WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton said on Saturday the deadly mass shooting at a historic black church in South Carolina is a violent reminder of continued institutionalized racism in the United States.
“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, that institutionalized racism no longer exists,” Clinton said. “But despite our best efforts and our highest hopes, America’s long struggle with race is far from finished.”
“Race remains a deep fault line in America,” Clinton added.
Clinton used scheduled remarks at a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in San Francisco to deliver her first address on race as a presidential candidate.
She was speaking just three days after nine African-Americans were shot and killed during bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
A 21-year-old white man, Dylann Roof, has been arrested and charged with murder. The shootings are being investigated as a hate crime.
Clinton, who lost the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama and then served as secretary of state during his first term, said: ”I know that so many of us hoped by electing our first black president we had turned the page on this chapter in our history.
“I know there are truths we don’t like to say out loud. But we have to - that’s the only way we can possibly move forward together.”
Listing some of the disadvantages African-Americans face, Clinton said black borrowers are three times as likely as white borrowers to be denied a mortgage; the median wealth of black families is a small fraction of that of white families; black men are more likely to be stopped and searched by police; and black offenders often receive stricter sentences.
“Let’s be honest, for a lot of well-meaning, open-minded white people, the sight of a young black man in a hoodie still evokes a twinge of fear,” Clinton said, referring to the 2012 killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watchman in Florida that provoked national protests and discussions about race.
“And news reports about poverty and crime and discrimination evoke sympathy, even empathy, but too rarely do they spur us to action or prompt us to question our own assumptions and privilege,” Clinton said.
Reporting by Amanda Becker in Washington and Robin Respaut in San Francisco; Editing by Mohammad Zargham