I have refrained from writing this post for almost two years but I cannot hold back any longer. Bill Clinton is without a doubt my least favorite President of the last 40 years. You read that correctly. But, but, but, what about Ronald Reagan you might ask? What about George W. Bush you might protest? Well for me, the truth is that I expect Republicans to be detrimental to people of color’s prospects. They do not pretend to be interested in our survival.
Bill Clinton, on the other hand, has actively tried to ingratiate himself to black people by appropriating black culture. Think back to his appearance on Arsenio Hall, playing the Sax. Think back to his post-Presidency move to Harlem to locate his Clinton Foundation office there. Think back to the fact that we are incessantly told that Bill Clinton was the “first black” President. What a massive insult! People who speak this nonsense, say it without irony.
There are so many ways that the Clinton Presidency was toxic to black people in particular and people of color in general. I will periodically highlight some of his greatest hits against black people in the coming weeks. Today I want to focus on one piece of legislation that the U.S. Congress passed in 1994 which is still reverberating in 2012. The 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill (spearheaded by Joe Biden and Bill Clinton) cost $30 billion dollars and helped to accelerate the growth of the prison industrial complex in ways that we are only just beginning to understand. The bill’s provisions included:
1. $10.8 billion in federal matching funds to local governments to hire 100,000 new police officers over 5 years.
2. $10 billion for the construction of new federal prisons.
3. An expansion of the number of federal crimes to which the death penalty applied from two to fifty-eight (the bill also eliminated an existing statute that prohibited the execution of mentally incapacitated defendants).
4. A three strikes proposal that mandated life sentences for anyone convicted of three “violent” felonies.
5. A section that allowed children as young as thirteen to be tried as adults.
6. The creation of special courts able to deport noncitizens alleged to be “engaged in terrorist activity” on the basis of secret evidence.
7. Established guidelines for states to track sex offenders. Required states to track sex offenders by confirming their place of residence annually for ten years after their release into the community or quarterly for the rest of their lives if the sex offender was convicted of a violent sex crime. [This sex offender registry law has caused havoc in the legal system]
These are just a few of the greatest hits from the 1994 Crime Bill.
Progressives who are loudly complaining about President Obama’s record on civil liberties (which is abysmal) were overwhelmingly SILENT about Clinton’s dramatic expansion of the prison industrial complex. I remember that period of time clearly. I invite you to send me your own examples of the many ways that Bill Clinton’s presidency was destructive to people of color and I will happily post them here. I think that this is a period of history that many people either don’t know about or are willfully choosing to forget. It should NOT be forgotten since we are living with the consequences of that era today.