Earlier today, Democracy Now! interviewed Daunasia Yancey and Julius Jones of Black Lives Matter about their meeting with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton after a campaign stop in New Hampshire last week. We aired excerpts of the meeting on the program. Here is video of the full 16-minute interaction.
DAUNASIA YANCEY: And I just want to say that I’ve looked up to you since I was like a baby. I’m an ardent feminist. And I’ve just been disappointed lately with [inaudible].
HILLARY CLINTON: OK.
DAUNASIA YANCEY: But your—you and your family have been personally and politically responsible for policies that have caused health and human services disasters in impoverished communities of color through the domestic and international war on drugs that you championed as first lady, senator and secretary of state. And so I just want to know how you feel about your role in that violence and how you plan to reverse it?
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, you know, I feel strongly, which is why I had this town hall today. And as, you know, the questions and the comments from people illustrated, 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, you know, in life, in politics, in government—you name it—you’ve got to constantly be asking yourself, “Is this working? Is it 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 that 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. And that's what I’m trying to figure out. That’s what I intend to do as president.
DAUNASIA YANCEY: Yeah, and I would offer that it didn’t work then, either, and that those policies were actually extensions of white supremacist violence against communities of color. And so, I just think I want to hear a little bit about that, about the fact that actually while—
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I’m not sure—yeah.
DAUNASIA YANCEY: —those policies were being enacted, they were ripping apart families—
HILLARY CLINTON: Yeah.
DAUNASIA YANCEY: —and actually causing death.
HILLARY CLINTON: Yeah, I’m not sure I agree with you. I’m not sure I disagree that any kind of government action often has consequences. And certainly, the war on drugs, which, you know, started back in the '80s—right?—has had consequences. Increasing penalties for crime and “three strikes and you're out” and all of those kinds of actions have had consequences. But it’s important to remember—and I certainly remember—that there was a very serious crime wave that was impacting primarily communities of color and poor people. And part of it was that there was just not enough attention paid. So you know, you could argue that people who were trying to address that—including my husband, when he was president—were responding to the very real concerns of people in the communities themselves.
DAUNASIA YANCEY: Right.
HILLARY CLINTON: Now, I do think that a lot of what was tried and how it was implemented has not produced the kinds of outcomes that any of us would want. But I also believe that there are systemic issues of race and justice that go deeper than any particular law. And part of what we have to do is address the laws. And then we’ve got to do a much better effort at being honest about the other obstacles and barriers that stand in the way of young people and others having any hope and having any opportunity.
But I think that, you know, as I said, some of this is coming about today because of the terrible instances of violence that we have seen across our country. And I wouldn’t—you know, I wouldn’t in any way deny how powerful those have been and how they have to produce change. So what you’re doing as activists and as people who are constantly raising these issues is really important. So, I applaud and thank you for that—I really do—because we can’t get change unless there’s constant pressure.
DAUNASIA YANCEY: Yeah.
HILLARY CLINTON: But now, the next step—so, you know, part of you need to keep the pressure on, and part of you need to help figure out: What do we do now? How are we going to do it?
You know, one of the men who asked me the question—asked me a question today, you know, was talking about how as a young man he was thrown out of his house and ended up in foster care. He was, you know, abused, molested, then turned to drugs and alcohol. Very common story, as you know, right? And then, you know, he has a blackout, ends up having killed somebody, ends up in prison. And so, he’s saying, like, “When do I get my life back? I made a mistake, but when do I get my life back?”
So I think there has to be—in addition to the consciousness race, which you really have done the lion’s share of the work in bringing about, now we’ve got to figure out, OK, what are we going to do, and how are we going to do it? Because, you know, the first speech I gave in this campaign was on mass incarceration. It’s a problem I’ve been worried about, thinking about it. David Dinkins is a friend of mine. He asked me to come speak at his conference in Columbia. And I said, “You know, we can’t—we’ve got to change it.” How do we change it? And how do we have the opportunities for reintegration that these young people deserve to have? So, we need a whole—you know, we need a whole comprehensive plan, that I am more than happy to work with you guys on, to try to figure out, OK, we know black lives matter. We need to keep saying it so that people accept it. What do we do next? What is our step?
JULIUS JONES: I think the next step, respectfully—and I have attempted to allow you, and I feel like we have allowed space for a nice conversation, and it’s a pleasure and an honor to be in this dialogue with you. But I think that a huge part of what you haven’t said is that you’ve offered a recognition that mass incarceration has not worked, and that it is an unfortunate consequence of government practices that just didn’t work. But the truth is that there’s an extremely long history of unfortunate government practices that don’t work, that particularly affect black people and black families.
And until we, as a country, and then the person who’s in the seat that you seek, actually addresses the anti-blackness current that is America’s first drug—we’re in a meeting about drugs, right? America’s first drug is free black labor and turning black bodies into profit, and the mass incarceration system mirrors an awful lot like the prison plantation system. It’s a similar thread, right? And until someone takes that message and speaks that truth to white people in this country, so that we can actually take on anti-blackness as a founding problem in this country, I don’t believe that there is going to be a solution, because what the conversations that are happening now and why there is so much—so much cohesion across the divide, the red side and the blue side, is because of money, right? We’re spending a lot of money on prisons. We’re spending more money on prisons than we are on schools, right? But if we look at it from a lens of “Let’s solve this financial problem,” and we don’t look at the greater bottom line, that African Americans, who are Americans, are suffering at greater rates than most other people, every other people, for the length of this country, then it’s not going to go away. It’s just going to morph into something new and evolved.
You know, I genuinely want to know—you and your family have been, in no uncertain way, partially responsible for this, more than most, right? Now, there may have been unintended consequences. But now that you understand the consequences, what in your heart has changed that’s going to change the direction in this country? Like, what in you—like, not your platform, not what you’re supposed to say—like, how do you actually feel that’s different than you did before? Like, what were the mistakes? And how can those mistakes that you made be lessons for all of America for a moment of reflection on how we treat black people in this country?
HILLARY CLINTON: Well—
HANDLER 1: I just want to—and I apologize. We have a bunch of—
JULIUS JONES: I would really love to allow her to answer this question.
HANDLER 1: Of course, yeah, no, I’m not stopping—
JULIUS JONES: And we’ve worked really hard. We’ve driven so many hours.
HANDLER 1: Yeah, we’re not stopping you. I’m just letting you guys know before, because we’ve got a couple more minutes. We still have more people in the overflow that are waiting.
HANDLER 2: We have a lot of people who are also in overflow, so we’re—
HANDLER 1: So, I’m not interrupting what you’re about to say. I just wanted to sort of give you guys a heads up on time. So, we’ve got limited—
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, obviously, it’s a very thoughtful question, and it deserves a thoughtful answer. And I can only tell you that I feel very committed to and responsible for doing whatever I can. I have spent most of my adult life focused on kids, through the Children’s Defense Fund and other efforts to try to give kids, particularly poor kids, particularly, you know, black kids and Hispanic kids, the same chance to live up to their own God-given potential as any other kid. That’s where I’ve been focused.
And I think that there has to be a reckoning. I agree with that. But I also think there has to be some positive vision and plan that you can move people toward. Once you say, “You know, this country has still not recovered from its original sin”—which is true—once you say that, then the next question, by people who are on the sidelines, which is the vast majority of Americans—the next question is: “Well, so, what do you want me to do about it? What am I supposed to do about it?” That’s what I’m trying to put together in a way that I can explain it and I can sell it, because in politics, if you can’t explain it and you can’t sell it, it stays on the shelf.
And this is now a time, a moment in time, just like the civil rights movement or the women’s movement or the gay rights movement or a lot of other movements reached a point in time, the people behind that consciousness raising and advocacy, they had a plan ready to go, so that when you turn to, you know, the women’s movement—”We want to pass this, and we want to pass that, and we want to do this”—problems are not all taken care of. We know that. Obviously, I know more about the civil rights movement in the old days, because I had a lot of involvement in working with people. So, they had a plan—this piece of legislation, this court case we’re going to make, etc., etc. Same with the gay rights movement—you know, “We’re sick of homophobia. We’re sick of being discriminated against. We want marriage equality. We’re starting in the states, and we’re going to keep going until we get it in the highest court of the land.”
So, all I’m saying is, your analysis is totally fair. It’s historically fair. It’s psychologically fair. It’s economically fair. But you’re going to 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 going to say, “Oh, we get it. We get it. We’re going to be nicer.” OK? 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 people’s lives. And that’s what I would love to, you know, have your thoughts about, because that’s what I’m trying to figure out how to do.
So, yeah, deal with mass incarceration. I don’t—it’s not just an economic issue, although I grant you some people see it like that. But it’s more than that. I think there is a sense like, you know, low-level offenders, disparity in treatment, we’ve got to do something about that. I think that a lot of the issues about housing and about job opportunities, Ban the Box, a lot of these things—let’s get an agenda that addresses as much of the problem as we can, because then you can be for something, in addition to getting people to have to admit that they’re part of a long history in our country of, you know, either, you know, proposing, supporting, condoning discrimination, segregation, etc. Now, what do we do next? And that’s—that’s what I’m trying to figure out in my campaign, so that’s what I’m doing.
HANDLER 2: Madam Secretary, we do have to go. Thank you.
JULIUS JONES: Respectfully, the piece that’s most important—and I stand here in your space, and I say this as respectfully as I can—but if you don’t tell black people what we need to do, then we won’t tell you all what you need to do. Right?
HILLARY CLINTON: I’m not telling you; I’m just telling you to tell me.
JULIUS JONES: What I mean to say is that this is, and has always been, a white problem of violence. It’s not—there’s not much that we can do to stop the violence against us.
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, if that is the—
JULIUS JONES: And it’s a conversation and a pushback.
HILLARY CLINTON: OK, I understand. I understand what you’re saying.
JULIUS JONES: And then, we are also, respectfully, respectfully—
HILLARY CLINTON: Yeah, well, respectfully, if that is your position, then I will talk only to white people about how we are going to deal with a very real problem.
JULIUS JONES: That’s not what I mean. That’s not what I mean. That’s not what I mean.
HILLARY CLINTON: Well—
JULIUS JONES: But like, what I’m saying is you—what you just said was a form of victim blaming. Right? You were saying that what the Black Lives Matter movement—
HILLARY CLINTON: Yeah.
JULIUS JONES: —needs to do to change white hearts is to come up with a policy change.
HILLARY CLINTON: No, I’m not talking about—look, 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 going to 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 know, you can keep the movement going, which you have started, and through it you may actually change 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.
HANDLER 1: Thanks. We’ve got to go this way.
UNIDENTIFIED: We should find a way to do this.
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I’m ready. I’m ready to do my part in any way that I can.