Clinton Makes Same Old Promises to Blacks, Then Says, 'You Can't Just Show Up at Election Time and Say the Right Things'

By Susan Jones | February 17, 2016 | 10:05am EST
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, in Harlem, New York. (AP Photo/Bryan R. Smith)

( - Repeating the same promises and platitudes that African-Americans have heard for years from the Democrats who claim to represent them, Hillary Clinton on Tuesday went a step further: She mentioned her (white) "privilege"; and she said Democrats need to hold candidates accountable, "not just every two or four years...but every single day."

After discussing all the "barriers" holding African Americans back and explaining how she would remove those barriers with more "investment," Clinton told a gathering in Harlem, "I want to add something else."

"We Democrats have a special obligation," she continued. "If we're serious about our commitment to the poor and those who need some help, including African Americans -- if we continue to ask black people to vote for us, we cannot minimize the realities of the lives they lead or take their concerns for granted.

"You know, you can't just show up at election time and say the right things and think that's enough. We can't start building relationships a few months before a vote.

"We have to demonstrate a sustained commitment to building opportunity, creating prosperity and righting wrongs, not just every two or four years, not just when the cameras are on and when people are watching, but every single day."

Of all she said, those remarks drew the loudest and most sustained applause.

The bulk of Clinton's speech dealt with her plan to remove "all the barriers holding you back" and replacing those barriers with "ladders of opportunity," a phrase used repeatedly by President Obama and members of his administration.

To address "generations of underinvestment and neglect" in African American communities, Clinton said she will raise taxes on "every millionaire and billionaire in America." She would use the money to make "direct, strategic investments in communities that have been left behind."

She made all the old, familiar promises: expanding pre-school; dismantling the "school-to-prison pipeline"; ending "excessive incarceration"; addressing re-segregation in the nation's schools; making college affordable; ending "gun violence"; ending the "epidemic of African Americans being killed by police or dying in custody"; banning the box on federal job applications; ending income disparities; and creating jobs in America's inner cities.


Clinton asked all Americans to join in the effort to solve what she called "an American problem."

"Ending systemic racism requires contributions from all of us, especially those of us who haven't experienced it ourselves," Clinton said. "White Americans need to do a better job of listening when African Americans talk about the seen and unseen barriers that you face every day.

"We need to recognnize our privilege and practice humility rather than assume that our experiences are everyone's experiences."

She urged everyone to "try as best they can to walk in one another's shoes."

"Imagine what it would be like to sit our son or daughter down and have 'the talk' (about police); or if people followed us around stores; or locked their car doors when we walked past.

"That kind of empathy is critical. It's what makes it possible for people from every background, every race, every religion to come togeteher in this great city and to come together as one nation. It's what makes a country like America endure."

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