Hillary Rodham Clinton

Reforming Criminal Justice and Providing Equal Opportunity - Oct. 2, 2016

Hillary Rodham Clinton
October 02, 2016— Charlotte, North Carolina
Print friendly

This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! I am so [...] and so honored to be here. Thank you so much Reverend Dr. Walker. Thanks to the members of the Little Rock A.M.E. Zion. I have to confess—we were putting together the [...] Rev. Walker was [...] But he told me his church [...] 134 years ago was founded in a house on a rock and that rock has been sturdy and steady [...] I am so delighted to be here with your Congresswoman, Congresswoman Adams, who has a [...] path in the Congress, such a [...] of conviction. And my thanks also to Donna [...] for her leadership for that stirring description [...] Thank you so much.

This church for all those years has been a source of strength and solace, for generations of congregants and [...] It has helped people get [...]. It has helped people deal with the sorrows that come [...] and it has [...] the world outside challenged the faith that comes from belief. In here, in this magnificent house of worship, we pray for peace when there is too much violence outside of these walls. In here, we are called to confront injustice, even when the world out there fails to see it. In here, we see the world as it is, but we pray for the strength and wisdom to build the world as it should be.

It has been 12 days since Mr. Scott was shot and killed. Twelve days since his wife Rakeiya Scott watched her husband die, and seven children lost their father. Now we don't yet know all the details about the shooting, but we do know this family and this community is in pain. And therefore we pray for them and we pray for all families who have suffered similar losses. But we do more than pray. As Ms. Bradford said, "We do what each of us can do." Not everyone can march, but everyone can talk, and everyone can reach out and everyone can vote.

Too many African American families have been in the same tragic situation that the Scott family has found themselves. In fact, the day before Mr. Scott died, another father, Terence Crutcher, was killed in a police encounter in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And there have been many others. So many fathers and sons and even mothers and daughters who have died either after encounters with the police or at the hands of civilians with guns while they were doing things that were ordinary, everyday activities. Walking home from the store with iced tea and Skittles, listening to music in their car with friends.

And we also know—and we must not forget—that violence has touched the families of police officers. Men and women who put on the uniform and put their lives on the line to protect others. From Dallas to Baton Rouge to Philadelphia, the families of fallen officers have also been dealt a great blow and they deserve our prayers as well.

It's been a hard year, hasn't it? Think about how many times President Obama has had to console our nation about another senseless tragedy, another shattered family, another distressed community. And our children are watching, and they feel it too. You've seen that right here in Charlotte. Last Monday at the city council meeting, 10-year-old Taje Gaddy said, "I wake up every morning scared that I won't get to grow up because I am black."

A nine-year-old, Zianna Oliphant, who's here with us today, along with her brother Marquis and her family, also spoke at that city council meeting, with tears pouring down her face. And when I read what she had said, I had tears in my eyes too. She said, "We are black people and we shouldn't have to feel like this. It's a shame that our fathers and mothers are killed, and we can't even see them anymore. It's a shame that we have to go to their graveyard and bury them. We need our fathers and mothers to be by our side." What courage and clarity that young lady showed to the world.

But can you imagine, nine years old. She should be thinking about happy adventures, dreaming about all the wonderful things her future holds for her. Instead she's talking about graveyards. Our entire country should take a moment to really look at what's going on here, and across America, to imagine what we see on the news, and what we hear about, imagine through our children's eyes.

I'm a grandmother, and like every grandmother I worry about the safety and security of my grandchildren, but my worries are not the same as black grandmothers. They have different, and deeper fears about the world that their grandchildren face. It makes my heart ache, when kids like Zianna, are going through this and trying to make sense of the absolutely senseless. I know how I would feel. I wouldn't be able to stand it if my grandchildren had to be scared and worried the way too many children across our country feel right now. But because my grandchildren are white, because they are the grandchildren of a former president and secretary of state, let's be honest here—they won't face the kind of fear that we heard from the young children testifying before the city council.

You know, every child deserves the same sense of security, every child deserves the same hope. They should not be facing fear, they should be learning and growing, imagining who they can be, and what their contributions to our country could be as well. We've got to take action, we've got to start now, not tomorrow, not next year, now. We know we can't solve all these problems over night, which means we don't have a moment to lose.

Proverbs tells us, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." So let's hold on to a common vision. Let's come together to make America a place where every child, no matter who they are, where they're born or what they look like, has the chance to live up to their God-given potential.

Being stronger together with this common vision means rejecting those forces that try to pit us against each other. We can acknowledge that implicit bias still exists, not just in police departments but throughout our country, without vilifying police officers. We can call for reforms to policing, while still appreciating the many courageous and admirable officers out there who are doing their jobs with honor and integrity.

I think about an officer named Montrell Jackson. You might not have heard of him, but I want you to. He was one of the officers murdered in Baton Rouge. A few days before he died, he wrote on Facebook, he was black but he wore blue. "In uniform," he wrote, "I get nasty, hateful looks. Out of uniform, some consider me a threat. These are trying times. Please don't let hate infect your heart." And then he closed by saying that if anyone saw him on patrol and wanted a hug, "I got you."

Montrell Jackson knew that making our communities safer and juster are not conflicting ideas. And most officers will tell you they can't do one without the other. I believe we need end-to-end reform in our criminal justice system, not half measures but full measures, with real follow-through. In America everyone should be respected by the law and have respect for the law.

That starts with being honest. Being unafraid to face the facts. Face the fact that black men are far more likely to be stopped, searched by police, charged with crimes and sentenced to longer prison terms than white men for doing the same thing. We need to fix a system where too many black parents are taken from their kids and imprisoned for minor offenses. We need to make sure our police officers are trained in de-escalating tense situations. We need to dismantle the so-called school-to-prison pipeline, and instead invest in education from early childhood through high school into higher education. And yes we have got to fight for common sense reforms to stop the epidemic of gun violence in our communities.

Gun violence is by far the leading cause of death for young black men, more than the next nine causes combined. We've got to make sure there are good jobs, equality affordable housing in every zip code in America. We need to make investments in communities that have been left out and left behind. I am a strong supporter of Congressman Jim Clyburn's plan to put 10 percent of our federal funds into 20 percent of the communities that have generational poverty for 30 years or more.

Now, there are some out there who see this as a moment to fan the flames of resentment and division. Who want to exploit people's fears, even though it means tearing our nation even further apart. They say that all of our problems will be solved simply by more "law and order." As if the systemic racism plaguing our country doesn't exist. Now, of course we need safe neighborhoods, no one is against that. Of course, we need communities that are freed from the epidemic of gun violence, of course we need that. But we also need justice and dignity and equality, and we can have both. This is not an either-or question for America.

I want us to commit ourselves to this common vision. That is why I will build on the work that President Obama has done. And I will be sure that this is not just about a campaign or an election. This is much bigger than an election. These are issues I've been fighting for since I was a young lawyer working for the Children's Defense Fund. Going to South Carolina to try to get young teenagers, 13-, 14-year-olds out of jails with adult offenders. I care deeply about this because it's not just personal to so many of us, it's about the kind of country we want to be and the future we want for all of our children and grandchildren. I think about that every time I see my grandchildren or every time I see a bright, energetic, impressive young woman like Zianna. Come up here a minute, would you?

I love your dress.

You know, God loves us all, right? We are called to care for and cherish each other. It's not easy, it is not easy. But that is our mission and that is what we are called to do, not only as Christians but as Americans, as human beings to understand and respect each other. To fight for each other's children, each other's dignity, each other's opportunity as if they were our own. Now, make no mistake, this is not easy work. You've been doing this since Adam and Eve and Cain and Able. But it is righteous work. Protecting all of God's children is America's calling. Remember what scripture also tells us: "Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not lose heart." We will not grow weary and we will not lose heart. We will get up every single day have faith in one another and in our future and work for that better day for all of God's people. Thank you.