Clinton's vow to tackle 'systemic racism' is a sick joke

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. © Shannon Stapleton
As the campaign for the Democratic nomination for the White House heats up, former US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is engaged in a shameless attempt to reinvent herself as a champion of racial justice and the country’s poor.

Her latest demarche came with the speech she delivered at the annual convention of the National Action Network in New York recently, in advance of the latest primary election for the Democratic Party nomination. Clinton is up against Vermont senator and Democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders, who with his focus on the role of Wall Street and the power of the corporations in the nation’s crippling inequality has been pushing the former US secretary of state all the way.

In her address to the convention of black activists and justice campaigners of the National Action Network, led by Reverend Al Sharpton, Clinton railed against the “systemic racism” that exists within the United States, pledging to introduce legislation to reform the police and the country’s criminal justice system, two areas she identified as a problem in this respect.

However, as others have pointed out, Hillary Clinton, along with her husband and former president, Bill Clinton, played a key role in entrenching the very systemic racism that she describes. Her by now infamous “super predators” speech while First Lady in 1996, a choice of words for which she is now apologizing in a belated and convenient acknowledgement of their racist undertone, came two years after her husband signed into law the crime bill that led directly to the mass incarceration of mainly young black men from low income communities. In particular the bill’s notorious ‘three strikes’ provision, which mandated automatic harsh sentences, in many cases life, for those convicted of a criminal offense for the third time – even if the previous two convictions were for non violent crimes, such as the possession of drugs – has ensured that the US now imprisons almost a quarter of the entire world’s total prison population.

It was a crime bill that took no account of the personal circumstances of offenders – their backgrounds or the economic and social factors that may have contributed to their convictions – and with black Americans occupying the bottom rung of the demographic ladder on every social indicator, the inevitable result was a US prison state, at both state and federal level, being turned into the modern incarnation of the plantation for young black males. Those social factors were made worse by the vicious welfare reform bill that Clinton signed into law two years after his crime bill, cutting welfare for families and single mothers, which had a disproportionate impact on black communities.

Amnesty International has put the issue into context: “1 in 3 black men in the United States will go to prison or jail if current trends continue. An average of five million people is under state or federal supervision in the form of probation or parole.”

Amnesty also reveals: “The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors states’ compliance with their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has expressed ongoing concern about racial disparities at different stages in the US criminal justice system, including sentencing disparities and the overrepresentation of individuals belonging to racial and ethnic minorities in prisons and jails. These issues point to the failure of the United States’ to respect, protect and fulfill its obligations in regard to the rights to be free from discrimination, to liberty and security of the person, to be equal before the law and to equal protection of the law.”

And lest anyone be in any doubt as to Hillary Clinton’s support for her husband’s 1994 crime bill, she campaigned for it as First Lady, saying back then: “We will finally be able to say, loudly and clearly, that three strikes and you're out. We are tired of putting you back in through the revolving door."

Now, in 2016, here she is, reaching out for the all-important black vote in this her second bid for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Given the enormity of this issue, however, the role of the mass incarceration of young black men in destroying so many lives, families, and communities, there is no apology that could possibly come close to compensating those affected.

One of Hillary Clinton’s most vociferous critics is the black academic and human rights activist, Cornel West. “People know the symbolic language of Hillary Clinton,” he said in an interview in February. “But on the ground she is calling black youth super predators in the 1990’s. That is the most meaning degrading language to our precious young folk who sometimes do the wrong thing. We know they have gangsters on Wall Street. How many Wall Street executives go to jail? She is their hero. She is too tied to Wall Street with all that big Wall Street money flowing her way brother.”

Cornel West has also had a few choice words to say about the Reverend Al Sharpton in recent times, referring to the black community leader as, “Obama’s bonafide House Negro,” back in 2013.

In claiming the mantle of champion of racial justice while being a leading force in the introduction of mass incarceration, in presenting herself as a champion of the poor and marginalized while being a major recipient of corporate campaign funds and a champion of Wall Street, Hillary Clinton is engaged in one of the most cynical political campaigns ever waged. And this is without addressing her record on foreign policy.

One group of black voters the former secretary of state has definitely failed to win over are those involved in grassroots campaign group Black Lives Matter, which emerged in response to the increasing regularity of police killings and violence towards black people. During a recent Clinton campaign event, activists from the group staged an intervention. One of them shouted, “She’s killing us!”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.