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Hillary Clinton recently called for an ending to the “era of mass incarceration” or the school-to-prison pipeline in hopes of terminating systematic racism. She spoke of racial discrimination and police brutality, among other injustices toward the black community. Just a few decades ago, Clinton rallied for the “tough-on-crime” mantra legislation which was primarily aimed at African-Americans. Is she really the kind of candidate who will rally progressives and the black community, or does the Oscar go to Hillary Clinton for such a wonderful performance robed in deception?
In 1994, Clinton referred to urban youth as “super predators” who had no empathy or conscience. She spoke of using the full force of the law to drive these youngsters into submission. At that time, Clinton suggested that rather than trying to understand how poverty and social exclusion may have led children to make certain choices, it is more important to first “bring them to heel.” This sounds good in context, but as the former president’s wife, she was not referencing heal and in making one whole again; instead she mentioned heel, as in bringing them to a halt by any “physical” means necessary.
Maybe not all Americans share the same feeling for African-American youth, but the backdrop of their mentality, often projected through negative behavior, should be analyzed. Clinton’s cynical reference to urban youth as super predators ironically mirrors former law enforcement officer Darren Wilson when he described seeing Michael Brown as a demon before killing the unarmed teen. In a time where young black men are facing execution-style killings across the nation, it is no coincidence that the video recording of Mrs. Clinton’s words would be highlighted.
In the recording, the politician who is now “allegedly” seeking an end to systematic racism, was not calling for the assistance of doctors, teachers, or social workers; instead, she wanted aid from the FBI. Contrariwise, on Wednesday, the presidential hopeful spoke of unfair treatment within urbanized communities and the issues of substance abuse and mental health. Have the recent issues sparked a change in mindset on the issue of racially infected behaviors or is Clinton simply vying for an Oscar?
The term super predator was coined by a professor at Princeton named John Dilulio. In 1995, the professor predicted that the number of juveniles in custody would increase drastically and by 2010, an estimated 270,000 more young predators would be loose on the streets than what was witnessed in 1990. The Super Predator Scare, a documentary by Retro Report, explained the super predators theory as follows:
Radically impulsive, brutally remorseless” elementary school youngsters who pack guns instead of lunches” and “have absolutely no respect for human life.
These predictions of frightening imagery were racially coded. Criminologist James Fox joined in the rhetoric and stated, “unless the country acts today, we’re going to have a bloodbath when these kids grow up.” The supposed epidemic caused the nation’s leaders to panic and led nearly every state to pass laws between 1992 and 1999 that dramatically increased the treatment of juveniles as adults for purposes of sentencing and punishment.
However, Dilulio and Fox later admitted that the prediction surrounding the juvenile super predator epidemic was false. The research shows that the new laws “had no material effect on the subsequent decrease in crime rates,” and yet almost all of these laws remain on the books. The criminologists submitted an amicus brief in a court case which summarized extensive research data demonstrating that “the predictions of the proponents of the juvenile super predator myth” were wrong.
Although many minds were already sealed in approval of the super predator rhetoric, scientific evidence and empirical data invalidate the juvenile super predator myth. Even still, the super predator theory has contributed to the dismantling of transfer restrictions, the lowering of the minimum age for the adult prosecution of children, and has resulted in thousands of children being the recipients of ill-suited and excessive punishment regimes.
One of Clinton’s recent campaign ads makes bold declarations of the candidate’s goal for eliminating systematic racism. She has been seen in attendance at reputable events geared toward the African-American community in addition to meeting with nine civil rights leaders. The question remains, “Is she really the kind of candidate who will rally to progress the black community or does the Oscar go to Hillary Clinton for acting as if race relations is anywhere on her list of priorities?
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Vote Smart: HR 4092 – Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 – Key Vote
Daily KOS: Hillary Clinton: Gangs of kids are “super predators” with “no conscience, no empathy”
Equal Justice Initiative: The Super Predator Myth, 20 Years Later
Top Image by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images Courtesy of Beacon – Flickr License
Inline Image by Simone D. McCourtie Courtesy of World Bank – Flickr License
Featured Image Courtesy of DonkeyHotey – Flickr License