Clinton’s ‘superpredators’ comment most damaging by either candidate

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When I was 10, a black man came to my town and taught us white kids how to dance and play sports.  Seriously. His name was Ray Feltson and he taught house dancing and basketball through the park district.

Although Ray was the first black person that most of the kids in the class had ever really known, we didn’t pay much attention to his race – he was just the guy who taught us how to do the running man and dribble. I don’t know if that would have been the case if I had heard Hillary Clinton call black kids “superpredators” but I’m guessing it would have made me nervous around black people.  

{mosads}“We need to take these people on, they are often connected to big drug cartels, they are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called superpredators. No conscience. No empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way but first we have to bring them to heel,” Clinton said in 1996.

I grew up in Illinois just south of the Wisconsin border at a time when there were more farms than fast food restaurants in town. Much like New Hampshire, where Clinton gave her now-infamous “superpredators” speech, it was overwhelmingly white.

What is significant about New Hampshire is that not only is it host to the pace-setting first primary of the election season, it is a state where Bill Clinton barely won in 1992. It is also one of the whitest states.

1996: Hillary Clinton on "superpredators" (C-SPAN)

In post-1992 LA Riots America, the racial divide was significant. To generalize, black people saw themselves as Rodney King but thought whites viewed them as the more violent rioters. White people saw themselves as Reginald Denny but thought blacks viewed them as the racist cops. Politically Correct-culture was in full swing and people were encouraged to be more thoughtful with their language because words mattered.

Hillary Clinton has always been very precise in her word selection and message so it is especially notable that she chose to use such severe words against black children to a white audience.  She now acknowledges that she regrets using those words, but why were they used in the first place?  In February, Clinton told Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Postat she “was talking about the impact violent crime and vicious drug cartels were having on communities across the country and the particular danger they posed to children and families.”

The problem is the speech was made on the campaign trail less than a month before the New Hampshire primary to drum up support for a second Clinton term in a state where inner-city crime had little to no impact. The point was to instill fear of “them” and illustrate the value of the 1994 crime bill to make voters believe that Clinton legislation would stop the chance, as small as it may be, of these “superpredators” from coming to your white, bucolic town and destroying it with their drugs and crime.

“Superpredators” is not a term that Clinton would ever have used in a more diverse state and by choosing that particular term to describe black children, even black children involved in gangs, to a white audience, she took a potential fear of the unfamiliar and not only normalized, but legitimized, racism.  “Superpredators” was not the ramblings of an insane person passing flyers out about how the end is near; it was the thoughtfully scripted words of a woman in an extremely high profile and influential position.

The Clinton campaign is aggressively using Donald Trump’s rhetoric to show voters that he is too careless with his words and does not have the temperament to lead.  They are absolutely correct to do that.

Trump’s words against women are problematic, at best, as is his bizarre compulsion to insult Rosie O’Donnell at every available opportunity. But Trump insults adults. That doesn’t mean that children will not hear his words and be damaged by them, as the Clinton campaign has illustrated in videos. But what about the black children who heard she called them “superpredators” and dehumanized them to such an extent that she uses the dog command of “heel” when offering her draconian solution to the problem of gang crime? Or the white kids like me who maybe didn’t have a lot of interaction with black people and now have the president’s wife insinuating that they are to be feared?

So, sorry Clinton campaign, “superpredators” is still the most damaging insult by either candidate.  

Gillstrom voted and donated to Bernie Sanders in the primary and will be writing in “Ralph Nader” in November.  


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Tags Bernie Sanders Bill Clinton Black campaign Crime Criminal justice Donald Trump Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Hillary Clinton Presidential Race Race superpredators
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