By Margarette Lesema
On Friday, Democratic President front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton shouted over black protesters as she made promises that she will address issues on systemic racism and that she will follow the footsteps of President Barack Obama, and go even further.
Her campaign’s theme centers on the country’s lingering racism and she outlined plans for reforms in criminal justice, the same pitch that her rivals— former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders— use to woo black voters.
The audience at Clark Atlanta University included Black Lives Matter Movement protesters who chanted and sang while Clinton attempted to speak. Civil Rights Movement hero, Rep. John Lewis, and even the singer Usher tried to make them stop but they persisted until a crowd of over 2,000 students, comprised mostly of blacks chanted “Let her talk!”
Addressing the protesters, Clinton apologized to them adding that she intends to offer and fight for what they demand and that “We have to come together as a nation”.
Later that day, the Former State Secretary had further issues in North Charleston, South California as she had a warm reception at a NAACP banquet. She proceeded to the historic black congregation, Emanuel African American Episcopal Church, where a ceremony for the families of the “The Emanuel 9” took place. Last June, a white shooter killed a pastor together with 8 others during a Bible study. She remarked on the “grace and resilience” of the victims’ families, emphasizing her support for tighter gun laws while alluding to the shooting. The former senator called for immediate action on the gun violence plaguing the country.
Clinton’s closest contender for the African-American vote is Sanders, and a southern Swing would give her a solid advantage. Over half of the primary electorate that holds March primaries in South Carolina and other Southern states are made of black voters.
The issue of criminal justice is among the pleas of traditional organizations involved in civil rights such as the NAACP and Black Lives Matter. But the latter’s movement leaders are disinterested in endorsing any candidate.
Clinton mentioned eliminating disparities in sentencing crack cocaine crimes which usually concern minorities and powder cocaine that are more likely to involve whites. These changes will be made on an Act of Congress in 2010 and Clinton plans to make this retroactive.
She also made a proposal forbidding local, state and federal officers from racial profiling in both routine and spontaneous investigatory activities unless there’s information linking a suspect to a crime. No specific details were mentioned as to how this goes beyond present laws, but Clinton cited congressional proposals allowing alleged profiling victims to recover damages from the government’s civil court agencies easily.
Clinton, who believes in second chances, also embraces the movement known as “ban the box” prohibiting contractors and the federal government from making criminal history inquiries on initial job applications. Studies show that former felons have greater employment chances if their qualifications are mentioned before their criminal record.
In Atlanta, Clinton flaunted former presidential candidate and civil right leader Rev. Jesse Jackson’s meaningful support after he introduced her during the campaign. She plans to win the young population, the females and the minorities who stood behind Barack Obama’s two term election win.