Black voters in the South know that Hillary Clinton’s commitment to economic justice is matched by her commitment to racial justice – and that the two issues are inextricably intertwined. It’s no coincidence that, during primary season, she started off strong in South Carolina with 86% of the Black vote, and then steamrolled Bernie Sanders on Super Tuesday, racking up 90% of the Black vote in Arkansas, 91% in Alabama, 85% in Georgia, 89% in Tennessee, 83% in Texas, and 84% in Virginia. A week later, 89% of Black Mississippi voters lent their support to Clinton
Hillary’s Track Record Speaks Volumes
That’s because Hillary’s track record speaks volumes about her commitment to dismantling racial and economic injustice. The New York Times chronicled Hillary’s 1972 undercover journey to Alabama to investigate tax-exempt all-white academies that formed in the wake of court-ordered desegregation. After graduating law school, Hillary became staff attorney of Marian Wright Edelman’s Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), which advocates for public policy to help children escape poverty and fulfill their potential. While in Arkansas, she served on the CDF board and chaired the board of the Legal Services Foundation.
Once she arrived in Washington, Hillary continued to work tirelessly on issues affecting those at the intersection of poverty and racism. She helped to ensure passage and funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides matching funds to states in order to provide health insurance for kids whose families fall through the cracks – those whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to obtain insurance. In 2007, Sen. Edward Kennedy told the Associated Press, “The children’s health program wouldn’t be in existence today if we didn’t have Hillary pushing for it from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.”
While serving in the U.S. Senate, Hillary was a leading voice in the effort to enact criminal justice reforms – like crack-cocaine sentencing disparities and the restoration of voting rights – that would help reverse the decimation of Black communities due to discriminatory public policy. In addition, she and then-Sen. Barack Obama worked together on the Healthy Communities Act of 2005, which – if passed – would have delivered environmental justice to the poor communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by environmental health issues.
Hillary at the Forefront of Flint
Thanks to Hillary, the country stood up and took notice of the environmental injustice taking place in Flint, Michigan, where the government’s gross negligence and mismanagement caused lead pipes to poison Flint’s children. After President Obama declared a state of emergency, Hillary sent her aides to talk to the Flint mayor. During the January 17 primary debate, Hillary became the first candidate – from either party – to express her anger:
“I spent a lot of time last week being outraged by what's happening in Flint, Michigan, and I think every single American should be outraged. We've had a city in the United States of America where the population which is poor in many ways and majority African American has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water. And the governor of that state acted as though he didn't really care.”
The Washington Post noted that news coverage about the travesty in Flint more than tripled in the two days following the debate. Hillary continued the push, recommending that the final Democratic debate before the Michigan primary be held in Flint.
Naming, Owning, and Changing
Last June, in the wake of the Charleston massacre, Hillary said, “We can’t hide from…hard truths about race and justice in America. We have to name them and own them and then change them.” Acknowledging that White Americans have a difficult time talking about racism, Hillary laid out the facts about the institutional racism Black Americans face in everything from mortgage lending practices to criminal sentencing to environmental health.
Hillary is prepared to lead the charge in working to rid America of its racist legacy. As president, Hillary has pledged to work diligently to end mass incarceration, ban racial profiling by police, and ensure that the Voting Rights Act is fixed. She is dedicated to cleaning up America’s air and water so that cities like Flint will never again poison their children. And she has doubled down on providing poor Black communities with economic opportunities in order to combat racial injustice.
Hillary’s vision of dismantling racial injustice has been a common thread throughout her life’s work. At its core, hers is a message of hope and of promise. In Hillary’s words:
“We've got to believe in the basic proposition of our country. When all Americans have the chance to succeed, when each of us has the opportunity to live up to our own God-given potential, then and only then can America live up to its potential as well.