Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for removing the Confederate flag from statehouses and other public locations nationwide in a speech delivered near Ferguson, Missouri on Monday, although she noted that symbolism alone will not help improve race relations in the United States.
Clinton delivered her remarks during a roundtable discussion at Christ the King Church, a black church located in Florissant, Missouri, just a few miles from where the shooting of an unarmed black teenager last summer sparked protests and launched an ongoing national conversation about race and inequalities in policing. In her opening speech, she did not touch on the unrest in Ferguson but called the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina last week an “act of racist terrorism.”
“I know it’s tempting to dismiss a tragedy like this as an isolated incident, to believe in today’s America that bigotry is behind us, that institutional racism no longer exists,” she said. “But despite our best efforts and highest hopes, America’s struggle with racism is far from finished.”
She went on to praise South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) who called for removing the Confederate flag from outside the state Capitol Monday and stores such as Walmart. Amazon, eBay, and Sears which said Tuesday they would stop selling Confederate flags, saying it’s “a symbol of our nation’s racist past that has no presence in our present or our future.”
Clinton also called for more concrete measures that would work to shrink inequalities across the U.S. and address civil rights issues, including ensuring that all Americans have access to high-quality preschool. She again talked about the need for “common sense gun reform” and automatic voter registration so that everyone with a stake is able to have their say in democracy.
While other presidential contenders have shied away from addressing issues of race, Clinton has not been afraid to address it directly. She has spoken multiple times in recent days about the racism that fueled a 21-year-old white man to shoot and kill nine black men and women in Charleston last week.
“It’s tempting to dismiss a tragedy like this as an isolated incident, to believe that in today’s America bigotry is largely behind us,” she said in a speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Saturday. “But despite our best efforts and our highest hopes, America’s long struggle with race is far from finished.”
And while most politicians avoided the issues after Michael Brown’s death in August sparked protests and riots, Clinton directly discussed race and the criminal justice system in a speech before launching her campaign, saying “we cannot ignore the inequalities that persist in our justice system.”
Florissant — a municipality in northern St. Louis County bordering Ferguson — has garnered national attention for the disparities in its criminal justice system which result in African American residents being more harshly penalized for minor offenses.