Hillary Clinton, complete this phrase: “______ Lives Matter”
I was right there with everyone else. Tuned to the Democratic National Convention, as Chelsea Clinton grinned wide and finally introduced Post-Presumptive Nominee and her mother, Hillary Clinton.
I was right there, a freshly undecided voter now that my candidate was knocked out, ready to be wooed by Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee’s choice to run against Donald Trump in what’s been billed as one of the scariest elections we’ve ever seen. That guy could end up being Hitler, don’t you know?
I was right there, ready to be inspired, ready to jump on board with this self-proclaimed progressive candidate who had taken so many ideas and platform positions from Bernie, before finally taking his delegates. And I listened, waiting for the moment I’d think “Okay, she’s someone I can vote for.”
Then she talked about Dallas. (speech transcript by LA Times here)
Remember: Our founders fought a revolution and wrote a Constitution so America would never be a nation where one person had all the power. Two hundred and forty years later, we still put our faith in each other.
Look at what happened in Dallas. After the assassinations of five brave police officers. Police Chief David Brown asked the community to support his force, maybe even join them. And you know how the community responded? Nearly 500 people applied in just 12 days. That’s how Americans answer when the call for help goes out.
Hearing this, I tweeted:
Here’s that ughhhh in video form, with subtitles:
Wait, what? Why does Chief David Brown get a name drop? Why not Philando Castile? Why not Alton Sterling? Watching this speech, you’d think cops weren’t shooting unarmed black people every 28 hours (or more than that), that we must be living in a formerly peaceful country that was now raging against police for whatever reason. Also, I’m not sure Hillary knows one of the police officers was probably a white supremacist or she might have said four brave police. Or at least I like to think she might.
The line about how 500 people applied to be police officers because of Dallas was “that’s how Americans answer when the call for help goes out” is also pretty telling. Note that it’s the call for help from police officers. Not the call for help from black people being targeted by police officers. There is a huge difference. There’s also a difference between the time from tragedy to speech here — Dallas had only happened weeks before this. Mike Brown was executed in the middle of the street in broad daylight on August 9 of 2014. Ezell Ford was executed August 11, 2014. Tamir Rice was executed on a playground in November of 2014. And on and on, almost 3 a day— the call for help has been going out for years now, but the one framed in Hillary’s speech is the call for help from police. That alone is enough to convince me she’s pandering to police and police unions here, and would be more likely to expand the role of law enforcement than shrink it if/when elected president. If we go that way as a nation it’ll be the wrong way — hiring more police is not the solution to this problem, assuming we’re looking at the same problem.
Does Hillary actually think police brutality is a problem? Let’s see what she says 45 minutes later (about the time I started getting restless for lack of tangible connections to reality) when she brings up the police again:
The only reference to police brutality is a sentence about black and Latino men being “made to feel like their lives are disposable” stuffed into a paragraph whose penultimate sentence asks us to imagine ourselves in a cop’s shoes. Not the phrase “police brutality” and nothing addressing the actual murder of innocent people by police — just the acknowledgement that people are made to feel a way.
How invalidating is that? How dismissive of reality?
You heard, you saw, family members of people killed by gun violence on this stage. You heard, you saw, family members of police officers killed in the line of duty because they were outgunned by criminals. I refuse to believe we can’t find common ground here.
We have to heal the divides in our country. Not just on guns. But on race. Immigration. And more. And that starts with listening, listening to each other. Trying, as best we can, to walk in each other’s shoes.
So let’s put ourselves in the shoes of young black and Latino men and women who face the effects of systemic racism, and are made to feel like their lives are disposable.
Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of police officers, kissing their kids and spouses goodbye every day and heading off to do a dangerous and necessary job. We will reform our criminal justice system from end-to-end, and rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
To the first point, police brutality is not a “feeling” people have — it’s literally happening. Unarmed people are being shot to death by police on a daily basis because their skin color is criminalized instead of normalized under white supremacy. White people get shot too, but when you adjust for population, there’s a real disproportionate response toward black and brown people. It’s really not a hard concept to understand, and once understood, choosing to phrase it in this way appears intentional.
Police brutality is not a feeling. It’s an objective reality.
To Hillary’s second point here, I haven’t chosen to be a police officer, so I won’t try to imagine how hard that can be. Instead, I’ll spend my empathy points on the people who can’t change the skin color that makes them a target for systemic murder.
This speech, to me, as someone who cares about ending police brutality more than I care about many other issues, was an example of a politician pandering to police and police unions over the loudly stated needs of citizens (namely, the right to not to be murdered without due process).
And it isn’t only this speech. Hillary Clinton did a speech at the NAACP convention in Cincinnati, Ohio on July 18 and had some more gems, including this one about Baton Rouge, Louisiana:
Watching the news from Baton Rouge yesterday, my heart broke. Not just for those officers and their grieving families, but for all of us.
Another prioritization of a shooting of police over the horror and outrage caused by a shooting by police, which was the reason my heart broke over Baton Rouge this July. I watched two men sworn to serve and protect hold Alton Sterling down and execute him in front of a convenience store. That was the tragedy. Police misconduct, the lack of police accountability, that’s the tragedy we’re desperate to have addressed by our politicians, by our system. Not random and statistically insignificant attacks on police.
So when Hillary focused on this portion of her NAACP speech on the three police who were killed on July 17th in Baton Rouge, a day before she stood in front of that crowd in Cincinnati, instead of what was done to Alton Sterling and his family, I have to believe she’s mentioning it for a reason. I have to believe she’s pandering to police and police unions. Why else would she say some of these things?
She even brings up the Dallas talking point again, coupled with how we were “cruelly reminded” of how far we have to go. We’re cruelly reminded every day how far we have to go, when we hear about the next innocent person who was murdered by police. Why not go with that talking point? Because the things she’s saying are meant to appease police and police unions, not black people.
This is a speech at the NAACP conference, and it’s really not easy to watch if you have been paying even close to a shadow of attention to the news in the past two years. She could be talking about hope for the community, or how she’s going to fix some of the things that are wrong with the system if there is systemic racism, but instead we get this:
“ Killing police officers is a terrible crime. That’s why our laws treat the murderers of police so seriously, because they represent the rule of law itself. If you take aim at that and at them, you take aim at all of us. Anyone who kills a police officer and anyone who helps must be held accountable.
And as president, I will bring the full weight of the law to bear and making sure those who kill police officers are brought to justice. There can be no justification, no looking the other way.”
Why? Why does this have to be in her speech? I can’t read this as anything other than a threat to a grieving community. Who gains from a statement like this? (Hint: police and police unions.)
The speech is actually quite hard to watch if you want to be proud of yourself for voting for Hillary, but I encourage everyone to at least watch some of it. It’s not hard to decode her body language or her actual language.
Based on these speeches, and on her role in helping to implement the war on drugs and mass incarceration which she doesn’t take enough credit for here, it’s my view that Hillary Clinton fails as a Black Lives Matter candidate.
A Black Lives Matter candidate would have explicitly said the words “Black Lives Matter” in her speech. A Black Lives Matter candidate would have admitted that police brutality exists. Not just some weak nod to systemic racism. A Black Lives Matter candidate would have specific policies ready to go in order to combat what we see going on — something like Campaign Zero. Not a vague statement “reforming the criminal justice system from end-to-end” which could mean a lot of different things, like hiring more police.
Once elected, I expect Hillary to give police either more power or to do nothing to address police brutality. I expect her to keep using Dallas and Baton Rouge and other shootings of police instead of shootings by police as talking points in her future addresses, even though police brutality is a markedly worse problem.
Not only is an outcome like that not good enough, it’s unacceptable. It’s something I can’t vote for.
Sorry, Hillary. I’ve voted for my last Blue Lives Matter candidate.