On April 7, 2016, Bill Clinton found himself in the unenviable position of being asked to address his criminal justice policies of the 1990’s to Black Lives Matters activists at a Philadelphia rally. The confrontation was not viewed favorably by many to Clinton. Black Lives Matter activists and Bill Clinton verbally clashed for almost 15 minutes when Clinton was asked about his 1994 crime bill and its effect on African Americans and the term “super predators” used by Hillary Clinton in 1996 in referring to troubled black youth. Clinton staunchly defended the crime bill, at times being condescending in his remarks to the black activists and rambling on at other times in discussing Hillary Clinton’s role.
In the 1990’s charismatic President Bill Clinton was considered to be a friend and comrade to many in the African American community. He appointed a racially diverse cabinet and appointed many minority judges to the federal bench. He survived sex scandals involving Monica Lewinsky, Jennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Kathleen Wiley, impeachment hearings and a mysterious death of White House aide Vince Foster as many African Americans remained loyal to him- despite his flaws. Today is a new day. In 2016, Bill Clinton is seen as almost a pariah among many young African Americans and particularly those active in the Black Lives Matter movement and to any others who understand the harms committed on blacks by Clinton’s 1994 crime policies.
The Black lives legacy that Clinton leaves behind robbed entire generations of African Americans their freedom and economically disadvantaged them for decades due to harsh non-violent mandatory sentencing drug laws. It devastated families. The effect of the Clinton policies caused the mass incarceration of African Americans and Hispanics in our prisons today, where over 50% of those incarcerated are minorities.
No one states the effect of Clinton’s failed policies on blacks better than author and legal scholar, Michelle Alexander in her book, The New Jim Crow. Alexander details how Clinton championed the 100- 1 racial sentencing disparity for crack versus powder cocaine, resulting in an 80% of all drug offenders in prison being Black, although blacks and whites use drugs at the same rate. There are African Americans serving a mandatory- minimum sentence of 20 plus years for having a minute amount of crack cocaine in their possession. And the three strikes law placed many African Americans in jail for life—due to their drug habit and personal abuse of drugs.
And Hillary Clinton famously supported her husband’s crime bill. In 1996, Hillary Clinton said on her husband’s crime bill about black youth that “they are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.” She referred to black youth in animalistic ways that might be more understandable during slavery times that in 1996. And on April 7, 2016 Bill Clinton defended his wife’s use of the term to describe young African Americans.
In speaking to strongly support his 1990’s crime bill to Black Lives Matters activists, Clinton is concerned that history will not be kind to his legacy. In reality, Clinton’s legacy is already tarnished for all the harms committed on African Americans by his failed policies. And it is now time for Bill Clinton to “heel” and acknowledge the harms his polices inflicted on African Americans. But Bill Clinton is more concerned about his legacy among African Americans than admitting the truth. If Bill Clinton acknowledges the harm he caused to the black community, maybe, just maybe African Americans will drop their love affair with Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal/political analyst and former Baltimore prosecutor. She is frequently seen on Al Jazeera, BET, CBS, CCTV, C-Span, Fox 5 DC, MSNBC, RT America, Sky News and TV One, among others.
UPDATE: Debbie Hines appeared on the Bill Press show on Monday, April 11 @8:30 am to discuss Bill and Hillary Clinton.
See Debbie Hines at the 2 hour 39 min mark