Hillary Strikes Right Tone With Black Lives Matter

[ Posted Tuesday, August 18th, 2015 – 17:20 UTC ]

Yesterday, I wrote some advice for Hillary Clinton and her campaign. Political pundits are wont to do this sort of thing, of course, but today I'd like to shift gears somewhat and give Clinton some credit for handling a situation perfectly. Hey, I calls 'em as I sees 'em.

Hillary Clinton had a private meeting with some Black Lives Matter protesters who showed up at one of her town hall meetings. The protesters were shut out of the meeting because the building's capacity had been reached, so Clinton graciously set up a private meeting so they could air their views. A video of this meeting was just released, and the transcript of the exchange shows that Clinton answered questions about as well as any politician could, given the same circumstances. I'm going to post the full transcript below (thankfully provided by Politic365), because it is so instructive, so I'll keep my own comments brief (I'll have more to say on this issue in the future, though).

Clinton responds to the protesters on two levels. First, she answers the points they bring up, especially how she personally (as well as her husband) had some things to answer for from the past. Clinton answers that yes, bad results happened and she'll take some of that blame, but also that the policies weren't enacted in a vacuum, and were a response to poor neighborhoods being scourged by drug dealers and crime. At the time, putting 100,000 more police on the streets was seen as a good thing by most, in other words -- a reasonable response to a perceived problem.

But it's how Clinton answers on a different level that impressed me. True grassroots organizations always have the problem of an absence of leadership, by definition. Grassroots means "not top-down leader-led," but this can easily morph into "we have no idea how to communicate what we want." I'm not singling Black Lives Matter out here, because this is also what led to the demise of the Occupy Wall Street movement (and, to some extent, bedevils the original Tea Partiers even today).

If a group can't agree on anything other than what slogans to chant, and can't communicate any agenda because they have no adequate media spokespeople or because they essentially have no agenda (other than "society sucks"), then the group will likely not achieve anything more than Andy Warhol's 15 minutes of fame. Clinton points this out, as politely as possible, over and over again. Clinton explains that she's a politician, and politicians look to solve problems by enacting legislation to change society for the better. So what policies should she get behind? What changes does the movement support? Forcing a politician to parrot your slogan is fine and good, but wouldn't it be better to then move on and suggest some political or legal changes the politician could champion?

So far, two Democratic presidential candidates have had to deal with Black Lives Matters protesters in very public arenas. With microphones on, both Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders had to try to cope with a group demanding center stage. Hillary Clinton hasn't had to walk this tightrope yet, instead she sat down with the protesters behind closed doors. So Clinton had an advantage, obviously. But she handled it pretty admirably, I have to say.

-- Chris Weigant


Hillary Clinton meets with Black Lives Matter
Keene, New Hampshire, 8/11/15

QUESTION: But your -- you and your family have been personally and politically responsible for policies that have caused Health and Human Services disasters in impoverished communities of color [inaudible] the domestic and international War on Drugs that you championed as First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State. And so I just want to know how you feel about your role in that violence and how you plan to reverse it?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, you know, I feel strongly, which is why I had this town hall today. And as the questions and comments from people illustrated, there's a lot of concern that we need to rethink and redo what we did in response to a different set of problems.

And you know, in life, in politics, in government -- you name it -- you've got to constantly be asking yourself, "Is this working? Is this not?" and if it's not, "What do we do better?" And that's what I'm trying to do now on drugs, on mass incarceration, on police behavior and criminal justice reform. Because I do think that there was a different set of concerns back in the '80s and the early '90s. And now I believe that we have to look at the world as it is today and try and figure out what will work now. And that's what I'm trying to figure out and that's what I intend to do as president.

QUESTION: Yeah. And I would offer that it didn't work then, either, and that those policies were actually extensions of white supremacist violence against communities of color. And so I just think I want to hear a little bit about that, about the fact that actually while...

CLINTON: Well, I'm not sure...

QUESTION: ...those policies were being enacted, they were ripping apart families and actually causing death.

CLINTON: Now, I'm not sure I agree with you. I'm not sure I disagree that any kind of government action often has consequences. And certainly, the War on Drugs, which was started back in the '80s, has had consequences. Increasing penalties for crime and "three strikes and you're out" and all of those kinds of actions have consequences.

But it's important to remember -- and I certainly remember -- that there was a very serious crime wave that was impacting primarily communities of color and poor people. And part of it was that there was just not enough attention paid. So you know, you could argue that people who were trying to address that -- including my husband, when he was president -- were responding to the very real concerns of people in the communities themselves.


CLINTON: Now, I do think that a lot of what was tried and how it was implemented has not produced the kinds of outcomes that any of us would want. But I also believe that there are systemic issues of race and justice that go deeper than any particular law. And part of what we have to do is address the laws. And then we've got to do a much better effort at being honest about the other obstacles and barriers that stand in the way of young people and others having any hope and having any opportunity.

But I think that, as I said, some of this is coming about today because of the terrible instances of violence that we have seen across our country. And I wouldn't -- you know, I wouldn't in any way deny how powerful those have been and how they have to produce change. So what you're doing as activists and as people who are constantly raising these issues is really important. So I applaud and thank you for that. I really do. Because we can't get change unless there's constant pressure.


CLINTON: But now, the next step -- so, you know, part of you need to keep the pressure on, and part of you need to figure out, what do we do now? How are we going to do it?

You know, one of the men who asked me the -- asked me a question today, you know, was talking about how as a young man he was thrown out of his house and ended up in foster care. He was, you know, abused, molested, then turned to drugs and alcohol. Very common story, as you know, right? And then, you know, he has a blackout and ends up that he killed somebody, ends up in prison. And so he's saying, like, "When do I get my life back? I made a mistake, but when do I get my life back?"

So I think there has to be -- in addition to the consciousness race, which you really have done the lion's share of the work in bringing out -- now we've got to figure out, okay, what are we going to do, and how are we going to do it? Because the first speech I gave in this campaign was on mass incarceration. It's a problem I've been worried about, thinking about it. The other day, a friend of mine asked me to come speak at his conference in Columbia, and I said, "You know, we can't -- we've got to change it." How do we change it, and how do we have the opportunities for reintegration that these young people deserve to have?

So we need a whole comprehensive plan -- that I am more than happy to work with you guys on -- to try to figure out, okay, we know black lives matter. We need to keep saying it so that people accept it. What do we do next? What is our step?

QUESTION: I think that the next step, respectfully, and I have attempted to allow you, and I feel like we have allowed space for a nice conversation and it is a pleasure and an honor to be in this dialogue with you but I think that a huge part of what you haven't said is that you have offered a recognition that mass incarceration has not worked, and that it is an unfortunate consequence of government practices that just didn't work. But the truth is that there is an extremely long history of unfortunate government practices that don't work that particularly affect Black people and Black families, and until we as a country, and then the person who's in the seat that you seek, actually addresses the anti-Blackness current that is America's first drug.

We're in a meeting about drugs. America's first drug is free black labor, and turning black bodies into profit and the mass incarceration system mirrors an awful lot like the prison plantation system. It's a similar thread, and until someone takes that message and speaks that truth to White people in this country so that we can actually take on anti-Blackness as a founding problem in this country, I don't believe that there is going to be a solution.

Because what the conversations that are happening now and why there is so much cohesion across the divide, the red side and the blue side, it's because of money, right, we are spending a lot of money on prisons. We're spending more money on prisons than we are on schools, but if we look at it from lens of let's solve this financial problem, and we don't look at the greater bottom line that African-Americans who are Americans are suffering at greater rates than most other people, every other people, for the length of this country then it's not going to go away. It's just going to morph into something new and evolved. You know, I genuinely want to know, you, Hillary Clinton, have been in no uncertain way, partially responsible for this. More than most. There may have been unintended consequences.

But now that you understand the consequences, what in your heart has changed that's going to change the direction of this country? Like what in you -- not your platform, not the things you're supposed to say -- like, how do you actually feel that's different than you did before? Like what were the mistakes, and how can those mistakes that you made be lessons for all of America for a moment of reflection on how we treat black people in this country?

CLINTON STAFFER: I just wanted to say apologies. We have...

QUESTION: I would really love for her to answer this question. We've worked really hard. We've driven so many hours.

CLINTON STAFFER: We have to stop before -- I'm just letting you know, we have a couple more answers left, more people [inaudible]. I'm not interrupting what you're about to say, I'm just doing you a heads up on timing.

CLINTON: Well, it's a very thoughtful question, and here's a thoughtful answer. And I can only tell you that I feel very committed to and responsible for doing whatever I can. I spent most of my adult life focused on kids, from the Children's Defense Fund and then efforts to try to give kids -- particularly poor kids, particularly, you know, black kids and Hispanic kids -- the same chance to live up to their God-given potential. And that's where I've been focused.

And I think that there has to be a reckoning. I agree with that. But I also think there has to be some positive vision and plan that you can move people toward. Once you say, I mean, this country has still not recovered from it's original sin -- which is true -- once you say that, then the next question, by people who are on the sidelines -- which is the vast majority of Americans -- the next question is, "Well, what do you want me to do about it? What am I supposed to do about it?"

That's what I'm trying to put together in a way that I can explain and I can sell it. Because in politics, if you can't explain it and you can't sell it, it stays on its shelf. And this is now a time -- a moment in time, just like the Civil Rights Movement or the women's movement or the gay rights movement or a lot of other movements reached a point in time -- the people behind that consciousness raising and advocacy, they had a plan ready to go. So that when you turn to, you know, the women's movement -- we want to pass this and we want to pass that and we want to do this -- problems are not taken care of, we know that.

Obviously, I know more about the Civil Rights Movement in the old days, because I had a lot of involvement in working with people. So they had a plan -- this piece of legislation, this court case we're going to make, et cetera, et cetera. Same with the gay rights movement. You know, we're sick of homophobia. We're sick of being discriminated against. We want marriage equality. We're starting in the states, and we're going to keep going until we get it at the highest court in the land.

So all I'm saying is, your analysis is totally fair. It's historically fair. It's psychologically fair. It's economically fair. But you're going to have to come together as a movement and say, "Here's what we want done about it." Because you can get lip service from as many white people as you can pack into Yankee Stadium and a million more like it, who are going to say, "Oh, we get it. We get it. We're going to be nicer."

That's not enough -- at least in my book. That's not how I see politics. So the consciousness-raising, the advocacy, the passion, the youth of your movement is so critical. But now all I'm suggesting is -- even for us sinners -- find some common ground on agendas that can make a difference right here and now in people's lives, and that's what I would love to have your thoughts about, because that's what I'm trying to figure out how to do.

So yea, deal with mass incarceration. You know, it's not just an economic issue -- although I grant that some of you will see it like that. But it's more than that and I think there is a sense that, low level offenders [inaudible] treatment, we've got to do something about that. I think that a lot of the issues about housing and about job opportunities -- "Ban The Box" -- a lot of these things, let's get an agenda that addresses as much of the problem as we can. Because then you can be for something, in addition to getting people to have to admit that they're part of a long history in our country of, you know, either, you know, proposing, supporting, condoning discrimination, segregation, etc. Now, what do we do next? And that's, that's what I'm trying to figure out in my campaign, so that's what I'm doing.

QUESTION: The piece that's most important, and I stand here in your space, and I say this as respectfully as I can, but you don't tell black people what we need to know. And we won't tell you all what you need to do.

CLINTON: I'm not telling you -- I'm just telling you to tell me.

QUESTION: What I mean to say is -- this is and has always been a white problem of violence. It's not -- there's not much that we can do to stop the violence against us.

CLINTON: Well if that...

QUESTION: And it's a conversation to push back...

CLINTON: Okay, Okay, I understand what you're saying...

QUESTION: Respectfully, respectfully...

CLINTON: Well, respectfully, if that is your position then I will talk only to white people about how we are going to deal with the very real problems...

QUESTION: That's not what I mean. That's not what I mean. But like what I'm saying is what you just said was a form of victim-blaming. Right you were saying that what the Black Lives Matter movement needs to do to change white hearts...

CLINTON: Look I don't believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You're not going to change every heart. You're not. But at the end of the day, we could do a whole lot to change some hearts and change some systems and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them, to live up to their own God-given potential, to live safely without fear of violence in their own communities, to have a decent school, to have a decent house, to have a decent future. So we can do it one of many ways. You can keep the movement going, which you have started, and through it you may actually change some hearts. But if that's all that happens, we'll be back here in 10 years having the same conversation. We will not have all of the changes that you deserve to see happen in your lifetime because of your willingness to get out there and talk about this.


CLINTON: Well I'm ready to get out and do my part in any way that I can.


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


12 Comments on “Hillary Strikes Right Tone With Black Lives Matter”

  1. [1] 
    Osborne Ink wrote:

    Recreating the Obama coalition is a prerequisite for any kind of progressive change agenda in 2016. BLM is the most successful grassroots movement on any race-related issue since the civil rights era, and it would be nice to see both electoral and policy results come out of this conversation.

  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:

    BLM is as racist an organization as the KKK...

    This has been established as fact..

    What would ya'all say about a candidate who kow-towed to the KKK??

    Yea.. That's what I thought...

    I mean, BLM complains about the level of violence from white people.

    Are they frakin' KIDDING me!!???


  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    But she handled it pretty admirably, I have to say.

    Not according to BLM representatives who stated they were very disappointed with Clinton's answers...

    But who really cares what they think?? They are nothing but a bunch of racist morons...


  4. [4] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    "If a group can't agree on anything other than what slogans to chant"

    The new GOP slogan is "They have to go!". Maybe the GOP could deport BLM with all the Mexicans and realize their fantasy of Real White Amurikkka. Might as well add it to their constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship and they can pay for it with tax cuts. Shhhh. Don't tell the rubes that it's a trick.

  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    BLM is as racist an organization as the KKK...

    But who really cares what they think?? They are nothing but a bunch of racist morons...

    It's annoying when people throw around accusations of racism at the drop of a dime, eh??

    Difference is, when the Left does it, they have no facts to back it up.. Sanford, FL, Ferguson MO, Cincinnati, OH proved that beyond any doubt..

    When I do it, I always have the facts to back it up..


  6. [6] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    On an unrelated note...

    Yvonne Criag has died. She was the green "Orion slave girl" on the original Star Trek series. Oh, and she also played Batgirl on the campy 60s Batman show...

    Requiescat In Pace.

    She will be missed.


  7. [7] 
    Michale wrote:

    Yvonne Criag has died. She was the green "Orion slave girl" on the original Star Trek series.

    Just to clarify... She was the Orion girl Marta, in the TOS episode WHOM GODS DESTROY.. She was a few fries short of a Happy Meal...

    Not to be confused with the Orion persona of the human woman Veena, from the pilot episode of Star Trek, later remastered into TOS's only 2-part episode, THE MENAGERIE.

    Too geek?? :D

    Requiescat In Pace.

    She will be missed


    Mortality creeps upon us all...


  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    Just to clarify... She was the Orion girl Marta, in the TOS episode WHOM GODS DESTROY.. She was a few fries short of a Happy Meal...

    IMNSHO, the best Orion Slave Girls were from STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE

  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    What I mean to say is -- this is and has always been a white problem of violence.

    And then, of course, there are the FACTS..

    Yea... "white people violence" is the problem... :^/

    Could these people POSSIBLY be more moronic??

    It's not -- there's not much that we can do to stop the violence against us.

    Jim Carrey, LIAR LIAR


  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    Another example of the moronic-ness, the hypocrisy and the utter racism of the BLM crowd...

    These morons were in St Louis protesting and looting & burning (I know, I know... That's redundant) because white cops shot a scumbag (who happened to be black). Said scumbag pointed a gun at the cops..

    And the BLM crowd is protesting/looting over THAT!!

    Yet, the night before, little 9 yr old Jamyla Bolden was sitting in her room doing homework and was killed when someone sprayed gunfire into her house...

    Where's the BLM protests over that??

    There are none..

    Because BLM, being a racist hate group, only cares about black lives when they can be used as a political bludgeon to beat white people over the head with...

    The fact that the Left thinks that this BLM is a legitimate group shows how UNENLIGHTENED the Left really is...


  11. [11] 
    dsws wrote:

    I actually thought "Bureau of Land Management" when I saw those initials. This is the post where we're talking about the mine-waste spill, isn't it? Uh, no.

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    I actually thought "Bureau of Land Management" when I saw those initials.


    "Black Lives Matter"...

    Which is as much of a bullshit statement and a lie as "I Can't Breathe" and "Hands Up, Don't Shoot"...

    From a strictly factual point of view, the entire movement is a lie....


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