WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton on Friday took her battle for the White House to a ballroom filled with hundreds of black and Latino media professionals, vowing that in her first 100 days in office, issues of immigration reform and economic development in communities of color will be “clear high” priorities.
“It’s been said that 'when the economy catches a cold, communities of color get pneumonia.’ The great recession hits our country hard, but the toll was especially difficult of for black and Latino families,” she said, adding that “barriers of systematic racism makes it even harder.”
She added, “These aren’t just economic issues. They are part of a long continuing struggle for civil rights. Rosa Parks opened up every seat on the bus, now it’s time to expand economic opportunities so everyone can afford the fare.”
Clinton joins the lists of other high profile political leaders, who have spoken at previous conventions hosted by the National Association of Black Journalists—including President Obama, President George W. Bush and Vice President Joe Biden.
Secretary Clinton, who officially locked up the Democratic Party’s nomination last week, also used the opportunity to make the case that the black community should, in fact, put their trust her just like President Obama has put his trust in her.
"Every time I have done a job, people have counted on me and trusted me," she said. "I ran a really hard campaign against Barack Obama, as I think everybody remembers. It got a little contentious from time to time. And to my surprise, he turns around, asks me to be secretary of state because he trusted me."
The trust factor—or lack therof—has been a steady refrain expressed by critics who cite the ripple effect of the punitive sentencing policies of the '90s, under her husband's administration, as dealing a serious blow to the black community.
Clinton also extend veiled jabs at Donald Trump, the GOP standard-bearer. Trump’s harsh remarks about women, Muslims and immigrants have triggered nationwide outrage and concerns, even among Republican Party leaders.
“We have a Republican nominee who has been virulently anti-immigrant,” she said. “We have to reject and stand up against the appeals to the kind of bigotry [that is coming from his campaign.] He is harkening back to the most shameful chapters of our history and appealing to the ugliest impulses of our society. We need to stand up as a country and say that Donald Trump doesn’t represent who we are and what we believe.”
But on Friday, in an effort to court Trump supporters, Clinton declined to scrutinize them, saying that their raw emotions are a result of the harsh economic challenges many of them are facing.
Last year in June, when he launched his presidential bid, Trump claimed that Mexico was sending “rapists” and other criminals into the United States. And during his recent campaign stops, he has renewed his vow to force the Mexican government to pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and instituting a temporary ban on Muslims immigrants entering the country.
Clinton won the Democratic Party’s primary contest on the strength of her support from a coalition of black, Latino, and older voters, a key constituency that overwhelmingly supported President Obama’s two successful campaigns. Now, Clinton’s campaign hopes to turn out that same coalition of black and Latino voters, including millennials who have been largely missing from her base - to secure a victory in November.
NABJ President Sarah Glover, said the convention is a unique forum for Clinton to “discuss her platform and the issues that are impacting black and Latino communities.” She said an invitation was extended to Trump, which he declined.
But some convention-goers said there are some issues that were left out of Clinton’s address, which was heavily focused on economic development in communities of color and her email controversy.
“I kind of wanted her to talk about the trade deals,” said Elle Cole, a lifestyle blogger. “But it’s okay because the press has been wanting her to address those emails. And for once she actually did.”
When asked by Kevin Merida, editor-in-chief of The Undefeated, to share the most meaningful conversation that she has had with an African-American friend, Clinton shared stories about her connection with the black community in Chicago, where she grew up and her African-American campaign aids and previous chiefs of staff.
“[I’m] blessed to have a crew of great friends,” said. “I can’t compress it into one conversation. They’ve supported me. They’ve chastised me. They’ve raised issues with me. They've expanded my musical taste.”
Attendees like Alice Benjamin, a nurse from Los Angeles, said she’s pleased with Clinton’s address and that “I feel more confident in her as a leader than I had before.”
“I was pleasantly surprised and I’m happy,” said Benjamin. “She’s the better candidate because she has this background and all this personal experience to draw from. She has a personal connection with the communities that she’s going to serve.”