When commenting on a subject as loaded as Ferguson, it's easy to slip into a diatribe. Many politicians and pundits have talked about Ferguson with anger, condemning the country's inherent racial divide, criticizing police brutality, and pointing fingers. But not Hillary. Hillary Clinton commented on Ferguson at a technology summit in San Francisco on Thursday, weighing in on the incident for the first time. Unlike commentators before her, Clinton expertly delivered a calm but assertive speech, addressing important underlying issues without assigning blame.
Clinton was the keynote speaker at this year's Nexenta OpenSDx Summit, an annual forum for the tech industry's leading executives. The former secretary of state took to the podium to address major tech-related issues, such as surveillance and data collection, but at the end of her speech, she switched gears to a very different topic. In her first public comments on the shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown, which occurred nearly three weeks ago, Clinton delicately broached the subject and talked about the country's prevalent inequities fairly and without contempt.
Her bottom line? America is better than that. Let's face it, Clinton is a likely 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, and if her diplomatic statement on Ferguson is any indication, then she should be equipped to handle even the most contentious issues with presidential grade. Here's what she told the crowd.
Speaking as a Mother
First and foremost, the incident was a family tragedy. At the core of the political, racial, and historical discourse is a family that lost their son.
Watching the recent funeral for Michael Brown — as a mother, as a human being, my heart just broke for his family because losing a child is every parent's greatest fear and an unimaginable loss.
Just One Community Of Many
Clinton points out that Ferguson may be in the news now, but it's just one community of many that could easily have taken its place. The larger implications that have allowed for Ferguson to occur are pervasive, Hillary said, and will still exist after the dust settles in Missouri.
I also grieve for that community and for many like it across out country. Behind the dramatic, terrible pictures on television are deep challenges that will be with them and with us long after the cameras move on. This is what happens when the bonds of trust and respect that hold any community together fray.
America Is Better Than That
The police's heavy presence and use of military equipment made Ferguson look like a war-torn place far from the image that America prides itself on.
Nobody wants to see our streets look like a war zone. Not in America. We are better than that.
Exemplary Characters on Both Sides
Clinton is careful to point out that leaders from both sides of the debate stepped up to set an example for the rest of America.
We saw our country's true character in the community leaders who came out to protest peacefully and worked to restrain violence. The young people who insisted on having their voices heard. And in the many decent and respectful law enforcement officers who showed what quality law enforcement looks like. Men and women who ... inspire trust rather than fear.
The Racial Double Standard
Of course, it's impossible to talk about Ferguson without mentioning the underlying racial issues that have formed glaring double standards.
We cannot ignore the inequities that persist in our justice system, inequities that undermine our most deeply held values of fairness and equality. Imagine what we would feel and what we would do if white drivers were three times as likely to be searched by police during a traffic stop as black drivers, instead of the other way around.
Backing Up Obama
Clinton, who recently criticized Obama's foreign policy mantra, was 100 percent on board with the president's handling of Ferguson.
I applaud President Obama for sending the attorney general to Ferguson and for demanding a speedy and thorough investigation. That's both appropriate and necessary to find out what happened, to see that justice is done.
Looking to the Future by Looking at the Past
By referencing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, Clinton is reminding us that his mission has not been fully realized; that, together, we can work toward that goal.
We can do better. We can work to rebuild the bonds of trust from the ground up. It starts within families and communities.Images: Getty (7)
It was 51 years ago today that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called us to live out the true meaning of our creed, to make the dream real for all Americans. And that mission is as fiercely urgent today as when he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the hot August sun all those years ago.