In One Quote, Hillary Clinton Just Outpaced All of Her Opponents on #BlackLivesMatter
Ever since they announced their candidacies, the 2016 presidential hopefuls have been either wildly off-base or deafeningly silent on issues pertaining to #BlackLivesMatter.
Hillary Clinton changed that on Monday. In a Q&A conducted via her Facebook page, Clinton responded to a question from Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery about what she, as president, would do to "begin to dismantle structural racism in the United States."
Here's how she answered:
"Black lives matter. Everyone in this country should stand firmly behind that. We need to acknowledge some hard truths about race and justice in this country, and one of those hard truths is that that racial inequality is not merely a symptom of economic inequality. Black people across America still experience racism every day. Since this campaign started, I've been talking about the work we must do to address the systemic inequities that persist in education, in economic opportunity, in our justice system. But we have to do more than talk - we have to take action. For example - we should make sure every police department in the US has body cameras. We should provide alternatives to incarceration for low-level offenders. We should invest in early childhood education for every child. We should fight for voting rights and universal voter registration. You will continue to hear me talking about these issues throughout this campaign and pushing for real solutions. -H"
Clinton's response demonstrates at least a basic understanding of the role structural racism plays in daily American life, despite her previous gaffes on the issue. She acknowledges that access to quality education, economic opportunity, voting resources and an equitable criminal justice system all have a distinctly racial tinge, with black people disproportionately affected. And she implies that she's committed to concrete, if far from encompassing, solutions: measurable goals to which her administration can be held long-term, if elected.
She also suggests these are issues we can expect her to address "throughout this campaign," which is encouraging for those hoping racial inequality will be a centerpiece of this election.
The question was designed partly as a follow-up to the events of this past weekend. Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley both attended the Netroots Nation organizing conference in Phoenix, Arizona, where protesters disrupted their onstage Q&A with calls to "say her name" — a nod to Sandra Bland, whom authorities say was found dead by suicide in a Texas jail cell on July 13, even as advocates and family members suggest she died by foul play.
For context, Clinton had the benefit of providing her answer through a written post instead of an impromptu, in-person confrontation. Meanwhile, Sanders threatened to walk offstage in response to the interruption. O'Malley responded with the tepid and widely criticized concession "All lives matter." Both have faced backlash on social media as a result, even as they've tried to make up ground for these missteps.
This came at a time when anti-black violence at the hands of both police and private citizens alike has prompted protests and political action from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore to Texas and back.
Clinton's answer seems thus far to be the only unequivocal endorsement of the phrase "black lives matter" in the Democratic field, now free of the implicit dismissal of "all lives matter," and Sanders' suspiciously "I have plenty of black friends"-reminiscent retort, "I've spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights."
Whether she follows through on this commitment is yet to be seen. But one thing is clear: The #BlackLivesMatter movement officially has the ear of the presidential candidates field.