Dear Black People, Is Hillary Clinton The President For Us?
As the Democratic primaries continue moving into states like Nevada and South Carolina, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaign in an effort to gain the black vote. As they champion incentives like prison reform, lobby for social injustice and agree over free tuition programs for college students, on the minds of many black Americans is one question: who is deserving of the ballot?
Michelle Alexander, legal scholar, advocate and author, took to The Nation to discuss why black people remain loyal to the Clinton administration after it sanctioned an unprecedented amount of damage to the black community.
During Bill Clinton’s Democratic campaign for presidency, he vowed to surpass every Republican’s commitment to toughen up on crime. Following his election, he harshened Richard Nixon’s War or Drugs, a law that led to severe criminalization of non-violent drug offenders and funded money towards harsher law sentencing rather than rehabilitation.
Both Hillary and Bill escalated the War on Drugs, which created more federal and state prison inmates than any other president in our country’s history.
The legislative passing of the 1994 Violent Crime Control enacted laws like the 100-to-1 sentencing, where punishing those in possession of five grams of crack cocaine suddenly matched those in possession of 500 grams of powdered cocaine. As a result, a racial disparity was created among incarcerated drug users based on their drug choice.
Bill’s presidency was a contributing factor to today’s mass incarceration epidemic. An article from The New York Times reported that currently one in six black men under the age of 25 are more likely to be imprisoned than not.
In his 1996 State of the Union Address, Clinton swore to crack down on crime, slash welfare, and end big government — all racial code language. In the same year, he and Hillary both cut welfare reform programs like the Aid to Families with Disabilities Act. Alexander reports, “Public welfare funding was cut by 54 billion dollars.” Less than a decade later, extreme poverty in the United States doubled to 1.5 million. According to Alexander, the money gained from cutting programs was used to fund mass incarceration.
“Taking a hard look at this recent past,” writes Alexander, “is about more than just a choice between two candidates. It’s about whether the Democratic Party can reckon with what its policies have done to African-American communities and whether it can redeem itself and rightly earn back the loyalty of black voters.”
The black vote is a key element in choosing a contender for candidacy. During the 2012 re-election, President Obama garnered 93 percent of the black vote. This landslide in comparison to past Democratic victories says that to win an election, the minority vote is incredibly effective in regards to choosing a candidate. There is an incentive to continue moving as a collective unit.
In an effort to alleviate the damage done during his presidency and clear the way for his wife’s nomination, Bill Clinton apologized at an NAACP meeting last year. His apology insisted that his decisions “only made the problem worse.” Unfortunately, the harm has been done to a community left to pick up the pieces.
To add insult to injury, Hillary is currently lobbying to reform our criminal justice system that she and Bill systematically implemented. What’s more disturbing is that in the same breath, she is reaching out for allies within the black community. The question for voters now is whether or not Hillary is warranted in doing so.
Originally published at www.theodysseyonline.com on February 22, 2016.