Thursday night's Democratic presidential primary was a trip through some pretty familiar territory ― the personal sniping between the candidates, the environment and climate change, the economy, gun control, and of course, matters of "qualification" and "judgment." It was undoubtedly the most hostile of the nine debates between Vermont senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton so far, but the actual substance of what the candidates discussed was pretty familiar. If you're looking for a single quote from the Democratic debate that you ought to hear, however, here's one that's worthy of your attention.
It was one of the few references to racial justice throughout the debate, and it came from Clinton, who's been enjoying distinctly more success with black voters throughout her campaign than her rival. It's perhaps one of the most telling divides between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns ― in large part, the struggles that Sanders has had with black voters is responsible for the slew of devastatingly lopsided losses he racked up across the south early in the primary process, digging himself a hole that he's still a long shot to crawl out of.
Sanders did mention race once in the debate, criticizing Clinton for her 1990s use of the term "superpredators," but it was Clinton who made the most overt statement of the night on the subject, imploring white people to recognize systemic racism.
I want white people to recognize that there is systemic racism. It's also in employment, it's in housing, but it is in the criminal justice system as well.
Issues of criminal justice reform and racism have come up before during the Democratic campaign, although surely not as often as some activists want ― both candidates have been the targets of protests and pointed questions about their views on racial justice, and it's not a stretch to think that the conversation that the candidates have had ― both the Sanders campaign and the Clinton campaign have racial justice platforms, although there hasn't been much in the way of realistic and detailed proposals for how reforms might be implemented.
But even if you're not a Hillary Clinton supporter ― even if you've got #FeelTheBern tattooed on your body somewhere ― you've got to concede that what Clinton suggested would make for a much, much better world. Acknowledging a problem is usually the necessary first step towards solving a problem, after all, and with how defensive some white Americans can become in conversations around race, having a major party presidential candidate speak to that need (on national television, no less) is a hugely worthwhile message.