop-and-frisk. I think you have to,” Trump said, according to excerpts of a Fox News “town hall” in Cleveland, after a listener asked what he would do to reduce crime in predominantly black communities across the nation.”
In her radio interview, Mrs. Clinton also engaged in the false “both sides” argumentation that is now prevalent in American politics by ending that portion of her statement with “and communities respect law enforcement.” If law enforcement is in a community in order to protect and serve, then there is no requirement from those being protected and served to respect law enforcement. That statement solidifies America’s longstanding patriarchal bent for paternalism and authoritarianism. What police forces provide is transactional: police are there to provide a service for which they are remunerated at above average rates, accounting for the element of risk inherent in their job. The cult of adulation that has been fostered by politicians in the last twenty five years has established a pattern of paternalistic expectations and entitlement that have overtaken what should be the businesslike deference by police officials to the populations they serve. This manner of relating to authority has a long and painful history in America that is firmly rooted in slavery and white supremacy.
Moreover, in today’s politics, it is nigh impossible to find a politician speaking on police matters who doesn’t also bend over backwards to heap police with compliments on their professionalism and restraint – even if the topic at hand is brutality by police on civilians. Fraternal Orders of Police (FOP) endorsements in political campaigns are a prized get for politicians and the power of these associations has grown to the point where decidedly undemocratic legislation they promote are being passed and signed in many states. These FOP’s success has emboldened them to seek civil rights special status as a minority under hate crime statutes they are now actively promoting in state legislatures, with Louisiana being the first state to enact this type of new law.
The language Mrs. Clinton uses to describe what needs to be done belies a very outdated view of authority, law, and order. Over the past year, as Black Lives Matter has risen in prominence as a movement for civil rights. Mrs. Clinton has demonstrated time and again how unwilling she is to break with the spirit of the paternalistic, authoritarian policies she promoted in the past. The language she uses to describe the relationship between police and citizen is identical to the language Republicans routinely use to describe it. Clinton, in her repeated refusals to embrace Black Lives Matter, demonstrates how woefully out of touch she is with the realities and sophistication of today’s movement for Black lives.
Mrs. Clinton’s rebuke of the new Black Power movement comes against the backdrop of new revelations in a leaked email by former House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, in which she instructs Democratic members of Congress not to adopt or support the agenda put forth by Black Lives Matter:
These new revelations came on the heels of a different email leak, that of the DNC’s interference in the Democratic primary, raising questions about coordination between a supposedly neutral DNC and the Clinton campaign.
After several years of almost daily exposure to footage of Black lives being snuffed out by brutal police forces around the nation, in the midst of another outbreak of police brutality, and at a time when Mrs. Clinton is highly dependent on the attendance and votes of Black millennials in a highly contested election, continuing to rely on the sly old campaign tactics of the past is not only reckless, but it is disrespectful and very foolish.
It’s been 25 years since the 1990’s and a lot has changed. Mrs. Clinton, in the portion of her radio interview that preceded the snippet quoted here, said she wanted to build upon President Obama’s legacy. She shouldn’t. While President Obama has enjoyed the protection of a united African American community and escaped public protests of policies his administration did not attempt to modify or end entirely. Mrs. Clinton will not be afforded the same treatment. As I write this piece, the citizens of Charlotte, North Carolina are out on the streets for the second night in a row, protesting the killing of Keith Lamont Scott, and the Republican governor, Pat McRory has escalated the situation by calling in the National Guard.
The new movement for Black lives builds upon the successes and failures of its two most recent predecessors in recent history and enjoys the support of a majority of African Americans. It is wiser and its following erudite and very self-aware. Congressional Democrats cannot afford to be seen as an enemy of progress and the new civil rights movement. Speaker Pelosi must address the email that was leaked and put things right. The DNC and Mrs. Clinton cannot afford to be perceived as a dividing force among generations of this nations’ Blacks. Hillary Clinton needs to break with past habits and boldly and resolutely lead and see reforms through. Anything less and Clinton can expect civil unrest and a one term presidency.
In that same interview with Steve Harvey, Hillary Clinton also said:
“This is not: ‘Oh, you know, a little here, a little there. We can — you know, we can take it, no matter who wins.’ No. The next 50 days will determine the next 50 years, and I say that absolutely seriously.”
Setting the pace for the next 50 years means leading. Leading means policy-making. Being serious about it means acknowledging, talking to and cooperating with Black Lives Matter. Anything less will not only be unserious, but the cause of civil unrest.