“You are defending the people who kill the lives you say matter!” -Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton basically echoed the false logic used to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement during his well-publicized dust-up with a young lady from Philly Coalition for REAL Justice on Thursday, April 7 in Philadelphia over presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s choice of words in defense of his anti-crime policies that have disproportionately affected Black Americans. At the time, Hillary Clinton chose to invoke the image of “super predator” juvenile offenders in her effort to garner support for the 1994 crime bill that even Bill Clinton acknowledges called for unjustifiably longer prison sentences for minor offenses. The legislation has been cited for increased incarceration rates for Black and Latino people, as well as the excessively aggressive policing that has become common in some communities of color.
Speaking to a crowd of several hundred at Penn State Behrend in Erie, Pennsylvania, Bill Clinton recalled the incident in Philadelphia with just a hint of regret: “I did something yesterday in Philadelphia I almost want to apologize for … I realized, finally, I was talking past her the way she was talking past me. We gotta stop that in this country. We gotta listen to each other again.” Perhaps Clinton realizes he was treading on the wrong side of a thin line, the same line he crossed eight years earlier in South Carolina when he referred to then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy as a joke.
Let’s travel back in time to the early 1990s. The Reagan administration had flooded the streets with crack cocaine and declared war on
poor people drugs that still rages on, record companies were filling the airwaves with gangsta rap instead of conscious or positive hip-hop, theaters were churning out inner-city crime dramas right and left, and lobbyists for private prisons were earning their fortunes. No one disagreed with the young New Yorker in New Jack City who said of Nino Brown “I hope they kill his blackhearted a–!” and very few people at the time, including Bernie Sanders, opposed the bill.
Instead of trying to discredit a movement, Bill and Hillary Clinton should explain the intent of the bill, own up to the failure to effectively implement the positive aspects of it, and focus on what will be done to repair the damage.