While slumming in Harlem yesterday, Hillary Clinton put on one hell of a performance pandering to Black activist, community leaders and the usual lineup of local politicos.
Speaking passionately when acknowledging the lingering reality of “systematic racism” in America, Clinton hit every hot button issue on Reverend Al Sharpton’s wish list. Offering a comprehensive plan to combat racial inequality that goes beyond reforming the criminal justice system, Hillary Clinton started promising everything under the sun, short of free buckets of KFC.
Central to the Clinton plan is a $2 billion dollar proposal to reform school discipline policies, that she says disadvantages Black kids. She went on to criticize those policies, as they better prepare Black children for prison than college. She also proposed a multi-pronged approach to combatting nagging issues affecting Black communities nationwide.
By including new job investments, equal pay for women of color and ending that school to prison pipeline stuff, Clinton hopes that’ll ease Black people’s pain. And these proposals follow an announcement Clinton made last week, of a $125 billion plan to invest in under-served communities. Now that should give Black voters something to look forward to. And who can argue with that? You Go Girl!
Now let’s get real. While this kind of last minute, old school, chicken in every pot politicking may still sway some, astute observers realized long ago, Blacks were never more than a necessary nuisance to the Clintons. If Hillary Clinton was even remotely deserving of her Civil Rights street cred, she wouldn’t need to make a campaign stop in Harlem to discuss issues destroying Black lives. After being a resident and Senator of New York state, one would expect Hilary Clinton to know Black issues intimately. And with Bill Clinton’s birds eye view from his office in Harlem’s Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State building on 125th Street, they had to have witnessed those issues up close and personal.
When Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Bully Boyz, aka the NYPD was stopping and frisking Black and Latino men in record numbers, while their communities screamed bloody murder, the Clinton voices were nowhere to be heard. When policies like Zero Tolerance and Broken Windows were championed by police commissioners Raymond Kelly and Bill Bratton to target Black and Latino communities more forcefully, Hillary was nowhere near the front lines fighting for change.
When high school graduation rates for Black boys in New York City fell below 28%, Hillary Clinton said little, if anything, that actually made a difference. When the Black Lives Matter movement exploded as a result of unarmed Black men being routinely shot dead by trigger happy cops, if you heard anything at all from the Clintons, it was rarely more than the customary and obligatory statements of, “Our hearts go out to the families, but we should all keep calm until the investigation is complete.”
Bottom line: When Bill and Hillary Clinton came to New York, they were instant celebrities. They were loved, respected and trusted by the Black community. Black people were proud the Clintons came to Harlem and in some sad and pathetic way, they felt the Clintons validated them. But in the final analysis, that love, respect and trust was betrayed at a time when Black and Latino New Yorkers need them most. The Clintons could have said more and done more. So, no matter how the campaign spins her history, we’re letting it be known, Hillary Clinton ain’t no Eleanor Roosevelt.