Hillary Clinton And Donald Trump On Race

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Racism is the American original sin, the foundation of many of our country’s problems. As the #BlackLivesMatter protests have reminded us, we need to confront our implicit racism in order to solve the systemic problems that plague us. Any president of the United States needs to face the racism in our country — the racism against Mexicans, Blacks, Muslims, and American Indians in particular.

As a young lawyer for the Children’s Defense Fund, Hillary Clinton traveled to South Carolina to help stop the incarceration of black teenagers in adult prisons. That’s just the first example of Clinton working for racial justice, which she calls “America’s long struggle” and says it’s “far from finished.” In a commercial for the Democratic nomination narrated by Morgan Freeman, Clinton recites the names of African-Americans shot by the police, touches upon the poisoned water in Flint, Michigan, and says she’ll work for racial justice.

In the inaugural episode of Mary J. Blige’s radio show, The 411 for Beats 1, Clinton became emotional about racial politics in America: “I have been so heartbroken over what’s been going on because it’s fundamentally at odds with, and wrong, that African-American parents have to sit their children down and deliver the message you just sang: ‘Be Careful,’ and yet we still have so many terrible deaths,” she said. “I particularly want white people to understand what that’s like and feel like they must be part of the solution.”

On the second day of Hillary’s Democratic National Convention, she invited nine black mothers who have lost children to police or street violence to speak on her behalf. These included the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and Eric Garner. “This isn’t about political correctness,” the mothers said. “It’s about saving lives. And Clinton is the only candidate willing to so much as call their children’s names.”

During the first presidential debate, Hillary gave “a thoughtful answer on the root problem of systemic racism, the mistrust between police and minority communities, the availability of firearms […] and the problems of implicit bias.” Later, when “asked by Holt if she believes that police are implicitly biased against black people, Clinton made the point that such biases are a problem for everyone not just for the police.”

Hillary has intricate plans for reforming life for African-Americans and promoting racial justice. She wants to “reform our criminal justice system” to among other things stop racial profiling; protect the right to vote by “reforming the Voting Rights Act”; fight for immigration reform; end “the epidemic of gun violence in our communities”; fight for environmental justice (including lead exposure in low-income housing and the asthma epidemic in African-American children) and for better air quality, an issue that disproportionally affects Latinos; close the achievement gap; revitalize the “economy in communities that have been left out and left behind”; and ensure equal treatment for the citizens of Puerto Rico.

While she had issues with race in her 2008 campaign, and Bill Clinton’s crime policies of the 1990s certainly contributed to the incarceration of more young black men — “super predators” as she called them, and later apologized for — Hillary has embraced the black community and their problems as her own.

Trump, on the other hand, has had issues with race from the beginning of his campaign, despite claiming he is “the least racist person you have ever met” and telling People magazine he “didn’t have a racist bone in [his] body.” Despite this, he failed to disavow the endorsement of David Duke, the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, in February.

He also claimed a judge was “Mexican” and therefore biased when he was hearing a class action lawsuit against Trump University. The judge, Gonzalo Curiel, was born in Indiana and is known for going after drug cartels. The federal judge was biased against him because Trump said he wants to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. Trump said that Curiel is “of Mexican heritage” and “very proud of it.” House Speaker Paul Ryan, not known for his racial progressivism, said, “Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment,” in reaction to Trump’s statements. Trump also said a Muslim judge might not be fair to him because of his “proposed restrictions on Muslim immigration.”

Speaking of Muslims, Gold Star parent Khizr Khan, the father of the late Army Captain Humayun Khan, spoke out against Trump’s bigoted rhetoric and disregard for civil liberties at the Democratic National Convention on July 28.” His wife Ghazala stood next to him in a hijab but did not speak “because of grief over her son […]. In response to the devastating speech, Trump seized on Ghazala Khan’s silence to insinuate that she was forbidden from speaking due to the couple’s Islamic faith. ‘If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me,’ Trump said.”

The Justice Department twice sued his company for refusing to rent to black people. Managers were to put a “C” for “Colored” on the application, then refuse it. He would remove African-American dealers “at the request of a certain big spending gambler”; Kip Brown, who used to work for Trump’s Castle stripping and waxing floors, said that, “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor,” he said. “It was the eighties, I was a teenager, but I remember it: They put us all in the back.”

He was known to call his black employees “lazy” according to a 1991 book by John O’Donnell. “I think the guy is lazy,” Trump said of a black employee, according to O’Donnell. “And it’s probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.”

This racism hasn’t ended. Trump called it a “disgrace” that Bernie Sanders allowed #BlackLivesMatter protestors to shut down his rally. He said it was “disgusting” and showed “such weakness.” “That will never happen with me,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll do the fighting or if other people will.”

During the debate, he called himself the “law and order” candidate and condemned the protests going on in Charlotte, refusing to acknowledge the killing of a black man. He called for an expansion of the unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policy. And he refused to acknowledge that he began the controversy over President Obama’s birth certificate and hence American citizenship.

Trump has said he’s not sure whether he would have authorized internment camps because he wasn’t “there at the time.”

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