On Monday, before traveling to Las Vegas, Nevada, then on to Minnesota and then Florida, ahead of the Democratic national convention in Philadelphia next week, Hillary Clinton made another stop in Ohio, her fifth since being declared the Democratic presumptive presidential nominee.
Mrs. Clinton spoke to the 2016 NAACP National Convention held in Cincinnati, the 107th national gathering since the organization’s founding in 1909, about an hour later than originally scheduled. Donald Trump, the winner of the Republican primary declined to speak to the group after 20 years of presidents and candidates who want to be president presenting themselves before a largely African-American audience. Mr. Trump was in Cleveland, on the opposite side of the battleground state, where Republicans commenced their national convention, that started out raucous as anti-Trump backers tried but failed to stop his nomination tomorrow night.
The theme for this year’s NAACP convention is “Our Lives Matter and Our Votes Count,” and Hillary hit hard on each of those dual values. Her audience, largely African-Americans, stand in complete opposition to Donald Trump and what he says he wants to do if elected president this November. Clinton is tied with Trump in Ohio but leads the real estate mogul in national polls by as few as several points to as many as 12.
Hillary Clinton, referring to deadly violence over the weekend, said, “And we saw it again just yesterday, when three police officers were shot in an apparent ambush in Baton Rouge. This madness has to stop.” The shocking spree of violence between African-American citizens and police, that have both citizens and police among the list of fatalities, has forced a discussion long in the making.
In that regard, as president, she said, “I will bring the full weight of the law to bear in making sure that those who kill a police officer are brought to justice. There can be no justification. No looking the other way. We all have to make sure and pray it ends.”
She called for partnership with law enforcement. and said reforms to the criminal justice system would be a priority for her administration. She added, “We cannot rest until we root out implicit bias and stop the killings of African Americans.” Everyone is safer when there is respect for the law and when everyone is respected by the law, she said.
Holding police accountable was mentioned by Mrs. Clinton and by NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks, who noted that Americans die at the hands of the police at a rate not unlike that documented at the early part of the 20th century. “Amidst this anguishing hour, many Americans are tempted to give up to despair. To give over to despondency. To grow weary in well-doing and to be depressed. Many Americans are less mindful of the made-up minds of the NAACP may be tempted to despair,” he said.
In a talk called “The Sound of our Silent Footsteps,” that wove in Bible passages, Mr. Brooks struck a deep chord when he said, “When a young black man is 21 times more likely to lose his life at the hands of police than his white counterparts, we have a problem. When an unarmed black man is seven times more likely to lose his life at the hands of police than his white counterparts, we have a problem. When black men – in pinstripes – trying to hold on to their respectability in their Mercedes, in their BMWs, with their Hampton and Howard and Yale degrees – maybe they understand like I do: Outside of these pinstripes, you’re just another brother!”
On previous occasions, Mrs. Clinton has said how important voting and having votes counter is, and Mr. Brooks hit that theme hard. “With 50 million Americans not yet registered to vote, one out of every four eligible voters not yet registered to vote; with five percent of the voters in North Carolina, their franchise hanging in the balance because of Voter ID laws, Mama Dukes, in your home state of Alabama, where 500,000 votes are hanging in the balance because of Voter ID laws. In the State of Texas, 600,000 votes hanging in the balance – there is one organization that stands between America being a vote-less and hopeless people, and that would be the N- Double A- C-P!”
“So you be clear,” he said in remarks that preceded Mrs. Clinton’s appearance. “Our presidential contenders, Secretary Clinton, Mr. Trump, members of Congress, you be clear: We are serving notice. By hook, or crook, by courts or the street, We! Will! Protect! The Right! To Vote! We put a million people in the ballot box in 2012! We will put a president in the White House in 2016!”
In her remarks, Hillary Clinton promised to push for national guidelines for the use of lethal force. Then she offered her pledge to take action on day one and everyday after. When the 24-hour news cycle ends, “I won’t,” she said to applause. She promised to stop the “school to prison pipeline” and told her audience that America is a place for second chances but for some a first chance is needed, recalling Abraham Lincoln’s admonition that everyone must have a fair chance at life.
Among other remarks, she promised to “ban the box” and to stop gun violence. She also called for racial equality in health care, asking the audience to imagine what resources would flood in if the whites and blacks had to trade places. She reminded everyone in the Duke Energy Center in downtown Cincinnati that black women represent a fast growing segment of business owners. She also talked about homeownership as one way to save for the future through building equity.
“I sweat the details,” she said, noting that whites needs to do a better job of listening, calling for the privileged to practice more humility.
In the last quarter of her remarks, she dumped on Donald Trump and Republicans, saying they will do the exact opposite. She reminded the NAACP audience that Donald Trump denigrated America’s first black president and was first mentioned in The New York Times in a article about the justice department going after Trump for refusing to rent apartments to African-Americans.
“Donald Trump is a threat to democracy. Donald Trump cannot be the President of the United State,” she said, rousing people to their feet.
Mr. Brooks talked about the power of the vote, and Mrs. Clinton had one more stop before leaving for Nevada. She’s involved with a national register to vote drive, and following her remarks, she went to the University of Cincinnati to be at one voter drive location. “We’re hiring…organizers,” she said with a big grin.
“Don’t let hate infect your heart,” she said in closing.
Mr. Brooks said that around the turn of the century, members of the NAACP decided to creep quietly through the streets of New York on something called the Silent March. “You can yet hear the sound of our silent footsteps! And on our way to the White House, on our way to changing this election, as we’re marching, as we’re demonstrating, as we’re protesting, as we’re registering, as we’re mobilizing, you can yet hear the sound of our silent footsteps.”