Clinton Says Failure to Expand Medicaid Is Racist

Susan Jones | February 24, 2016 | 5:43am EST
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Democrat Hillary Clinton speaks at Texas Southern University in Houston on Feb. 20, 2016. (AP File Photo)

( - "I believe strongly that we have to deal with systemic racism, and systemic racism is found in our criminal justice system, it's found in housing, in job opportunities, in eduation," Hillary Clinton told a Democrat town hall in South Carolina Tuesday night.

"It's also cultural," she said. "And so there are barriers that people are encountering that I think we need to be honest about."

Clinton said one of those barriers is the refusal of some states to expand Medicaid: "In this state, your (Republican) governor, legislature wouldn't extend Medicaid, and so people can't get the health care that they deserve to have."

The exchange on race began when a black woman stood up and told Clinton, "Recently I started wearing my hair natural...and I've noticed a difference in the way some people address and look at me." She asked Clinton, "What do you intend to do to  help fix the broken racial relations in our nation?"

"Well, Kyla, first of all, thank you for being so candid and brave to stand up and say this about yourself, because I think it really helps to shine a spotlight on what are one of the many barriers that still stand in the way of people feeling like they can pursue their own dreams, they can be who they are, they can have the future that they want in our country," Clinton said.

Clinton talked about meeting with five "mothers of the movement" (black lives matter), "who have lost children to police actions and to random senseless gun violence."

"These are the bravest women," Clinton said. "And there's no doubt that in each case...there is a racial component to it.

"A young black teenager, 17 years old playing the music in his car too loud with a bunch of his friends, and white guy comes up and tells him to turn the music down. They exchange words, the man pulls out his gun and kills him.

"So, we have serious challenges, and I think it's important for people -- and particularly for white people, to be honest about those, and to recognize that our experiences may not equip us to understand what a lot of our African American fellow citizens go through every single day.

"So, for me, when I talk about breaking down all the barriers that stand in the way of people's ambitions and dreams, racism, along with economic issues, educational issues, and all the rest, have to be addressed. Otherwise, we are never going to be the nation we should be. We're never going to overcome our legacy -- dating back to slavery, segregation, Jim Crow.

"It is still, unfortunately, alive and well, and you've got places in this state where an African American baby has a higher rate of dying than you have in a lot of other places. The infant mortality rate can be compared to some third world poor countries, you know?

In this state, your governor, legislature wouldn't extend Medicaid, and so people can't get the health care that they deserve to have.

"So, I think there are a lot of barriers that we have to be honest about, and I think honesty and willingness to listen to each other, actually respect each other, would go a long way toward us rolling up our sleeves and dealing with a lot of these issues. And giving you the feeling that you have a right to wear your hair anyway you want to. That's your right.

"As somebody who has had, you know, a lot of different hairstyles...I say that from some personal experience."

Clinton said the "answer" is to "figure out how we're going to lift up the good practices, reform policing, provide more support so that force is a last resort, not a first choice, and that means helping to train police so that when they go out on the street -- I'm sure they're nervous and scared too."

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