Grading Hillary Clinton on Racism and Civil Rights after Charleston: C-Minus | #BlackLivesMatter on Blog#42

UPDATE: 6/26/2015 Mrs. Clinton, in a speech given near Ferguson, Missouri, this week used the hashtag AllLivesMatter.This is yet another instance in which Mrs. Clinton shows she is still woefully unprepared at best, and arrogant enough not to care to better prepare, at worst. It shows a lack of respect for voters when a politician can’t be bothered to do simple homework. Understandably, this latest flap has caused quite a bit of consternation and backlash, as The New York Times reports:

Hillary Clinton’s ‘All Lives Matter’ Remark Stirs Backlash

Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke to supporters at a church while campaigning in Missouri on Tuesday.
Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke to supporters at a church while campaigning in Missouri on Tuesday.CreditWhitney Curtis/Getty Images North America

Hillary Rodham Clinton is facing backlash for saying that “all lives matter” in an African-American church in Missouri on Tuesday, offending some who feel that she is missing the point of the “black lives matter” mantra.

Mrs. Clinton’s remarks at Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Mo. — only a few miles north of Ferguson, where a black teenager was shot by a white police officer last August — came during a broader discussion of civil rights in America.

She was talking about how a disproportionate number of young people of color are out of school and out of work and, explaining that everyone needs a “chance and a champion,” she recalled how her mother was abandoned as a teenager and went on to work as a maid.

“What kept you going?” Mrs. Clinton remembered asking her mother. “Her answer was very simple. Kindness along the way from someone who believed she mattered. All lives matter.” […]

Hillary Clinton has addressed the topic of racism only four times in the last eighteen months. She only addressed it head on yesterday. In a town hall she was a part of on CNN, no matter how hard Christiane Amanpour pressed, she just would not concede that “racism” describes the treatment of President Obama by Republicans. Not only wouldn’t she budge, but she seemed irritated and defensive.

Then, when Clinton gave a major policy speech in Brooklyn recently, it was nice to hear hers and President Clinton’s regret at mass-incarceration and the terrible consequences stemming from policies that were put into place under Clinton’s watch. There was even a promise in there to fix what Bill’s administration broke.

The morning after the Charleston Massacre, Hillary said:

“In order to make sense of it, we have to be honest—we have to face hard truths about race, violence, guns, and division,” she said. “Today we join our hearts, the people of Charleston and South Carolina, people everywhere, pray for the victims, pray for the families, pray for a community that knows too much sorrow. And we pray for justice.”

“How many innocent people in our country—little children to church members to movie theater attendees—how many people do we need to see cut down before we act?” Clinton continued. “So as we mourn and as our hearts break a little more, and as we send this message of solidarity that we will not forsake those who have been victimized by gun violence, this time we have to find answers together.”

Had this particular statement been made months or even weeks after such a terrible tragedy, it would have been a fine one. But on the morning after, when the victims’ bodies weren’t even cold, not to honor them by giving them sole mention makes Clinton appear insensitive. It isn’t proper or thoughtful when, on such a day, as sorrow is so deep, fears so heightened, she addresses an hours-old white supremacist massacre in Charleston in the same breath as other events. Why couldn’t Thursday be just about Charleston? Why couldn’t the things that happened be called by their rightful names: racism and white supremacy? It is what they are. Why did policy have to even be mentioned while consoling broken hearts?

Hillary spoke out again on Saturday, at the US Conference of Mayors in San Francisco:

In the Charleston Massacre portion of her address, Clinton takes her audience on an abbreviated tour of America’s history with racism and civil rights, while appropriately expressing sadness and disappointment that we aren’t post-racial. But then, she follows with the gun control and mental health refrain from her Thursday speech, and then closes this part condolence, part civil rights sandwich with the Four Fights at the center of her campaign.

To anyone who is relatively conscious, this is a very transparent move; one designed to fulfill a perfunctory duty to a grieving Black audience, while being careful not to upset a lighter shade of voter. Of note is the fact that nowhere among the Four Fights is an expression of the regret she expressed in a different speech last month on the prison-industrial system her husband started.  While she mentions a distant Jim Crow era, she doesn’t name our current New Jim Crow. There is no word on the police state we now live in, or the police brutality that has become a nationwide daily occurrence – only mayors working hard to get guns off the streets (former Mayor Bloomberg’s pet agenda, without naming it).

“Many mayors are part of the U.S. Coalition of Cities against Racism and Discrimination, launched by this conference in 2013. I know you’re making reforms in your own communities, promoting tolerance in schools, smoothing the integration of immigrants, creating economic opportunities.

Mayors across the country also are doing all they can to prevent gun violence and keep our streets and neighborhoods safe.”

This portion of the speech strikes as cliché. Racism isn’t unique to the Southern states. Her reference to racism in this section of her speech is now generalized, no longer specific to the Black community or even to our time. She awkwardly switches to urban violence from race, without a transition. She, quite stereotypically, made mention of mayors’ work in prevention and safety, but made none on acknowledging and ending generalized police brutality in every city and state.

Then, there is the terminology used by Clinton. She has uttered the words “hard truths” three times now. While those words were appropriate in the context she used them during her Brooklyn speech, they’re inappropriate when used in the same breath as Charleston. Those “hard truths” are the most painful part of the African American experience; pain not of their own making, and irrelevant when presenting one’s condolences.

When the topic is the massacre of African Americans at the hands of a white supremacist, “hard truths” are what white Americans need to contemplate. Clinton is very careful in her speeches not to be direct. We have never, as a nation, acknowledged the extent and nature of our racist past. We have yet, as a nation, to properly teach our children about our own racist past. Other than generalities, Clinton offers nothing in the way of specifics to begin addressing the issues that underlie racism and white supremacy. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center hate map, there are almost as many hate groups in California as there are in Florida and Missouri, for example.

Clinton has consistently used the word “race.” Race is not the same as racism. The terms are not interchangeable. Hate crimes are caused by racism, not race. There is a difference and she should use more precise language.

My grade of Hillary Clinton’s statements and speeches since leaving her post at State is a C-.

Clinton: We Must Face ‘Hard Truths’ About Race, Guns After Charleston Shooting

Clinton told an audience Thursday at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Las Vegas that the news “broke my heart.”

“The shock and pain of this crime of hate strikes deep,” she said, as quoted by National Journal. “Nine people, women and men. Cut down at prayer, murdered in a house of God. It just broke my heart.”

Like President Barack Obama did earlier in the day, Clinton also urged Americans to address gun violence after failing to act in the wake of past mass shootings like the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre. She said that the country must “face hard truths about race, violence, guns and division” in order to make sense of the latest tragedy, according to National Journal.

“How many innocent people in our country—little children to church members to movie theater attendees—how many people do we need to see cut down before we act?” she said, as quoted by National Journal. “So as we mourn and as our hearts break a little more, and as we send this message of solidarity that we will not forsake those who have been victimized by gun violence, this time we have to find answers together.”

Read the rest of this article on Clinton: We Must Face ‘Hard Truths’ About Race, Guns After Charleston Shooting

Relevant portion from a transcript of Hillary Clinton’s speech to the US Conference of Mayors, San Francisco. June 20, 2016

[…] Today, our thoughts are also with our friend Joe Riley and the people of Charleston. Joe’s a good man and a great mayor, and his leadership has been a bright light during such a dark time.

You know, the passing of days has not dulled the pain or the shock of this crime. Indeed, as we have gotten to know the faces and names and stories of the victims, the pain has only deepened.

Nine faithful women and men, with families and passions and so much left to do.

As a mother, a grandmother, a human being, my heart is bursting for them. For these victims and their families. For a wounded community and a wounded church. For our country struggling once again to make sense of violence that is fundamentally senseless, and history we desperately want to leave behind.

Yesterday was Juneteenth, a day of liberation and deliverance. One-hundred and fifty years ago, as news of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation spread from town to town across the South, free men and women lifted their voices in song and prayer.

Congregations long forced to worship underground, like the first Christians, joyfully resurrected their churches.

In Charleston, the African Methodist Episcopal Church took a new name: Emanuel. “God is with us.”

Faith has always seen this community through, and I know it will again.

Just as earlier generations threw off the chains of slavery and then segregation and Jim Crow, this generation will not be shackled by fear and hate.

On Friday, one by one, grieving parents and siblings stood up in court and looked at that young man, who had taken so much from them, and said: “I forgive you.”

In its way, their act of mercy was as stunning as his act of cruelty.

It reminded me of watching Nelson Mandela embrace his former jailors because, he said, he didn’t want to be imprisoned twice, once by steel and concrete, once by anger and bitterness.

In these moments of tragedy, many of us struggle with how to process the rush of emotions.

I’d been in Charleston that day. I’d gone to a technical school, Trident Tech. I had seen the joy, the confidence and optimism of young people who were now serving apprenticeships with local businesses, Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, every background. I listened to their stories, I shook their hands, I saw the hope and the pride.

And then by the time I got to Las Vegas, I read the news.

Like many of you, I was so overcome: How to turn grief, confusion into purpose and action? But that’s what we have to do.

For me and many others, one immediate response was to ask how it could be possible that we as a nation still allow guns to fall into the hands of people whose hearts are filled with hate.

You can’t watch massacre after massacre and not come to the conclusion that, as President Obama said, we must tackle this challenge with urgency and conviction.

Now, I lived in Arkansas and I represented Upstate New York. I know that gun ownership is part of the fabric of a lot of law-abiding communities.

But I also know that we can have common sense gun reforms that keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and the violently unstable, while respecting responsible gun owners.

What I hope with all of my heart is that we work together to make this debate less polarized, less inflamed by ideology, more informed by evidence, so we can sit down across the table, across the aisle from one another, and find ways to keep our communities safe while protecting constitutional rights.

It makes no sense that bipartisan legislation to require universal background checks would fail in Congress, despite overwhelming public support.

It makes no sense that we wouldn’t come together to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, or people suffering from mental illnesses, even people on the terrorist watch list. That doesn’t make sense, and it is a rebuke to this nation we love and care about.

The President is right: The politics on this issue have been poisoned. But we can’t give up. The stakes are too high. The costs are too dear.

And I am not and will not be afraid to keep fighting for commonsense reforms, and along with you, achieve those on behalf of all who have been lost because of this senseless gun violence in our country.

But today, I stand before you because I know and you know there is a deeper challenge we face.

I had the great privilege of representing America around the world. I was so proud to share our example, our diversity, our openness, our devotion to human rights and freedom. These qualities have drawn generations of immigrants to our shores, and they inspire people still. I have seen it with my own eyes.

And yet, bodies are once again being carried out of a Black church.

Once again, racist rhetoric has metastasized into racist violence.

Now, it’s tempting, it is tempting to dismiss a tragedy like this as an isolated incident, to believe that in today’s America, bigotry is largely behind us, that institutionalized racism no longer exists.

But despite our best efforts and our highest hopes, America’s long struggle with race is far from finished.

I know this is a difficult topic to talk about. I know that so many of us hoped by electing our first Black president, we had turned the page on this chapter in our history.

I know there are truths we don’t like to say out loud or discuss with our children. But we have to. That’s the only way we can possibly move forward together.

Race remains a deep fault line in America. Millions of people of color still experience racism in their everyday lives.

Here are some facts.

In America today, Blacks are nearly three times as likely as whites to be denied a mortgage.

In 2013, the median wealth of Black families was around $11,000. For white families, it was more than $134,000.

Nearly half of all Black families have lived in poor neighborhoods for at least two generations, compared to just 7 percent of white families.

African American men are far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than white men, 10 percent longer for the same crimes in the federal system.

In America today, our schools are more segregated than they were in the 1960s.

How can any of that be true? How can it be true that Black children are 500 percent more likely to die from asthma than white kids? Five hundred percent!

More than a half century after Dr. King marched and Rosa Parks sat and John Lewis bled, after the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and so much else, how can any of these things be true? But they are.

And our problem is not all kooks and Klansman. It’s also in the cruel joke that goes unchallenged. It’s in the off-hand comments about not wanting “those people” in the neighborhood.

Let’s be honest: For a lot of well-meaning, open-minded white people, the sight of a young Black man in a hoodie still evokes a twinge of fear. And news reports about poverty and crime and discrimination evoke sympathy, even empathy, but too rarely do they spur us to action or prompt us to question our own assumptions and privilege.

We can’t hide from any of these hard truths about race and justice in America. We have to name them and own them and then change them. […]

[…] And Kevin is right, we need to reimagine the relationship between the federal government and our metropolitan areas. Top-down, one-size-fits-all solutions rarely work.

We need what I’ll call a new Flexible Federalism that empowers and connects communities, leverages their unique advantages, adapts to changing circumstances. And I look forward to working with all of you to turn this vision into a reality.

I’ve put Four Fights at the center of my campaign:

First, to build an economy for tomorrow not yesterday;

Second, to strengthen America’s families, the foundation of everything we are;

Third, to harness all of our power, our smarts, and our values to continue to lead the world;

And fourth, to revitalize our democracy back here at home. […]

Full transcript on Shallow Nation:

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