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article imageClinton to confront racism in major speech

By John McAuliffe     Feb 16, 2016 in Politics
Hillary Clinton is bringing the issue of systemic racism to the agenda on Tuesday in a high-profile speech in Harlem, New York. She is set to identify her solutions to racism and discrimination as individual problems to be tackled.
As the presidential primaries in the United States move southward to the more racially diverse states such as South Carolina, Hillary Clinton is preceding her campaign with a carefully targeted speech on the issue of racism. The speech will be one of the most important in her campaign. Systemic racism has seen soaring deaths of black Americans at the hands of police over the course of the past year and has become an issue with which many Americans can identify, many of whom are immigrants and direct descendants of immigrants from all corners of the globe. Clinton is also fighting a battle to claim the lead in popular support from her Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, who beat her in New Hampshire with 60.4 percent of the vote.
The speech is due to be held in Harlem, New York, a neighbourhood which has long-since become synonymous with African-American culture due to contributions in music, literature and art from prominent African-Americans. The shift of Clinton's campaign from feminism to racism is a significant one after Clinton and some of her supporters were perceived as pretentious and aggressive when trying to build a feminist image. One of the most damaging comments came from former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, in her endorsement of Clinton. She said: "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other." Can she now recover with a strong position on racism?
Clinton may be taking a risk in this campaign change. Her history on racism is marred by her previous presidential candidacy campaign against Barack Obama in 2008, during which her staff published a photo of Obama attired in traditional Kenyan dress, thus encouraging false Republican claims that Obama was a Muslim. Obama's campaign responded to the attack, calling it: "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we've seen from either party in this election."
Distancing herself from her past, Clinton has taken a vocal stand against racist policing in the U.S. At the Democratic debate in Charleston in January, Clinton responded to the question on racial disparity in policing. She said: "There needs to be a concerted effort to address the systemic racism in our criminal justice system. And that requires a very clear agenda for retraining police officers, looking at ways to end racial profiling, finding more ways to really bring the disparities that stalk our country into high relief." Clinton's past comes back to haunt her. Some of the legislation brought through by Bill Clinton, such as the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 are largely responsible for the disproportionate incarceration of minorities, and as First Lady, Hillary campaigned to support their enactment.
Clinton is putting in extraordinary effort in Harlem in order to change voters' perceptions of her history on racism. Before she is due to deliver the speech on racism, she is meeting with leaders of civil rights organisations. Addressing them, she said: "The work that each and every one of your organisations do is the furtherance of civil rights and economic justice and social justice and political participation." Adding to her credentials on tackling racism, Georgian congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus endorsed Clinton last week, giving her campaign significant lift for the coming days.
An aide from Clinton's campaign said her speech will call for: "new investments in job creation to ending redlining to ensure equal pay for women of colour to ending the school-to-prison pipeline." The question remains to be answered as to whether this speech and further campaigning with civil rights leaders can help her distance herself from the past. If so, her next obstacle will be overcoming the immense popularity of Bernie Sanders.
More about US, Clinton, Racism, Democrat, Presidential elections
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