With the National Guard patrolling the streets of Baltimore, the crisis of policing in minority communities has already merged with the 2016 Presidential campaign. On Wednesday morning, Hillary Clinton went to Columbia University and spoke at a policy forum named after David Dinkins, New York City’s first black Mayor. She went somewhat beyond the remarks that President Obama delivered at the White House on Tuesday, calling for an end to mass incarceration, especially of young black men, and for the mandatory use of body cameras by the police.
Over the coming days and weeks, the merits of Clinton’s proposals will be subjected to closer analysis, and the politics of the issue will be chewed over in exhaustive detail. Before that, though, it’s worth looking at what Obama and Clinton said in their speeches, which was pretty striking. The President, who has been criticized by some black intellectuals and media figures for striking too timid a pose on race relations, asked Americans to confront the long history of minority deaths at the hands of the police, saying, “We, as a country, have to do some soul-searching. … This is not new. It has been going on for decades.” Clinton, in a speech that lasted about half an hour, also told some harsh truths. Indeed, she used almost that exact phrase, saying, “We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America.”
Words are only words, of course, welcome as they are.