Thursday, July 14, 2016
NYTimes | As Mrs. Clinton herself said last year, “I don’t believe you change hearts, I believe you change laws. You change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate.”
What, even, would the form of this conversation be? Editorials? Panels? Reports? “Hamilton”? Even the last, which Mrs. Clinton encouraged her audience to listen to, won’t prevent more Alton Sterlings, or get an ex-con back into mainstream life.
Mrs. Clinton is trying to win an election, and it isn’t the time for novelty or tilting at windmills. But she has said herself that we must change both laws and attitudes. If she is serious about dedicating her first 100 days to getting work for underserved people, then policies — not conversations — would do much more to prepare black America to take advantage of those opportunities.
What if, instead of calling for a conversation, Mrs. Clinton had called for revitalized support for vocational schooling to help get poor black people into solid jobs that don’t require a college degree? Or an end to the war on drugs, which furnishes a black market that tempts underserved black men away from legal work. Or ensuring cheap, universal access to long-acting reversible contraceptives, to help poor women (who praise these devices) control when they start families. Or phonics-based reading programs, which are proved to be the key to teaching poor kids how to read. All poor black kids should have access to them just as they get free breakfasts.
These narrow policy proposals may not have the emotional reach of a conversation, and in and of themselves they will not stop the next Philando Castile either. But they would do more for black America than any amount of formulaic dialogues, or exploring the subtle contours of whites’ inner feelings about black people. Maybe there could be compromise: Let’s have a national conversation, but make it about legislation, not feelings.