At the Democratic National Debate, both presidential hopefuls talked about “white privilege,” two words that elicit honest conversation for some and evoke anger in others. Interestingly, neither one of them uttered the words. At the Democratic presidential debate, host Don Lemon, in front of a predominantly African American audience in Flint, Michigan, asked the candidates what racial blind spots they have.
I wish Hillary would use the term “white privilege.” She’s talking about it but avoiding that phrase. Too loaded? pic.twitter.com/BNdo0T2XE6
— Aeriña (@IsmeeErin) March 7, 2016
First Hillary Clinton answered, admitting that she as a white woman in America couldn’t possibly understand the daily experiences of black people who live in urban areas.
“What I have been trying to talk about is to urge white people about what it is like to have the talk with your kids, scared that yours or daughters even could get in trouble for no good reason whatsoever like Sandra Bland and end up dead in a jail in Texas.”
Clinton shared her empathy, but also said she would do what she can to change the status quo, according to Politico.
“I have spent a lot of time with the mothers of African-American children who lost them, Trayvon Martin’s mother. It has been incredibly humbling because I can’t [pretend] to have the experience you and others have had. I will do everything that I can to not only do the best to could and empathize, but to tear down the barriers of racism that are in the justice system and education and health care system.”
To some, her words may seem disingenuous, as her husband, former President Bill Clinton, signed legislation that imposed lengthy, harsh prison sentences, which disproportionately affected the black community. Although Hillary was not an elected official at that time, she voiced support for the initiatives.
“What’s your racial blind spot?” –Don Lemon, #DemDebate moderator
Bernie and Hillary both say: white privilege. pic.twitter.com/1Zc0NQju2l
— AJ+ (@ajplus) March 7, 2016
Bernie Sanders relayed a story about a congressional colleague who couldn’t get a cab to stop for him in Washington, D.C., because he was black. Sanders also said a Black Lives Matter movement participant told Sanders he couldn’t relate to what it’s like to be a young black person. Sanders agreed, and according to the LA Times, has made an effort to understand the BLM perspective.
“I would say, and I think it’s what the Secretary said, you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto and to be poor. You don’t know what it’s like to be hassled when you walk down the street or get dragged out of a car. I believe as a nation in the year 2016, we must be firm in making it clear. We will end institutional racism and reform a broken criminal justice system.”
Both Sanders and Clinton dodged around the words “white privilege,” and of course, not everyone agrees that it exists. In fact, there are many who are seemingly angry that anything is discussed concerning past and present racial, gender, sexual orientation, and religious discrimination.
People who were following the debate tweeted their thoughts on the “white privilege” discussion.
Besides Bernie’s comment about “living in the ghetto,” I thought his answer re: white privilege was solid. #DemDebate
— deray mckesson (@deray) March 7, 2016
Democrats talking about white privilege + the criminal justice system. Republicans talked about dick size during their debate. #DemDebate
— iDanielTX (@iDanielTX) March 7, 2016
— Mark Hogan (@inperilous1) March 7, 2016
I sure know which party I’m proud to be a part of.
— Beth Rader (@BethRader) March 7, 2016
[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty]