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At Urban League Meeting, 2016 Candidates Talk Race, Inequality, ‘Black Lives Matter’

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At Urban League Meeting, 2016 Candidates Talk Race, Inequality, ‘Black Lives Matter’


Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Bernie Sanders, and two other 2016 presidential candidates spoke Friday morning at the National Urban League’s annual conference, discussing U.S. race relations, the Black Lives Matter movement, and economic and racial inequality, while also trading policy jabs with their political opponents.

“Race still plays a significant role in determining who gets ahead in America and who gets left behind,” Clinton said, speaking before the conference’s largely black audience. “And yes, while that’s partly a legacy of discrimination that stretches back to the start of our nation, it is also because of discrimination that is still ongoing.”

In recent days, some candidates have received criticism for seeming to miss the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement — which is to highlight how U.S. society, government, and police regularly disregard black lives, seen most clearly in the several deaths of unarmed black people at the hands of the police; and to declare unequivocally that racism has tangible and fatal effects. The main Democratic contenders have been slammed for saying “All Lives Matter,” or some version of that phrase, which critics argue diminishes the message and meaning of “Black Lives Matter.”

At the Urban League conference, Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley attempted to refine his earlier statements, telling attendees that as mayor of Baltimore, “Every year we buried 300 young black men who died violent deaths on our streets — and black lives matter.”

The former mayor and Maryland governor said the next president will need to “improve and reform our criminal justice system.” And he had some policy ideas: “Reduce mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent crimes. Repeal the death penalty. Invest in re-entry programs for convicts. Better equip communities to deal with mental illnesses.” And the big one: “We must improve policing, and the way we police the police.”

Clinton also spoke about how issues of economic and racial inequality continue to play out in the lives of black Americans, citing how black people receive “disproportionately longer sentences” than white people, and are “three times more likely to be denied a mortgage loan,” The Associated Press reported.

Targeting Jeb Bush by mentioning the name of his SuperPAC and campaign slogan, Clinton said, “I don’t think you can credibly say that everyone has a ‘right to rise’ and then say you’re for phasing out Medicare or for repealing Obamacare. People can’t rise if they can’t afford health care.”

She also criticized Bush’s “skepticism over a federal minimum wage and his policies as Florida governor to end affirmative action in college admissions,” according to The New York Times.

Addressing the conference attendees, Bush cited his record on improving Florida schools as governor and said that Democrats “have failed to fix the education system,” Reuters reported. “For a half-century, this nation has pursued a war on poverty and massive government programs, funded with trillions of taxpayer dollars. This decades-long effort, while well intentioned, has been a losing one,” Bush said.

He also ticked off a few other political bona fides: As Florida governor, Bush said “he ordered the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the state Capitol, raised the number of black judges, and tripled the state’s hiring of minority-owned businesses.”

Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders spoke about his campaign’s core message: the need to address income inequality. Relating it to racial inequality, Sanders told conference attendees how a black high-school graduate, age 17 to 20, faces a 51 percent unemployment rate, compared to a white graduate at 33 percent, and a Hispanic graduate at 36 percent. “That is unacceptable,” Sanders said of the greater barriers in the job market faced by black youth.

On racial inequality, prisons, and policing, Sanders said, “Blacks are in prison at six times the rate of whites.” He added that cities and the country need to move in the direction of community policing.

“Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Samuel DuBose. We know their names. Each of them died unarmed at the hands of police officers or in police custody,” Sanders said. “Violence and brutality of any kind, particularly at the hands of law enforcement sworn to protect and serve their communities, is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated.”

Calling for criminal justice reform, Sanders said, “Black lives do matter and we must value black lives.”

Republican candidate Dr. Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who is the only black contender in the presidential race, also spoke at the conference. “There was racism,” Carson said, recalling being the only black student in his 8th grade class. “There still is. And there always will be … as long as there are people with small brains and evil forces to stimulate them.”

“What do you do about it?” he asked.

Sticking to his conservative, bootstraps ideology, Carson said, “The person who has the most to do with what happens to you in life is you. It’s not somebody else. It’s not the environment. They can’t stop you. And once I developed that mindset, I stopped listening to all the naysayers and the people who were telling me that I was a victim.”

While Clinton, Sanders, and O’Malley each invoked the Black Lives Matter movement in their remarks, Carson and Bush did not.

The Urban League is a national civil rights organization “dedicated to economic empowerment in order to elevate the standard of living in historically underserved urban communities.” The 2015 conference is taking place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from July 29 to August 1.

Friday evening, the Urban League conference will feature a town hall plenary titled, “Saving Our Sons and Daughters: Black Lives Matter.”

Photo: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the National Urban League’s conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, July 31,2015. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity 



  1. Independent1 July 31, 2015

    As with virtually every campaign, all Republicans know how to do is distort the truth. Fact is, that since the beginning of the 1960s, when LBJ really started a war on poverty, there has been a significant reduction although as pointed out in an article I’ll post below, the rate has fluctuated between around 11% and 15% over the past 50 years going up during recessions and going down during recoveries.

    The article from the Washington Post points out that in 2010, because of the Great Recession, our overall poverty rate was 15%: Note in 2010, there were 23 states in America which exceeded that 15% threshold and of those 23, 20 of them were Republican-governed states. Well, using 2014 poverty statistics by state finds that now there are 24 states with poverty rates over a reducedl national average of 12%(poverty has in fact gotten much less under Obama) and of those 24 states, guess what, 21 of these 24 states are Republican-governed states.

    Not only due Republicans like to distort the truth, they also like to do virtually nothing to whatever it is that they’re distorting the truth about (which isn’t hard because aside from funnelling money to their rich donors through budget and tax cuts, and legislation feeding them subsidies) the GOP aside from doing that does VIRTUALLY NOTHING ELSE BUT SCREW UP THE COUNTRY!!!

    Poverty in the 50 years since ‘The Other America,’ in five charts

    There are two things to note here. First, there was a huge fall in the poverty rate throughout the 1960s, and in particular after LBJ announced the War on Poverty in 1964 and followed up with Medicaid, Medicare, greater federal housing spending, and other programs to fight that war. In 1964, the poverty rate was 19 percent. Ten years later, it was 11.2 percent, and it has not gone above 15.2 percent any year since then. Contrary to what you may have heard, the best evidence indicates that the War on Poverty made a real and lasting difference.

    Second, since the permanent decline achieved during the 1960s, most of the variation in the poverty rate has been cyclical: it goes up in recessions and down during booms. During the early 1980s recession, the rate spiked, only to fall again when the labor market recovered later in the decade. Same thing with the early 1990s recessions and late ’90s boom. And the current recession has spurred an increase again. The most recent numbers we have are for 2010, and that year’s rate – 15.1 percent – is about as high as it’s gotten since the 1960s.


    1. David August 1, 2015

      The increase in the “poverty rate” wouldn’t have anything to do with Obomo throwing the border open to illegals would it?

      1. Charles van Rotterdam August 1, 2015

        Dumb and wrong, more people deported under Obama, less people coming over the border under Obama

        1. David August 1, 2015

          Pardon me…what country do you live in?

          1. Charles van Rotterdam August 1, 2015

            What’s that got to do with the price of eggs

          2. David August 1, 2015

            From 2001 to 2008, Bush removed and deported 10.3 million illegals. Obomo through 2014 has removed and deported 3.2 million illegals. Newrepublic.com
            I thought you would know–after all, this is the most transparent presidency ever!

          3. Charles van Rotterdam August 1, 2015

            David, returns or removals?
            “Of course, these philosophical debates mask some genuine ambiguity about
            the statistics themselves. Bush oversaw a lot more returns, but,
            experts note, it’s hard to say how many more individual immigrants he
            actually deported. Many people tried and failed to make multiple border
            crossings. Each one would count in the statistics separately. This is
            true of all immigration data, but experts say it’s much more true of
            returns, just because the record-keeping is so informal. Even attempting
            to compare Bush’s numbers to Obama’s is “a fool’s mission,” says Ruthie
            Epstein of the ACLU. Even though it’s likely more people were escorted
            back over the border under the last president than this one, we’ll never
            know how many”

          4. David August 1, 2015

            I agree that an apple to apple comparison is difficult if not impossible. But, it would seem that more illegal aliens are coming in and getting to stay at “sanctuary cities”.

          5. Independent1 August 1, 2015

            When you going to stop reading these RWNJ websites with the totally fabricated statistics – those numbers like everything else you post ARE BLATANT LIES!!!!!!

      2. Independent1 August 1, 2015


        The national poverty rate has dropped from 15.1% IN 2010 TO JUST UNDER 12% IN 2014.

        And that 12% would be much lower if it wasn’t for Red States dominating the nation with people living below the poverty level!!

        Yup!! There are 24 states with poverty rates of 12% and higher today (there were 23 states with rates of 15% and higher in 2010), and 21 of those 24 high poverty states are you guessed it REPUBLICAN RUN STATES!!

        The average poverty rate in Blue states is under 8% while in Red states it’s over 16%. America’s poverty rate would be much lower if it wasn’t for the governing incompetence of GOP legislators both at the state and federal level!!!!!!

        1. David August 1, 2015

          Actually, your numbers are wrong. The number of people living at or below the poverty line was 2 percentage points higher in 2013 than in the recession year of 2007. In 2012, 46.5 million people were in poverty — greatest number in 54 years. 14.5% poverty in 2014 and 2015. Povertyusa.org
          Go Obomo! “You didn’t build that!”

          1. Independent1 August 1, 2015

            Sorry, more of your RWNJ propaganda – flat out blatant lies!!!!

            Good bye David..you keep on posting these RWNJ sights like Povertyusa and others and blogging with you is a waste of time!!

            Good Bye!!!!!!

          2. David August 2, 2015

            Lol…facts hurt don’t they?

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