Clin­ton cites racism

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Cath­leen Decker cath­leen.decker@latimes.com

The Demo­crat speaks of a ‘deep fault line’ and urges strict gun laws.

SAN FRAN­CISCO — In an evoca­tive and emo­tional ad­dress, Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton on Satur­day urged the na­tion to come to grips with the “deep fault line” of race in the U.S., blam­ing it and easy ac­cess to guns for the slay­ings of nine wor­shipers at a his­toric black church in Charleston, S.C., days ago.

“It’s tempt­ing to dis­miss a tragedy like this as an iso­lated in­ci­dent, to be­lieve that in to­day’s Amer­ica bigo try is largely be­hind us, that in­sti­tu­tional racism no longer ex­ists. But de­spite our best ef­forts and our high­est hopes, Amer­ica’s long strug­gle with race is far from fin­ished,” Clin­ton told hun­dreds of the na­tion’s may­ors gath­ered in San Fran­cisco for their an­nualmeet­ing.

Tack­ling an is­sue that has split the 2016 pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates since the hor­rific vi­o­lence at Emanuel AME Church, Clin­ton ticked off a litany of cir­cum­stances in which black chil­dren and fam­i­lies are hob­bled by lack of money, ill­ness and thwarted op­por­tu­nity.

“A half-cen­tury af­ter Dr. King marched and Rosa Parks sat and John Lewis bled and the Civil Rights Act and the Vot­ing Rights Act and so much else … how can any of these things be true? But they are,” she said.

She called on ev­ery­day Amer­i­cans to play their role, be­gin­ning in con­ver­sa­tions with fam­ily mem­bers, to help the na­tion move past what she called “a history we des­per­ately want to leave be­hind.”

“Our prob­lem is not all kooks and Klans­men,” Clin­ton said. “It’s also the cold joke that goes un­chal­lenged; it’s the off­hand com­ment about not want­ing ‘ those peo­ple’ inthe neigh­bor­hood. Let’s be hon­est— for a lot of well-mean­ing, open-minded white peo­ple, the sight of a young black man in a hoodie still evokes a twinge of fear.”

The Charleston shoot­ings, com­ing in a sea­son of can­di­date an­nounce­ments, have thrust the is­sue of race and vi­o­lence against African Amer­i­cans into the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and ex­posed a rift be­tween the po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

Repub­li­can can­di­dates have largely cast the shoot­ings as an as­sault on faith­ful church­go­ers, rather than delv­ing into the racial im­pli­ca­tions.

Clin­ton and other Democrats, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Obama, have cited the Charleston killings as ev­i­dence that stricter gun laws are needed. She re­it­er­ated that plea Satur­day, to a stand­ing ova­tion from the as­sem­bled— and bi­par­ti­san — group of may­ors.

“I know that gun own­er­ship is part of the fab­ric of a lot of law-abid­ing com­mu­ni­ties,” she said. “But I also know that we can have com­mon-sense gun re­forms that keep weapons out of the hands of crim­i­nals and the vi­o­lently un­sta­ble, while re­spect­ing re­spon­si­ble gun own­ers.”

It makes no sense, Clin­ton said, that a mea­sure to re­quire back­ground checks failed in Congress de­spite sup­port from a vast ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans.

“It makes no sense that we wouldn’t come to­gether to keep guns out of the hands of do­mes­tic abusers, or peo­ple suf­fer­ing from men­tal ill­nesses, even peo­ple on the ter­ror­ist watch list,” she added. “That doesn’t make sense, and it is a re­buke to this na­tion we love and care about.”

Clin­ton said she would work to “make this de­bate less po­lar­ized”— a hope that be­lies the vit­ri­olic na­ture of the na­tion’s past feuds over gun con­trol. She asked the may­ors to work to win pas­sage of back­ground checks and other un­spec­i­fied gun mea­sures “on be­half of all who have been lost be­cause of this sense­less gun vi­o­lence in our coun­try.”

Clin­ton’s dis­cus­sion of the last­ing im­pact of race in Amer­i­can rested, she said, on grow­ing up dur­ing the civil rights move­ment and liv­ing in the South dur­ing her hus­band’s gov­er­nor­ship.

In broach­ing an un­usual con­ver­sa­tion for a na­tional politi­cian even in the era of Obama, Clin­ton in­sisted that sym­pa­thy for vic­tims of crime or dis­crim­i­na­tion was not enough.

Too rarely, she said, do in­ci­dents like the Charleston shoot­ings “spur us to ac­tion or prompt us to ques­tion our own as­sump­tions and priv­i­lege.”

‘It’s tempt­ing to dis­miss a tragedy like this as an iso­lated in­ci­dent.... But de­spite our best ef­forts and our high­est hopes, Amer­ica’s long strug­gle with race is far from fin­ished.’ — Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton, on the Charleston shoot­ings

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