Black Lives Matter Activist: Hillary Clinton's Racial Justice Record Is 'Abysmal'
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
The video of last week's exchange between Hillary Clinton and young leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement still reverberates in the media and in the presidential campaign. It was posted by GOOD Magazine. Hundreds of thousands of people have viewed it. One of the young people speaks of changing hearts, and Clinton advises them to propose policy changes instead.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
HILLARY CLINTON: You can keep the movement going which you have started, and through it, you may actually change some hearts. But if that's all that happens, we'll be back here in 10 years having the same conversation.
SIEGEL: Daunasia Yancey was one of the five Black Lives Matter there, and she joins us from Boston. Welcome to the program.
DAUNASIA YANCEY: Thank you.
SIEGEL: You and your fellow activists had tried to attend a candidates forum that was on substance abuse, and instead, you got a meeting with Secretary Clinton. What were you hoping to hear from her in that?
YANCEY: We were hoping to hear a personal reflection of Secretary Clinton's participation in an advocacy of policies, specifically through the war on drugs, that we've seen has been a war on drug users and more specifically, black and brown drug users, and that's not what we heard. What we heard was clearly a policy-based response and, actually, an admonishment of the movement, which wasn't what we were looking for.
SIEGEL: Do you think that she's been unusually hard on issues that have affected African-Americans negatively?
YANCEY: I think that her record is abysmal (laughter). I think that her support of policies that have decimated black community - she talked a lot about her advocacy for children, for black children, for Latino children while simultaneously sending those children's parents to jail and, if we talk about the Juvenile Justice System, sending those children themselves to jail. And so it's kind of speaking out of both sides of her mouth in a way.
SIEGEL: What she put to you and your fellow Black Lives Matter folks was, what do you advocate? I mean, what is it? Until you come up with programs, you can change all the hearts you want. So let me ask you 'cause other people do ask the same question. What do you advocate? What is the agenda of Black Lives Matter? Is it simply to confront people like Hillary Clinton to make her feel, you know, responsible?
YANCEY: Well, the agenda of Black Lives Matter is to bring an end to anti-black violence in this country. And specifically in this instance, in - when we're talking about the presidential race, the president of the United States is expected to have certain understandings around economics, around foreign policy, et cetera. And what we're saying is that it's actually necessary for the president of the United States to have an advanced and nuanced understanding of race relations in this country.
SIEGEL: Is there a phrase that you - I mean, is there something that Dr. Ben Carson might say that would reflect an understanding of the black experience in America that would make you say, well, I guess I'm for Ben Carson; he's the guy who understands.
YANCEY: I can't say because I'm not running for president, and I haven't heard it. Maybe I'll know it when I hear it, right? But part of what Hillary Clinton presented was kind of what I'm hearing from you, is that, like, what is the - what is our movement doing, and what - we need to be where we need to be, and I think that it needs to be more of a reflection on where they are. And they need to be coming up with these strategies and these platforms. We saw Bernie Sanders come out with a racial justice platform after being shut down twice. But it shouldn't take that, right? These - again, we are saying that these are knowledge bases that candidates need to have.
SIEGEL: I read a blog today by someone saying that the Black Lives Matter movement really lacks a figure like the late Julian Bond, who just died over the weekend, that is a leader who synthesizes the ideas articulately and presents them to the public in a way that's compelling. Do you feel the need for that?
YANCEY: There are many voices in the movement. This is a decentralized movement. It looks very different from the civil rights movement. I think this wanting to marginalize this movement as immature or un-strategic is wrong. It's absolutely wrong because we do know what we're doing, and we're very clear.
SIEGEL: Well, Daunasia Yancey, thank you very much for talking with us.
YANCEY: Thank you.
SIEGEL: Daunasia Yancey is founder and lead organizer of Black Lives Matter, Boston. She was in the meeting last week with Hillary Clinton that was videotaped and has made the rounds and gone viral on the web. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.