Friday 21 October 2016 11.00 BST THE GUARDIAN.COM
You always know an election is near in the US when Democrats and Republicans start to discuss the plight of black Americans.
Most of the time, little is said about the high levels of poverty in black communities. Ditto with unemployment. Before the eruption of the Black Lives Matter movement, almost nothing was ever said about police violence. Until recently these issues were simply facts of life, so omnipresent that racial inequality passes for the norm for both Republicans and Democrats.
Two years ago, Republican leader Paul Ryan described the higher rates of black unemployment as attributable to a “tailspin of culture”. On the other side of the political spectrum, both Barack Obama and Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, have respectively blamed an absence of “role models” and “parenting” for violence in black neighborhoods. In effect, both parties have long been saying that what is needed is personal transformation – not the reform of ways that wealth and resources are distributed in our country.
Blaming black communities for their own problems is not new; it’s been a staple of US politics for the last 50 years. But as Democrats anxiously try to rally their bases, the concern is that there is limited enthusiasm from black millennial voters – that is, African American voters roughly between the ages of 18 and 35.
There’s no question that black voters will support Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in large numbers, but the real question is whether they will actually come out and vote for her. […]
While it is certainly true that Clinton has gone out of her way to use the language of the Black Lives Matter movement and to highlight the unquestioned racism of Donald Trump, she faces three problems that no campaign promise can adequately address.
The first problem for the Democrats is the dreadful continuation of police killing black men.[…]Even where police killings of black men and boys do not receive national attention, they reverberate within the neighborhoods and wider communities for days, weeks and months afterward. Indeed, the crisis of police violence was identified by black millennials as their number one concern above all other issues. In a poll taken last August, 91% of black and 71% of Latino millennials described “police killing of Black people as a serious problem”. Seventy-seven per cent of black millennials said that they or someone they knew had been “harassed” by the police.
The Democratic party has appeared completely incapable of putting a stop to it.
It has now been 19 months since Obama’s commission on policing in the 21st century released its report and offered 58 recommendations for reform. The police have killed more than 1,000 people in that time. Furthermore, for all the publicity that some cases have received, it is more likely than not that the police officers will not even be charged, let alone punished.
In the absence of actual reform, Democrats led by Obama seem to stress the need for understanding on both sides – as if police violence were the product of misunderstanding as opposed to oppression at the hands of an armed appendage of the state.
Hillary Clinton’s platform is more substantive than that, as she calls for spending a billion dollars to better train police, legislation against racial profiling and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline. While one can debate Clinton’s ability to actually follow through on these promises (and whether they would actually produce the kind of accountability the Black Lives Matter movement is demanding), the bigger problem for Clinton is one of credibility.
Supporters of Clinton have denounced the perception of her as untrustworthy, calling it ignorance or sexism. It is undeniable that some of the vitriol directed at Clinton has misogynistic undertones, especially when it comes from Trump and his supporters. But to reduce all criticism of Clinton to gender discrimination is both disingenuous and dishonest.
[…]The second problem the Clinton campaign faces is the developing anti-capitalist politics of young voters, especially black millennials. […]Polling found that “poverty and inequality” together were listed as the third most important issue for black millennials. This fits with the growing anti-capitalist sentiment among young people today. […]
Clinton now supports some aspects of “free college”. This sudden switch, in addition to contributing to the perception that Clinton will say anything to curry political favor, speaks to the larger disconnect between her campaign and young voters. Young people wonder how it is that a wealthy nation like the US with its 400 billionaires can also be home to 45 million people living in poverty. The young people, like those of the Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter, care less about what is politically realistic and more about what is just.
For some black millennials, their lives teeter on the edge of catastrophe. There is breathless reporting of gun violence in Chicago, but outside of the city there is remarkably little said about the conditions within which the violence gestates. Forty-seven per cent of 20- to 24-year-old young black men are unemployed. Among black 16- to 19-year-olds, 14% are neither working nor in school.
Finally, the main factor in black millennials’ shortage of enthusiasm for Clinton may be the thin portfolio of reform offered by Barack Obama. Obama won in 2008 and 2012 in part because of the historic turnout of young black voters. […]
He righteously counseled: “Change doesn’t come from Washington … change comes to Washington.” While on the campaign trail, he made speeches that invoked the legacy of the abolitionist movement against slavery, the labor movement of the 1930s that made unions possible, the gay rights movement and, of course, the civil rights movement. Obama rhetorically tried to situate his campaign among those social movements: underdogs in the grassroots doing the impossible for the good of the nation.
But candidate Obama was no President Obama. The rise of Black Lives Matter is, in no small part, a product of his inability or unwillingness to directly and forthrightly address the persistence of racial inequality. The paralysis of the president in the face of racism and injustice was a bitter pill to swallow. Obama has reminded all who would listen that he was not the president of black America, but the president of the US. Even if this disappointment was never measured in opinion polls, today it can be measured in the waning interest of black millennials in the Clinton campaign.
If the nation’s first black president, who won a majority of the electorate and came into office with a super-majority in Congress, could not disrupt the racial status quo, then what can anyone expect Clinton to accomplish?
- COMPREHENSION (8/20 points)
After reading the text carefully, reply in English and in your own words to the following questions.
a- using your own words, explain why the millenial voters lack enthusiasm to vote for Hillary Clinton. (3 pts)
b- Explain what Hillary Clinton means when she calls for implementing “legislation against racial profiling and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline” l. 39-40 (3pts)
c- Using your own words, explain why Obama has failed to “disrupt the racial status quo” (l. 79). (2 pts)
- SYNONYMS : For each of the following, find an equivalent word or expression in the article. The words you are looking for appear in the same order as listed below but perhaps not in the same conjugated form or syntax. (4/20 points)
b- a downturn
c- a standard
e- a program
III. ESSAY : Write a short, argumented essay on the subject below (300 words)
According to you, why is the racial problem so overwhelming/ present in the USA?