Did Hillary Do The Right Thing By Telling #BlackLivesMatter Activists To Focus More On Policy?

In a contentious exchange last week after a campaign event, protesters told Hillary Clinton that she shouldn't tell black people what they need to do.
hillary black lives matteredited

On Monday evening, #BlackLivesMatter activists who had met with Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton last week after a substance abuse forum released video of the roughly 15-minute conversation. The video shows that the activists, who had planned to interrupt the event but were blocked by Secret Service, had a serious and at times heated discussion with the former First Lady and Secretary of State. At one point, one of the activists, Julius Jones, told Hillary “you don’t tell black people what we need to do. And we won’t tell you all what you need to do.”

This statement from Jones came after Clinton was explaining to the young activists that now that they’ve gotten everyone’s attention, they may want to shift their focus more on policy, and what laws they can change. After Jones told her not to tell them what to do, Hillary emotionally responded back that she will only talk to white people from now on when speaking about these issues, which led to Jones saying that wasn’t what he was trying to convey. Eventually, Hillary pointed out that you can’t just try to change hearts, but that you need to change laws.

“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 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.”

Much of the rest of the exchange featured much of the same heated dialogue. The activists from the Black Lives Matter – Boston chapter tried to get Hillary to admit that she and her husband were part of the problem due to their support of tough crime laws in the early ’90s while Clinton admitted that there were consequences from those laws but that the larger systemic issues of institutional racism needed to be fully addressed now. Hillary also rejected the notion that Bill Clinton’s policies were explicitly racist.

Two of the activists made their way to CNN on Tuesday, telling host Wolf Blitzer, among other things, that saying #AllLivesMatter was a “violent statement” and that they would continue to shut down campaign events of Presidential candidates. Sadly, they didn’t spend a lot of time actually addressing specifics regarding new laws and policies.

Media Matters’ Oliver Willis addressed some of his issues with the current movement, saying that Clinton’s response was 100% right and agreeing with others that the movement seems to be more concerned with “feelings over policy” and stroking individual egos of members.



I don’t know what the right or wrong answers are, and I certainly don’t want to be the white guy telling black people how to act or feel. But, I do know that a movement can only be successful if it has actual goals in mind and a way to achieve them. I also am getting increasingly worried that certain members of the movement are using the cause to gain notoriety and feed their own egos, which is really just human nature. Was Hillary out of line in any real way to recommend that they do more and try to affect real change via policies and laws? Yeah, I don’t think so, but maybe I’m not the one to answer that.

Below is video of some of the conversation:

Justin Baragona is the editor and publisher of Contemptor. Prior to starting the site, he worked on the editorial staff of PoliticusUSA. During that time, he had his work quoted by USA Today and BBC News, among others. Justin began his published career as a political writer for 411Mania. He currently resides in St. Louis, MO with his wife and pets.
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