By Moses Kamuiru.
Mistreatment of blacks
A 33-year-old Rufus Farmer was tired of all the ways he saw African American men being mistreated by the nation’s law enforcement system from the police officer who once berated him for crossing the street to the mandatory prison sentences that sent so many of his peers to jail. So when former President Clinton appeared last year on April 7 in Philadelphia at a rally for his wife, Hillary, Mr. Farmer protested, carrying a sign denouncing Mr. Clinton’s 1994 crime bill, which set lengthy prison sentences and flooded the streets with police officers.
Activism with a striking gap
A fiery exchange broke out between the activists and the former president as Mr. Clinton forcefully defended the legislation. But it was not just Mr. Clinton who criticized the young protesters. Afterward, some older blacks did, too. “I think it is crazy to protest the crime bill,” said Carly Brock, 53, a social worker from the Bronx, who scolded the protesters on social media. “Should it be amended? Maybe. But a lot of people wanted it. I wanted it. ”Young and energized African-Americans this election cycle are aggressively challenging longstanding ideas and policies, especially those carried out during President Clinton’s administration in areas like crime and welfare. But the activism is also laying bare a striking generation gap between younger and older blacks, whose experience, views of the former president and notions of how they should push for change diverge dramatically.
Generation’s ideologies collide
The parents and grandparents of today’s young African American protesters mostly waged the battle for civil rights in churches and courtrooms. They carefully chose people who were viewed as upstanding citizens, like Rosa Parks, to be the face of their movement, and dressed in their Sunday best as they sought to gain broader acceptance. President Clinton endeared himself to these generations by campaigning in black churches and appointing more African Americans to the cabinet than any previous president had. But many of today’s activists whose political consciousness has been shaped by the high-profile murders of African-Americans by the police, do not believe that acting respectfully will protect them from being harassed or shot. They aspire not to become a part of the political system, but to apend it.
Police brutality and the reducing statistic
The national murder rate hit a high in the early 1990s, disproportionately affecting black neighborhoods in the main cities. Today, violent crime is down, and mistreatment by the police and excessive incarceration have taken center stage in the minds of many younger voters. In 2013, nearly one-quarter of black men 18 to 34 reported being treated unfairly by the police in the previous 30 days, according to a Gallup survey. That has stirred anger among some young black people, which has crystallized in resentment of the Clintons in this election cycle.
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Photo credits: The New York Times