Last week, Hillary Clinton met with five Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists after they were directed to an overflow room during a campaign event in New Hampshire. This week, video has emerged of their 15-minute encounter, both posted to Good.is and in clips aired during Monday’s edition of "The Rachel Maddow Show."
In the clips, BLM Boston leader Daunasia Yancey and BLM Worcester organizer Julius Jones asked the presidential candidate about the role she and her husband played in the enactment of crime polices that directly and disproportionately impacted the lives of black Americans, including mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders. Clinton responded:
There’s a lot of concern that we need to rethink and redo what we did in response to a different set of problems. And in life, in politics, in government, you name it, you’ve gotta constantly be asking yourself, “Is this working, is this not, and if it’s not, what do we do better?” And that’s what I’m trying to do now, on drugs, on mass incarceration, on police behavior, and criminal justice reform. Because I do think there was a different set of concerns back in the 80s and the early 90s, and now I believe we have to look at the world as it is today and try to figure out what will work now.
When Jones said that it will take a president who is willing to take on anti-blackness as a major issue to solve it, and asks Clinton how her past mistakes impact her current leadership, Clinton talked about her work with impoverished children and said that a reckoning alone will not be enough to change this country:
Your analysis is totally fair. It’s historically fair. It’s psychologically fair. It’s economically fair. But you’re gonna have to come together as a movement and say, “Here’s what we want done about it.” Because you can get lip service from as many white people as you can pack into Yankee stadium and a million more like it, who are gonna say, “Oh we get it, we’re gonna be nicer.” But that’s not enough, at least in my book. That’s not how I see politics. So the consciousness raising, the advocacy, the passion, the youth of your movement is so critical. But now all I’m suggesting is, even for us sinners, find some common ground on agendas that can make a difference right here and now in peoples lives. And that’s what I would love to have your thoughts about.
Jones replied: “If you don’t tell black people what we need to do, then we won’t tell you all what you need to do. What I mean to say is, this is and has always been a white problem of violence. There’s not much that we can do to stop the violence against us.”
Clinton responded, “Respectfully, if that is your position, then I will only talk to white people about how we are dong to deal with the very real problems.”
Jones then said, “That’s not what I mean. What you just said was a form of victim-blaming. What you were saying was that what the Black Lives Matter movement needs to do to change white hearts is to come up with a policy…”
Clinton interrupted and said:
I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not gonna change every heart. You’re not. But at the end of the day, we can do a whole lot to change some hearts, and change some systems and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them to live up to their own God-given potential, to live safely without fear of violence in their own communities, to have a decent school, to have a decent house, to have a decent future. So we can do it one of many ways. You can keep the movement going, which you have started, and through it, you may change actually some hearts. But if that’s all that happens, we’ll be back here in 10 years having the same conversation. Because We will not have all of the changes that you deserve to see happen in your lifetime because of your willingness to get out there and talk about this.
Clinton’s campaign released a transcript of the meeting that covers a few portions not included in the released video clips.
During their August 17, 2015, appearance on MSNBC, Yancey and Jones discussed the meeting. “I feel as if the encounter was good. It moves the conversation on race to a newer and deeper level,” Jones said.
But they had hoped to get a more nuanced answer from Clinton regarding her political record. “What we were looking for from Secretary Clinton was a personal reflection on her responsibility for being part of the cause of this problem that we have today in mass incarceration. So her response really targeting on policy wasn’t sufficient for us,” Yancy said. Watch the full MSNBC interview here.