On the heels of President Obama’s gun-control advocacy before the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in San Francisco, Hillary Clinton told the leaders today that the racism behind the mass murder in South Carolina isn’t isolated but systemic.
“Just as earlier generations threw off the chains of slavery and then segregation and Jim Crow, this generation will not be shackled by fear and hate,” the Democratic presidential hopeful said, adding that upon hearing the news of Wednesday’s massacre of nine people in Charleston by a white supremacist “I was so overcome, how to turn grief, confusion into purpose and action. But that’s what we have to do.”
“For me and many others, one immediate response was to ask how it could be possible that we as a nation still allow guns to fall into the hands of people whose hearts are filled with hate,” she said.
Having been first lady of Arkansas before being first lady of the United States, she said, “I know that gun ownership is part of the fabric of a lot of law-abiding communities.”
“What I hope with all of my heart is that we work together to make this debate less polarized, less inflamed by ideology, more informed by evidence, so we can sit down across the table, across the aisle from one another, and find ways to keep our communities safe while protecting constitutional rights.”
Agreeing with Obama about the need to renew gun-control efforts, Clinton said, “I stand before you because I know and you know there is a deeper challenge we face.”
“Once again, racist rhetoric has metastasized into racist violence. Now, it’s tempting, it is tempting to dismiss a tragedy like this as an isolated incident, to believe that in today’s America, bigotry is largely behind us, that institutionalized racism no longer exists. But despite our best efforts and our highest hopes, America’s long struggle with race is far from finished,” she said.
“I know this is a difficult topic to talk about. I know that so many of us hoped by electing our first black president, we had turned the page on this chapter in our history. I know there are truths we don’t like to say out loud or discuss with our children. But we have to. That’s the only way we can possibly move forward together. Race remains a deep fault line in America. Millions of people of color still experience racism in their everyday lives.”
Clinton highlighted the gap in median wealth between black and white families, higher death rates from asthma among black children, and blacks serving longer prison sentences for the same crimes as whites.
“Our problem is not all kooks and Klansmen. It’s also in the cruel joke that goes unchallenged. It’s in the off-hand comments about not wanting ‘those people’ in the neighborhood,” she continued. “Let’s be honest: For a lot of well-meaning, open-minded white people, the sight of a young black man in a hoodie still evokes a twinge of fear. And news reports about poverty and crime and discrimination evoke sympathy, even empathy, but too rarely do they spur us to action or prompt us to question our own assumptions and privilege.”
Clinton evoked the goal of “what I once called ‘a village,’ where there is a place for everyone.”
“I know it’s not usual for somebody running for president to say what we need more of in this country is love and kindness. But that’s exactly what we need more of. We need to be not only too busy to hate but too caring, too loving to ignore, to walk away, to give up.”