On the issue of improving race relations at the most recent Democratic Presidential debate, Mr. Bernie Sanders and Mrs. Hillary Clinton left much to be desired.
For Mr. Bernie Sanders, all roads appear to lead to one place: Wall Street. It seems that no matter what the Vermont Senator is asked, he finds a way to link it to income inequality, the billionaire class and the big banks which, in his opinion, need to be broken up. His singular focus was uber apparent Thursday evening when he, debating Mrs. Hillary Clinton, responded to an inquiry on how he’d improve race relations by saying he’d tax billionaires to create “millions of jobs for low-income kids so that they’re not hanging out on street corners.”
The answer perplexed me because it’s clear Mr. Sanders has at least a basic understanding of the racial issues in America, as seen by his willingness to, for example, illuminate regularly the disparities in arrest and sentencing for marijuana possession: blacks and white consume the plant at roughly the same rate, but blacks are four times more likely to be arrested for having it on their person. Offering jobs to those who are disenfranchised won’t end the process of disenfranchisement, nor will it have any impact on dismantling systems of white supremacy, which is, at its core, why many #BlackLivesMatter activists, who are largely responsible for resurrecting and advancing the neutralized dialogue on anti-black racism, are up in arms. To be fair, though, Mrs. Clinton, who considers the black vote hers to lose, also gave an equally abstract answer.
Mrs. Clinton, who doesn’t quite believe race relations has gotten worst under President Obama’s time in office, didn’t really answer the question when asked if racial strife would simmer with her as commander-in-chief. Instead of responding to the inquiry succinctly, she praised Mr. Obama, who has been criticized by blacks and whites for not doing enough to advance race relations, for his leadership on the issue and how he’s addressed it; spoke about how technology and smartphones were exposing the dark side of the remaining systemic racism in the country; and touted how ObamaCare has had the largest impact on African-Americans, which, according to a fact checker, isn’t true: the largest drop in the uninsured was among Latinos.
There’s no excuses for the bad answers, because Mrs. Clinton, too knows the issues. She, as did her opponent, supported the 1994 crime bill, which was the catalyst for mass incarceration, a system that disproportionately impacts people of color and one that exacerbates today’s racial divide. For Mrs. Clinton to say that race relations haven’t worsened under Mr. Obama’s leadership simply because he’s addressed it is disappointing. Improving race relations isn’t and shouldn’t be measured by the amount of speeches or panels convened on the issue, or whether there’s a drop in black unemployment and/or incarceration. But rather we should measure our success on how effective we are as a country in rooting out and condemning racism; destroying systems of white supremacy; pushing back against bad policy that would harm one group socially while benefiting another financially; and investing in, and aiding communities who suffer from systemic disadvantages.
Improving race relations requires one to have an absolute understanding as to why racial problems exist, and that’ll require looking at the current social tension emitting from both sides as an outcome rather than an occurrence or phenomenon. Systems and intentions put us in our current position, and it’ll be the only way to advance us out of it.
CLICK HERE to listen to ‘Why the Black Vote Matters,’ a podcast from The Dr. Vibe Show featuring a panel of black male thought-leaders, including the co-founder of the ‘Vote or Die’ movement.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
Photo: Getty Images