Three Black state representatives are defending Hillary Clinton’s racially charged “super predators” term. The Democratic presidential candidate used the phrase to describe violent gang members after the 1994 anti-crime bill passed.
Brooklyn Reps. Yvette Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries, and Queens Rep. Gregory Meeks, told the New York Post Clinton’s comments had to be understood in the circumstances of the time period.
“You have to remember that with the crack epidemic, there was tremendous victimization,” Clarke said to the NYP in a phone call arranged by Clinton’s campaign. “So many communities of color and Black communities were under assault and felt they were being preyed upon. When you look at the toll that the crime and the drug trade took on the Black community at the time, that was one way residents in our community felt, that they were being preyed upon [by the] dangerous, hostile behavior of [those in] the drug trade,” she adds.
The mass incarceration of Blacks is one of the “unintended consequences” that followed the passage of the crime bill, according to Meeks.
The Queens representative told the NYP “a number of members of the Congressional Black Caucus voted for it at the time. New York City had a murder rate of more than 2,000 [a year].”
Jeffries defends Clinton as he criticizes her fellow Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
“He voted for the 1994 crime bill,” Jeffries said to the NYP.
Sanders was a Vermont congressman during Clinton’s turn as first lady of the United States.
Meeks tells the publication supporters of the crime bill “were concerned about the Black lives being lost. Based on what was going on at that time, they were concerned about the crime and the deaths in the African-American communities.”
But he does acknowledge the “super predators” remark was offensive.
“Was the choice of words in the heat of battle incorrect? Yes, maybe there probably was a better choice of words.”
In 1996, The Washington Post reports Clinton voiced her support for her husband and then-President Bill Clinton’s crime bill.
“They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super predators,’ ” she said at the time. “No conscience, no empathy, we can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”
At a private fundraiser in Charleston, South Carolina in February, a Black activist named Ashley Williams asked Clinton to apologize to Black people for those comments. She was escorted out after the Democratic candidate said, “You know what? Nobody’s ever asked me before. You’re the first person to do that, and I’m happy to address it.”
In the former Secretary of State’s bid for the presidency, her description of gangs as “super predators” has come back to haunt her. Especially at a time when she has cemented the votes of Black women.