The Clintons are very well known for their volubility. As with all flamboyant politicians, it can be difficult to discern the spurious claims from the sincere ones. Still, it was moving and I believe that it subsumed many issues that are common to societies across the world, India included. So, here goes:
Firstly, for those of you who haven’t watched her speech, here’s the video –
1. The speech didn’t attempt to vilify anyone –
This is a point to Hillary Clinton for integrity. A lot could have been said about previous governments and comments that may have influenced the state of affairs in the US. This is done, left, right and center in India. The opposition’s speech is often misinformed and comes off as a random flailing of negative remarks.
2. The speech talked about institutionalized discrimination against blacks –
Citing various recent travesties that cast a poor light on the American Justice system, Clinton stated that being black automatically made one more suspect in the eyes of the law. This is true in many societies where people of a certain creed or community are seen as miscreants, when in fact many of them are perfectly peace loving that are driven to hostility due to similar prejudices.
3. The speech touched on the importance of seeing a criminal inclination as being a mental problem-
I could not reiterate this point using as effective a rhetoric as Clinton used. People have differing views on this, but just take a moment to think about this. A lot of black people in the US live in poverty. They are disaffected people and that is what fuels their refractory attitude. The persecution complex that they develop is the reason why such communities act out. This principle extends to other disengaged communities in other societies. Simply put, we should all learn to respect people, irrespective of color, race or creed.
4. How progress is measured –
Clinton said that progress should be measured by the number of growing families, by the number of people, white, black or colored, able to fully realize their god given potential. Progress should not be measured by the number of criminal arrests made or by the bonuses given to downtown officials. The truth in these remarks rings of itself. Nothing more need be said.
5. Mass incarceration –
Clinton seemed firmly against incarceration for trivial offences, saying that the current method was to undermine the potential of people that have done time, no matter how silly or minor the offense, that this serves as reason to deny them employment. She backed her views by giving statistics that the US is home to 5 percent of the world’s population, 25 percent of whom have spent time in prison. She went on to break it down, saying that 1 in 8 parents in the US has served a prison term. She was careful to say that she believed adopting conciliatory measures for trivial offences instead would not decrease the safety of american citizens and that she did not have all the answers, yet. Of course, these statements were made in a broad sense. A more specific plan in meeting these challenges needs to be delineated and probably will be in the days to come, but the motive has to be appreciated and I agree.
6. Tearing apart of families –
Clinton stated that what unnecessary incarceration does is shame a person causing that person to run away and stay away from family. She stated that in excess of 1.5 billion black men were missing from their homes – brothers, fathers, husbands, the implication being a troubled wife, daughter or sibling, possibly the loss of the breadwinner, the grief afflicted on loved ones they leave behind. I have known people that are afraid to report a case of domestic assault to the police for the negative impact that it would have on their children, because it would come with a stamp of indignity on the family from that point on. If the justice system took the time to understand this, alternate ways to effectively resolve such issues could be meted out rather quickly.
7. Creating undue fear in parents –
Clinton said that parents worry about what is going to happen to their children after sending them off to school. They worry that their children will be harassed along racial lines, sectarian lines. They could even be forgiven for worrying about misreporting due to misinterpretation just because their kid is of a certain wrongly discredited community.
8. Violence is uncalled for. It only creates disharmony between the law and the people it serves –
Clinton emphasized this point greatly. As given as these kinds of problems may be to vehement outcries, one should not miss the greater picture. Anarchy or violent protestation isn’t the answer, nor will it ever be. Throwing around vitriolic comments isn’t the answer either. People need to respect the law and the law needs to respect ALL people.
9. Restoring trust in the justice system –
Clinton stated the recent tragedies have depleted the trust of the common public in the justice system and this is not unwarranted. Black people are still pulled over more than white people. They are still checked for drugs more than white people. A twelve year old boy was shot dead because it looked to a certain cop like he was causing harm. If that doesn’t get you, I don’t know what will. Even in India, only a few hours ago, a rich and famous actor got away with mounting a pavement and running over a homeless guy, sleeping there, killing him in the process. The law should not be selective in any form. Period.
10. Assessing the impact of unnecessary victimization –
If progress continues to be measured by the number of daily arrests, then victimization would help that along as more people would commit crimes. But as Hillary expounded in her speech, should progress be measured by the number of people climbing out of poverty and staying out of poverty, by the number of people realizing their full potential, by the number of families that live, love and grow at a healthy pace, victimization can only impede such progress.
So, these are my thoughts. Sound off in the comments below.