For nearly three weeks, people from both sides of the political spectrum have asked, “Where’s Hillary Clinton’s comments on Ferguson?” Which is to be expected. She’s a very prominent public figure and likely 2016 presidential candidate (and probable winner). So, naturally, people wanted to know what she had to say.
But, alas, it was nearly three weeks later and she had yet to say anything.
Honestly, I think that was for the best. Because, let’s face it, no matter when she eventually made some kind of comment, she was going to be attacked for it.
If she came out and said something right after the shooting, she would have been hammered for trying to exploit the tragedy for political gains. If she let things settle down some (like she eventually ended up doing), then her comments would clearly be motivated by public pressure and “politics.”
No matter how she would have handled it, she would have been attacked in some way.
Well, on Thursday, she finally spoke out on what transpired in Ferguson, Missouri. And, quite honestly, her comments were some of the best that I’ve heard on the issue so far. She said:
“Imagine what we would feel and what we would do if white drivers were three times as likely to be searched by police during a traffic stop as black drivers instead of the other way around. If white offenders received prison sentences ten percent longer than black offenders for the same crimes. If a third of all white men, just look at this room and take one-third, went to prison during their lifetime. Imagine that. That is the reality in the lives of so many of our fellow Americans in so many of the communities in which they live.”
Why do I think these comments were so well worded? Because they addressed the situation in a rational manner. Because what she said is absolutely true. And it goes to the very real, and systemic, problem African Americans face in the United States.
Sure, the shooting itself is the event that people want to point to in order to justify outrage. But the truth is, outrage needed to already be there. And it has been for some.
As white Americans, it’s nearly impossible for us to understand that on many levels African Americans do face obstacles that we do not. Because the stats don’t lie. African Americans get harassed by the police more, are convicted more often and face longer prison sentences than white Americans.
But instead of trying to figure out how we can fix these issues, the argument almost always inevitably devolves to a white vs. black debate that doesn’t get us anywhere. And while racism obviously plays a part in this, it’s not the only factor causing it.
And we’ll never “fix” these problems by “taking sides” and blaming one another. They’ll be fixed when both sides come together, to work with one another, to try to better understand each other.
Which is what I believe Hillary Clinton’s comments were trying to do.