The Situation: Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, recently published this article entitled, “Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote.” In this article, she claims that “policies Bill Clinton enacted – and Hillary Clinton supported – decimated black America.” What follows is a well-written and well-researched article about the various policies President Bill Clinton enacted in the 1990s, including championing the idea of the three strikes law, authorizing more public grants for state prisons, expanding police forces, and dismantling the federal welfare system. Only cursorily does she even mention Hillary, allowing the damning quotation, “They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are… ‘super-predators,’” to advocate for her complicity (The quotation references the inner-city gang problems prevalent in the 90s.). And this one quotation along with her husband’s policies is enough to negate her credibility as President.
The Reaction: This is a well-written article by a very intelligent woman, but it offers us nothing in a valid criticism of Hillary Clinton. The single quotation attributed to her is reminiscent of many people’s fears about crime and gang violence in the 1990s, and the attitude was widely popular. Likewise, the three strikes rule and Bill Clinton’s crackdown on crime were popular. People, even in urban areas and even among racial and ethnic minorities, supported it. Unfortunately, both it and the war on drugs turned out to be absolutely the wrong choice. They have perhaps irreparably damaged lower income black communities and directly contributed to the racial divide that we now experience. This is a fact.
It is also a fact that Hillary Clinton did not create these policies. She did not sign them into law. She did not issue a State of the Union address championing them. She supported her husband. She used the knowledge she had available to her at the time. She has since publicly retracted her support and her words and worked to reverse the effects of these harmful policies. But they did not originate with her.
She should not be held responsible for what her husband did. She is not Bill with a bob. She is her own person, her own politician, and her own Presidential candidate. If you reference her husband’s policies and her in the same breath, it should be to trace a line of policy. So do not spend 20 minutes talking about what her husband did and one minute talking about how she reacted to it. That is not figuring out who she is and what she stands for. That is simply saying that a woman will never be anything more than her husband’s wife, and Hillary is much more than that.
* Image of Hillary and Bill Clinton in 1992 (Reuters Pictures) taken from http://www.thenation.com/article/hillary-clinton-does-not-deserve-black-peoples-votes/