Last week the security bubble around Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who as a former First Lady is entitled to a Secret Service detail, prevented Black Lives Matter activists from trying to engage her in a campaign event on substance abuse in Keene, New Hampshire.
But HIllary Clinton agreed to meet with the protests after the event, even offering to allow the media in, which protesters refused. Today Clinton's campaign released a transcript of the meeting while the protesters released video.
The activists said they wanted Clinton to address her husband's role in perpetuating "white supremacist violence against communities of color" when he was president in the 90s and pushed tough on crime policies that contributed to increasing rates of incarceration, especially for behavior, mostly drug use, that was inherently non-violent.
Clinton drew on the same excuse other politicians have used to defend positions they held that were popular when they held them but aren's so much now, telling protesters the 80s and the 90s (which ended just 16 years ago) were a different time with different priorities and what was important was focusing on solutions now.
Clinton also criticized the activists for their focus. Via CNN:
Look, I don't believe you change hearts," Clinton said, arguing that the movement can't change deep seated racism. "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 could 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."
Hillary Clinton is right. What's more, focusing on racist hearts is a distraction from the problem and an excuse for it. If white supremacy killed Eric Garner, for example, vaguely aimed protests might suffice to release some anger and feel a sense of accomplishments. If the vigorous enforcement of petty laws—in Garner's case the sale of loose, untaxed, cigarettes—killed Eric Garner, there are attainable solutions, namely engaging the value of petty laws and their vigorous enforcement and pushing reforms that see less enforcement and fewer petty laws aimed primarily at raising revenue and hassling otherwise law-abiding people.
While conversations about white supremacy may be important, especially for protesters who have made a movement about stemming systemic police violence a movement about themselves, as Clinton pointed out, conversations about the policies that perpetuate systemic police violence are more important, at least when it comes to lowering the body count. But that's not a conversation that's going to be pleasant for many Democrats, whose long-term political control of cities like Detroit and Baltimore have done more to subject black people to white supremacist violence than probably any other political phenomena in the last 50 years. Democrats' policies have created failed schools, brutal cops, and corrupt governments, all in the service of creating a government worker middle class that treats marginalized residents, many of them black, like wards of the State, for which government must extract resources and impose control, by any means necessary, up to the systemic use of deadly force.