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From left to right: Raphael James, Octavia Mitchell, Hillary Clinton and former DC Congressman Jim Clyburn singing “We Shall Overcome” at the 91st NAACP Freedom Banquet in 2007. Image Credit: Alice Keeney, Creative Commons

 

Why beat around the bush, Hillary? Just come out and tell this Black crowd Blue Lives Matter.

On Monday, the first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had flown out to the open-carry state — where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was slaughtered by police officers — to steal some of the spotlight by speaking at two events.

One of them was the NAACP Convention and, let me tell you, her remarks was every bit as hypocritical and ironic as we’ve come to expect from a Hillary Clinton stump speech on race relations in America.

The Los Angeles Times put out a calm column on her trip to Ohio and appearance before this historical Black civil rights organization. They focused on Clinton’s effort to call attention to the dangerous, hateful rhetoric and policy ideas of Donald Trump’s campaign. The insinuation is that Trump is the real enemy while Clinton, on the other hand, is a friend.

She’s a friend of the teachers’ community (she spoke at a teachers’ union event). She’s a friend of the Black community.

I won’t touch on the remarks she delivered to teachers. I haven’t heard them. But I did hear her speech to NAACP. And I have to say, the notion that Clinton is a friend of the Black community ranks among the funniest jokes I’ve heard in some time.

Her remarks, crunched together under the title “This Madness Has To Stop,” crept uneasily into a conversation about the need to reform America’s criminal justice system — by offering yet another defense of police officers.

Clinton called herself rationalizing by means of indictment the recent shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. Nothing justifies the murder of police officers, she said.

Here’s a transcript of the speech from Yahoo Finance:

Killing police officers is a terrible crime. That’s why our laws treat the murderers of police so seriously, because they represent the rule of law itself. If you take aim at that and at them, you take aim at all of us. Anyone who kills a police officer and anyone who helps must be held accountable.

And as president, I will bring the full weight of the law to bear and make sure those who kill police officers are brought to justice. There can be no justification, no looking the other way.

Blue Lives Matter, basically. Her cautious approach (and that’s a generous description) has the incidental effect of undermining whatever insight she feigns to offer about the level of police brutality Black Americans suffer from at the hands of the state.

I made the argument here that police brutality is at the root of what happened to police officers in Dallas (and, by extension, Baton Rouge) and that police shootings are the result of the “climate of hate” they’ve created coming back to take one of their own. You can find another argument for this here.

Related: Police Brutality Is To Blame For What Happened In Dallas

However, to let Hillary Clinton tell it, the history of America has been one of perpetually depreciating agencies that enforce the will of the state.

But, it’s this next thought that should really turn heads:

So, we all need to be partners in making law enforcement as secure and effective as it needs to be. That means investing in our police in training on the proper use of force, especially lethal force, and how to avoid using force to resolve incidents.

Of course, policing in America has never had the burden of an investment problem. It has the burden of a race and class allegiance problem. It’s had this burden since its inception, going back to slave patrols:

Wadman and Allison’s To Protect and Serve:

As police departments formed in the Southern states, the function of “law enforcement” became a consistent task within the listed duties carried out by slave patrols, “white militia,” and eventually by city police officers. Included in the list of laws enforced by developing Southern police departments was a substantial number of criminal violations directly supporting slavery, enumerated in slave codes adopted by colonial, and later state, legislatures. Slave patrols became the police organization put in place to ensure that the codes were enforced and that the Southern economic mechanism of slavery was preserved.

Even if we put the issue of race aside, does investment work?

The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Bill, or “Crime Bill”  — signed into law by then-president Bill Clinton and hawkishly supported by the current Democratic presidential nominee — “invested” $6.1 billion dollars of federal funding into “prevention programs,” i.e. police departments. What came of this? A sharp, dramatic increase in the carceral state, and, in particular, the arrest, conviction, and incarceration of countless Black Americans for nonviolent crimes. Black communities across the board are still paying the hard price.

Hillary Clinton — antidote to Donald Trump, friend of the Black community — co-conspired in erecting the very criminal justice system that she has now pledged herself to dismantle. And how will she do it? By using the same legislative tactics and spouting the same rhetoric about respect for law enforcement that got Black people in this tragic bind to begin with.

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