Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday praised Wal-Mart and other retailers for refusing to sell products bearing the Confederate flag, as she pushed for a broader conversation about modern-day, institutionalized racism and policies to address it.
Speaking at a black church near Ferguson, Mo., Clinton, who once served on the Wal-Mart board, urged “all sellers” to follow the lead set by the Arkansas-based retailer, as well as eBay, Amazon and Sears. Those companies have announced plans to purge their inventories of the Confederate symbol in the wake of the massacre in a Charleston, S.C., church.
Clinton also praised South Carolina leaders for steps toward removing the flag from the statehouse grounds. Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and other state leaders have recognized the Confederate banner "as a symbol of our nation’s racist past that has no place in our present or our future,” Clinton said to cheers. “It shouldn’t fly there, it shouldn’t fly anywhere.”
The remarks represented Clinton's second extended discussion of racism in America since the shooting in a historically black church left nine black churchgoers dead last week.
As the leading Democratic contender for the presidency, Clinton has jumped into the national conversation that has followed the shooting. It has given her an opportunity to burnish her standing among her party’s liberal core, including African American voters, and to strike a strong contrast with Republicans.
On Tuesday, she took her campaign to Florissant, Mo., less than four miles from the spot where Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old, was shot last August by a white police officer, fueling the recent national debate over race and inequities in the justice system.
"All lives matter," Clinton declared, picking up on the rallying cry -- "black lives matter" -- of the movement that grew out of the protests in Ferguson, Mo.
In her brief remarks before a community meeting at Christ the King church in Florissant, Clinton labeled the attack on the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston an act of “racist terrorism.”
Many people, particularly in black communities, have suggested that "terrorism" is a word that would have immediately been applied to the shooting had the race of the suspected assailant and the victims been reversed. Authorities have charged Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white man who appeared to embrace the Confederate flag as a symbol of his racist ideology, with murder and hate crimes.
"How do we make sense of such an evil act, an act of racist terrorism perpetrated in a house of God?" Clinton asked in her remarks Tuesday. "How do we turn grief, anger and despair into purpose and action?"
The former secretary of State linked the current conversation to her domestic platform. She called for better early childhood education, changes to voting rules and reform of the criminal justice system.
"I know it’s tempting to dismiss a tragedy like this as an isolated incident, to believe that in today’s America, bigotry is behind us, that institutionalized racism no longer exists," she said.
"But in spite our best efforts and highest hopes, America’s long struggle with race is far from finished."
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