Joe Madison’s interview with Hillary Clinton on SiriusXM Urban View this past weekend.
Joe Madison: Let me welcome Secretary Hillary Clinton here to the Madison Show, and it’s been a while since we’ve talked but hopefully it won’t be the last time.
Yesterday – or I should say this weekend, this Friday – Atlanta, a major speech as it related to criminal justice. And everyone now has seen the protest that took place with a group that is loosely affiliated with Black Lives Matter. But you were preparing to spell out in detail some of the very issues that they were protesting about. One of them was ban the box. And unfortunately, you didn’t get into what I think were probably about three pillars of ban the box that you wanted to talk about. Can we go over those three pillars now?
HILLARY CLINTON: Oh, yes. Absolutely, Joe. I was very excited about rolling out some of the specifics that I believe we have to follow up on in order to make criminal justice reform real and to end the era of mass incarceration, and importantly, provide real opportunities for those who have paid their debt to society and have rejoined our communities.
So for me, one of the keys is trying to tackle the problem of unemployment that ex-offenders face. As you know, because you’ve been a strong voice on this issue, about 600,000 or so people get released from jails and prisons every year, and we have about 60 percent unemployment. So I want to encourage employers to follow the example of Walmart and Target and begin to take a different approach to job applications so that you don’t get to the ex-status right away and eliminate someone from being considered; you go through the process, and then you are able to consider that at the end, but after you’ve had a chance to evaluate someone’s skills and their work ethic and determination to do a good job for you.
Secondly, I want to see more states and cities follow the lead to ban the box, and I’m very happy to say this is a bipartisan effort. Yesterday in my speech, I mentioned that we have Democrats and Republicans like Chris Christie in New Jersey and Nathan Deal, the governor of Georgia, who have joined the movement to ban the box. And as president, I would go as far as I could to require federal contractors to similarly engage with employment, first by evaluating someone’s skills and then and only at the end of the process, with limited exceptions for sensitive positions that we would have to carve out. But in general, I believe we should delay inquiring into criminal history until individuals have a chance to demonstrate their qualifications for a job. And I’m hoping that this movement picks up steam in the private sector, at the state level, and then at the federal level as well.
JM: So to be – to make sure people understand, this would – from a presidential standpoint, this would be an executive order that would impact federal jobs?
HC: That’s right, and federal contractors.
JM: And federal —
JM: And contractors.
HC: Yes. Yes. That would —
JM: Let me go to another issue, and that is I know that you’ll be spending time in Charleston. MDC has a forum. Will you be – and South Carolina, we were there for – in North Charleston with a town hall meeting of what happened there. Everyone saw that video of the officer who’s now been charged with the shooting of a felon – of an individual fleeing. And then of course you have the situation with the church. And now we have in South Carolina this video of the student. Your feeling – your feeling as a mother, a grandmother, a woman watching that video? And how do you plan to address that while in Charleston and South Carolina?
HC: Well, I feel very disturbed by what we have all seen, and violence of any kind has no place in any school. And the adults in a school should be modeling appropriate behavior to deal with any disciplinary issues that might arise, and that was clearly not the case in the incident we have seen in the school in South Carolina.
I think that there are several problems here, Joe. One is we need to make sure that all the adults in any school, whatever the role they play, have sufficient awareness and training and understand alternatives to dealing with kids who might be difficult. And I don’t know the facts around the young woman who was thrown to the floor, as we all saw, but whatever the facts are, it doesn’t justify behavior like that. And it’s important that we all take a deep breath here and try to understand better how to deal with kids who may have different challenges in their lives, and they need to be addressed in a more effective way.
One of our big concerns should be that Black children are disciplined much more frequently, they’re suspended and expelled from school much more frequently. So clearly there is something that is not working right. And my friend and my mentor, Marian Wright Edelman, addressed this as a South Carolinian herself, having grown up in Bennettsville. And as you know, I had my first job out of law school working with her at the Children’s Defense Fund. And she has made that point.
JM: And she says, “I am often asked what’s wrong with our children, but I almost always ask, ‘Adults, what’s wrong with adults?’”
HC: Exactly. And honestly, Joe, I think that we’ve got to have a greater awareness that the adults in kids’ lives today – and I would include every institution, from the family to the school to law enforcement, you name it – we are not understanding and dealing with the particular challenges kids are facing. It’s one of the reason why I am a huge proponent of early intervention into families so that if there are problems in the family, if there are developmental problems with the children, there is a way to help support getting the kind of expert assistance or changing the behaviors. Well, that’s just as true for schools. We need to deal with the world that we’re in. Now, I know a lot of adults complain that kids aren’t as respectful, that they don’t follow authority. Well, the fact is we are responsible in many ways for modeling the behavior we want from our children. And people in positions of authority – particularly teachers, police officers, et cetera – we need to take a very hard look about how we deal with the problems kids have today, and try to help children where they are. And if they’re acting out, there’s a lot of alternatives to picking them up and throwing them on the ground.
JM: One of the – I saw today, and this is obviously good news for your campaign, Secretary Clinton. You’ve got a 20 percent lead over your closest rival, and it’s now at 50 percent. We have had discussions here on Urban View. Callers have asked me to ask you, and I’ll just put the questions straight to you.
With the lead that you have, and might – and maybe you will be able to maintain, a lot of African Americans are wondering if you’re taking the Black vote for granted. I can almost anticipate the answer, but I’ll let you answer directly.
HC: Well, not at all. In fact, as you point out, I was in Charleston last evening, after being at Clark Atlanta University, and in both places I spoke about my agenda for really dealing with the problems that African Americans face, trying to come up with solutions for the – not only the obvious problems with law enforcement and incarceration, but the more widespread problems with education and health care and jobs and rebuilding communities and empowering them. And I talked last night at the NAACP about the importance of us continuing to call out the systemic racism and the lack of equal treatment before the law – the injustice that unfortunately is still too prevalent in America. And I’m on my way to another rally here in Charleston to make the same points.
I know that people in general – this is not about any particular community – but people in general right now in our country are turned off by politics. Some of them have given up on politics. They are discouraged or disappointed. And I have a big task in front of me to really convince people that it matters who is elected – what our goals are; what our experiences are; what we want to do to try to empower and enable people from all walks of life to live out their own dreams. And in fact, going back to my Children’s Defense Fund work, the mission I see for my presidency is to do all I can every single day to make sure every child in our country has a chance to live up to his or her God-given potential.
So I’m not taking anybody for granted, and I’m not taking any issue for granted. I’m going to work as hard as I can to make the case not just for my candidacy, but for the country that we love and cherish and what more we need to do to stay true to our values. That is my hope for the campaign and for my presidency.
JM: Bottom line, cynicism leads to apathy, and then apathy, if you are apathetic about voting, then you just leave room for folks to fill the arena with a different perspective. And I’m hoping people don’t. So let me end with another point, and I don’t think people realize this, but I was told and reminded that in your early days – this is – well, let me put it this way: This is not something new we’re hearing from you. You were involved in some undercover work in Alabama when you were right out of law school?
HC: (Laughter.) Well, that’s when I was working for Marian at the Children’s Defense Fund.
JM: What was that about?
HC: Well, it was about the proliferation of segregated academies in the South and the real abandonment of public schools because of integration, and instead of seeing it as a great opportunity, it was rejected by a lot of people across the Southern states. I went to Alabama to – as part of an investigation that the Children’s Defense Fund and other civil rights groups were running to find out what we could to make the case that the segregated academies should not be given tax exempt status; that they were not a classic private or parochial school operating in the arena of charity, but they were a political tool to try to avoid and undermine the laws of the country. So we were gathering up information, and I was in Alabama and I was frankly posing as a white parent, even though I was a very young lawyer, who was going to be moving to the area in order to elicit information about what the real intentions were so that we could put together a big dossier and submit it to the administration and the IRS to deny charitable exemptions for these segregated academies.
JM: Well, I hope that we can have other conversations as this campaign – we’ve got a long way to go, so I’m looking forward to other conversations with you about all kinds of issues – international issues. As I said, we worked together, I know, on South Sudan becoming a new country. So there are so many issues we can talk about, but thank you so much for taking the time to be with us. And hopefully we’ll have a chance to talk again.
HC: I would love that, Joe, and I’d like to have that conversation continue over the months and years ahead. Thank you very much.