How Black Lives Matter activists are influencing 2016 race

19 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Clinton to Black Lives Matter activists: Go beyond ‘changing hearts’.

Over the weekend, Black Lives Matter activists were able to navigate through a phalanx of Secret Service officers to have a backstage, one-on-one conversation with Hillary Clinton about the pertinent issues of the movement. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate,” Clinton told members of the group after a town hall meeting in New Hampshire last week. In the first video, Julius Jones of BLM implores Clinton to explain how she has evolved on issues of race since the 1990s when she supported policies that have led to the mass incarceration of African Americans. “How do you actually feel that is different than before?” he asked. “And what were those mistakes, and how can those mistakes that you’ve made be lessons for all Americans for a moment of reflection on how we treat black people in this country?” A Clinton staffer then politely interjected that they were already running short on time, and that throngs of other groups were also waiting to speak with the candidate.

But, at the end of the day, we can do a whole lot to change some hearts and change some systems and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them.” Mrs. Clinton’s stuck to the standard political, unemotional answers that referenced her commitment to civil rights issues and to the concerns of the needy and children. The videos show the activists questioning Clinton about her role — as first lady, senator and secretary of state — in the war on drugs and policies which they say led to mass incarceration.

Next she briefly, and uncomfortably, touched upon America’s “original sin” without ever saying slavery, racial oppression, or the near destruction of Native American civilization. But if that’s all that happens we’ll be back here in 10 years having the same conversation because we will not have all the changes that you deserve to see happen in your lifetime,” she said. This past weekend, Bernie Sanders was in Iowa trying to repair relations with the African-American protest groups who recently interrupted his campaign appearances with accusations that he wasn’t working to address their concerns about institutional racism.

She called the February 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin a “knee-jerk reaction.” Clinton said many people are living with fear and insecurity, but laws that allow property owners to use deadly force against attackers who pose an imminent threat often have negative consequences. More than 30 states have adopted or strengthened stand-your-ground laws since Florida expanded its law in 2005 to allow deadly force outside the home. She eventually twisted the question into a request for the BLM movement to become more organized, so that it can champion a specific issue, which she can get behind, much like previous civil rights movements. As I highlighted in a previous piece, the need to organize is already a known cause for concern within this movement, so having a presidential candidate respond to a question about her perspectives on race by highlighting the known flaws of your movement was always going to be troublesome. Yet the most enlightening aspect of this exchange is how Clinton occupies the position of someone more focused on brokering deals and selling plans than someone capable of creating a solution or in touch with the lives of black Americans.

President Obama is a black president who innately understands the reality and issues facing the black community, and this is the standard that African Americans now expect from Democratic presidential candidates. Prior to the election of Barack Obama, the best a black movement could do was internally express grievances, create a unifying body, and express these concerns to a white audience and hope that they gained support. Of course, we cannot determine the race of presidential hopefuls, but we can vet them to see if they understand the realities of black life in America. Discussing issues involving race along economic and income inequality lines is no longer adequate, even if these proposed policies would improve black lives. Sanders learned this the hard way, and in response he has presented a platform on racial justice and appointed an African-American woman as his campaign’s national press secretary.

Candidates can no longer dismiss “Black Lives Matter” and proclaim “All Lives Matter” because this overlooks America’s original sins and professes a false narrative of racial equality in America. Bill Clinton was once lauded as America’s first black president because African Americans felt that he related to us, and that we would receive a seat at his table.

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