Debate Night at Hofstra: How the Candidates Performed on Race

Debate Night at Hofstra: How the Candidates Performed on Race September 27, 2016


This week’s episode of The Apprentice (Presidential Edition) sucked. We got to hear a screaming Donald desperately try to fire Hillary Clinton for a job she didn’t yet have, a moderator whose microphone was clearly hacked by the DNC, and not so veiled personal attacks about email and taxes.

Oh yeah, they talked about Black people.

It was a low bar. Secretary Clinton just had to stay on her feet, connect with the Black community, and mention the Black Church at least once. There was speculation about her calling out Formation, but that didn’t happen. And it turns out the rumors of her taking a knee during the intro, over exaggerated. In comparison, her opponent had one job, appear less racists than the last 15 months. Nyet.

I have a major criticism of both candidates as they failed to outline any real policies on race or easing the current racial tensions. They also missed opportunities to address people of the Nations, Latinos, and the plurality of Americans that make up our diversity project. However,  given the current focus on Black tensions, its understandable. Yet, we missed the substantive talk on on police accountability, the system that produces systematic racism, and the all important community development? And what about Steve Harvey? Who’s taking care of Steve Harvey?

Let’s see how they did. I broke it into a few sections we tend to address specifically in the Black community from the view of a community organizer.

Crime, Safety, and Law Enforcement

This is a topic that is often overlooked at the national level, but felt locally. Crime is a problem in the inner cities. That’s factual. The hood is hard. There are many reasons, none of them caused by race, but easily correlated to it. Employment, gun access, education, Ferguson-like government corruption, wealth inequality, and poor family support are just some of the issues we need help addressing. It would be difficult for all these topics to be covered in one debate.

So, where do we begin with Secretary Clinton?

You know, the vibrancy of the Black church, the Black businesses that employ so many people, and the opportunities that so many families are working to provide for their kids. There’s a lot that we should be proud of and we should be supporting and lifting up.

All true, she painted a very optimistic view of the Black community, citing its successes, but the last eight years haven’t been particularly GREAT for the Black community. Black unemployment is nearly double Whites regardless of source. The national labor stats show nearly 9% vs 4.4% for Whites. No discussion of that, its cause, or solutions. She was reassuring and even acknowledged the problems caused by Bill’s crime bill, the mass incarceration due to uneven application of laws which created a prejudicial veneer of justice, not equal justice. She gets points for trying.

She then continued:

We have to restore trust between communities and the police. We have to work to make sure that our police are using the best training, the best techniques, that they’re well prepared to use force only when necessary. Everyone should be respected by the law, and everyone should respect the law.

This was a tip-toe moment. We have a country that is in love with the term “respect” from flag to jersey, but dodges its own accountabilities in the mess it creates. Miss me with respect song unless you start prosecuting bad cops. Now, she made a commitment to budget for implicit bias training, but didn’t address the laws that need repealing for that to matter. That’s a problem, because that merely perpetuates the same cycle. Although she subsequently glossed over “reform”, she does not nail it.

We need to have more second chance programs. I’m glad that we’re ending private prisons in the federal system; I want to see them ended in the state system. You shouldn’t have a profit motivation to fill prison cells with young Americans. So there are some positive ways we can work on this.

This is big. Ending for-profit prisons may have real impact of treatment and recidivism rates, but, this was a Bernie idea. Great to see it in her platform, but only partial credit for supporting it now.

Missing term: Police Accountability.
Grade: B-

And how about her competitor:

But we need — Lester, we need law and order. And we need law and order in the inner cities, because the people that are most affected by what’s happening are African-American and Hispanic people. And it’s very unfair to them what our politicians are allowing to happen.

Real talk. You know who talks about Black on Black Crime, though not in that very pejorative nonsensical term? Black People. Community organizers are well aware of the intra-racial statistics of higher crime rates in our communities. We don’t usually call it Black on Black crime, we just call it crime. However, sometimes we make that distinction when trying to save our youth. We don’t want them killing each other, especially given America’s history of doing that for us. However, we sure as hell don’t want cops executing them while walking, driving, playing with a toy truck, reading, riding their bikes, pulling out the identification requested by police, playing with toy guns by themselves in a park, breathing – or attempting to, responding in a manner protected by the Constitution, or otherwise non-executable offense.

The problem occurs when America shifts the blame or its own accountability for those executions or aforementioned conditions, and solely places the emphasis on the mythic freedom trope of self-determination, without removing the hurdles it created.

But yes, Donald we want safety too.

Unfortunately, this is where Trump continued to lose ground. He stayed in the Law and Order piece of the equation, playing into the role of the rich land owner upset about “those people.” Completely oblivious to the national conversation about mistrust of the police, he continues:

I just got today the, as you know, the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police, we just — just came in. We have endorsements from, I think, almost every police group, very — I mean, a large percentage of them in the United States.

This will get him none of the young Black vote who largely, don’t trust the police.
It will however, reassure Middle American White voters that he’s not caving into another race, as demanded during the RNC.

Missing Point: How to EASE Growing Tensions

Instead of leaving it at that, he doubled down. The Stop, Drop, and Frisks route D? Really? Rudy, you’re fired! It divided NY when you were mayor and didn’t work. National expansion of a program would further increase unnecessary police and minority interactions resulting in even greater tensions, while creating an unconstitutional nightmare. When confronted with the fact that crime continued to decline post the Rudy era, he flat out denied facts. Then continues onto his version of community “policing”?

You need better relationships between the communities and the police, because in some cases, it’s not good.
But you look at Dallas, where the relationships were really studied, the relationships were really a beautiful thing, and then five police officers were killed one night very violently. So there’s some bad things going on. Some really bad things.

Again, completely missing the point.

The Dallas protest that resulted in the murder of those five officers, weren’t in response to Dallas problems. They were in response to the perceived growing national one. It could’ve happened anywhere.

He blew it.

Grade: D- (because I have to save the impending F)

Bias and Racism

This was also very difficult to judge as both nominees have to walk a tightrope to please the majority. We know racism and bias are a problem. Polls show pre-Reagan rates of bias or attitudes in race relations. Nearly 80% of Americans (CBS) say there’s a problem. Secretary Clinton knows this:

Lester, I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police. I think, unfortunately, too many of us in our great country jump to conclusions about each other. And therefore, I think we need all of us to be asking hard questions about, you know, why am I feeling this way?

Good answer, though implicit bias is only a piece of the American racist pie. Explicit bias is also a real problem. We’re seeing outburst even outside of Trump rallies, but calling America “racists” is difficult for any politician. And what about… Trump?

I do want to bring up the fact that you were the one that brought up the words super-predator about young black youth. And that’s a term that I think was a — it’s — it’s been horribly met, as you know. I think you’ve apologized for it. But I think it was a terrible thing to say.

That was his answer. I shit you not, You were racists first.

I had to scour the transcript to see if maybe he addressed it elsewhere. And though not in response to that particular question, the transcript did reveal an answer that might fit:

We have gangs roaming the street. And in many cases, they’re illegally here, illegal immigrants. And they have guns. And they shoot people. And we have to be very strong. And we have to be very vigilant.

And I can only imagine that he’s trying to shift the burden of crime from “The Blacks” and “Legals ” to the undocumented population to justify the Wall? Other than that, I got nothing.

Missing Answer: Anything but that.
Grade: F

Economic Development and Education

This was a difficult one to pin down as well, since it didn’t really fit into the race section, but we know that economic development and education affect the Black community deeply. This was a building point for the Sanders platform. However during the debate, housing and urban development went effectively untouched except for when Donald took credit for developing  – yes he went there –his portfolio.

Then there was this specific reference by the Secretary:

I don’t think top-down works in America. I think building the middle class, investing in the middle class, making college debt-free so more young people can get their education, helping people refinance their — their debt from college at a lower rate. Those are the kinds of things that will really boost the economy. Broad-based, inclusive growth is what we need in America, not more advantages for people at the very top.

The term inclusive, might mean what it’s supposed to mean in this case. TBD.

Tentative Grade: B-

Donald’s response, though… I’ll have to paraphrase to make it coherent:

Fuck you, I’m rich.

Missing Answer: Really?
Grade: F

He does get a small extra credit bump for his attack of the Democratic Party, which might move him to a solid D- performance:

The African-American community has been let down by our politicians. They talk good around election time, like right now, and after the election, they said, see ya later, I’ll see you in four years. The African-American community — because — look, the community within the inner cities has been so badly treated. They’ve been abused and used in order to get votes by Democrat politicians, because that’s what it is. They’ve controlled these communities for up to 100 years.

His numbers are only kind of off. The Democratic Party controlled Black communities for a very long time, but it hasn’t always been the Modern Democratic Party. And to his credit for pointing it out, many liberal policies wreaked havoc on Black families (a la Clinton) due to really bad implementation, but the same is true regarding with Conservative policies under Reagan, Nixon, and Bush (all of them). There is no rational path or history to project this would change under another Republican President.

This is actually important for the next election, since we see so many young activists failing to blindly fall in line with the Party. Yes, Blacks vote as a Blue block and I don’t believe that will change. However,  as the youth are learning, they’ll demand something more in return.

What about Obama Origin and Birther Issue?

Yes, it’s racist and it came from a racist place, but neither candidate was clean on this. The rumors appear to be from a conservative blog during Obama’s first run, however there may have been an HRC campaign manager that was tied to the idea early in 2007 when HRC started slipping. Hillary also took several coded shots throughout her initial campaigns at then Senator Obama, including an unresolved picture floating around with him dressed in his ancestral garb, “otherizing” the President. Trump turned that into racists gold when feeding his constituents.

So, on a scale of pass and fail, on Obama’s “otherness” I’m going to fail them both, but if I could fail Donald more, I would.


All in all, lack luster performance on the topic of race, but the debate itself was a mess.

Don’t make your sole determination based on that performance. Check out each candidate’s website for their positions on social or racial issues. I personally believe that either would provide mostly lip service. Ultimately the fate of the Black community, will be in the hands of the Black community. America is a country divided and the requirements needed to address the division, requires a level of unity that this country has yet to experience and less desire to attempt. Not for just 13% of the population.

Black people, yes, you’re still on your own. No revolutionary change, not yet. These issues will be yours past whoever’s presidency. Eight years of Obama, how much better are you? Are the police any kinder or are the streets any safer for you? Will either of these candidates change the dynamics of Congress? Do they have enough clout to affect hyper localized issues specific to your communities? What about addressing the wealth gap? Can this person remove the resentment nearly 50% of White Americans feel for your existence? Are they going to address our families or youth? There are issues here no Wall can fix, no false promises dressed in church robes can address, and not one single group can solely address.

Does one candidate provide a potentially scarier future? I’ll let you be the judge, but in a political system that invites minority disenfranchisement, how far does any candidate go?

Check out their sites when it comes to racial and social justice and you be the judge:


Trump: Oh wait, Trump doesn’t have one.

Browse Our Archives

error: Content is protected !!