By Tom Watson
To a nation reeling from the brutal racist murder of nine Americans at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, Hillary Clinton did not offer political platitudes on healing and tragedy. Instead she posed a challenge.
Speaking to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in San Francisco, Hillary was blunt:
"Bodies are once again being carried out of black churches. Once again, racist rhetoric has metastasized into racist violence. Now it is tempting, it is tempting, to dismiss a tragedy like this as an isolated incident. To believe that in today's America, bigotry is largely behind us, that institutionalized racism no longer exists. But despite our best efforts and our highest hopes, America's long struggle with race is far from finished."
Her message was clear and in sharp contrast to her Republican counterparts: do not shy away from speaking about race, from the hard struggle to understand the still angry rifts in our society, or from the policy decisions we need to make:
"I know this is a difficult topic to talk about. I know that so many of us hoped by electing our first black president, we had turned the page on this chapter in our history. I know there are truths we do not like to say out loud or discus with our children. But we have to … we have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America."
Hillary talked about gun control and much-needed reform:
"The president is right: The politics of this issue have been poisoned, but we can’t give up. The stakes are too high; the costs are too dear. I will not be afraid to keep fighting for common sense reform and with you achieve that for all who have been lost because of senseless gun violence."
She also spoke about the families of the victims in Charleston and their public forgiveness for the murderer: "Their act of mercy is more stunning than his act of cruelty.”
And then she repeated the challenge and made a vow that underscores the rationale for her candidacy.
"This generation,” said Hillary Clinton, “will not be shackled by fear and hate.”
UPDATE: Hillary's comments are receiving well-deserved praise. Here is a sample of the coverage:
New York Times: Hillary Clinton Calls America’s Struggle With Racism Far From Over
CNN: In Charleston's wake, Clinton speaks forcefully on guns, race
Washington Post: In San Francisco, Hillary Clinton challenges nation on racism: ‘Race remains a deep fault line in America’
NBC News: Hillary Clinton After Charleston Shooting: Race Remains 'Deep Fault Line'
LA Times: Hillary Clinton: 'America's long struggle with race is far from finished'
Peter Daou and Tom Watson founded #HillaryMen to provide actionable analysis of the 2016 campaign focusing on the gender barrier in U.S. politics. Peter is a former senior digital adviser to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative. He is a veteran of two presidential campaigns (Kerry '04 and Clinton '08). Tom is an author and Columbia University lecturer who advises companies and non-profits on social activism.