Three white presidential candidates were put on the spot about racial issues Monday night at the Iowa Brown and Black Forum. Broadcasted by the Fusion Network, the Black and Brown Forum challenged Democratic presidential candidates in talking about issues facing America’s communities of color. One of the forum attendees asked Clinton, “Can you tell us what the term ‘white privilege’ means to you and can you give me an example from your life or career when you think you have benefitted from it?”
“Where do I start?” Clinton said to Thalia Anguiano, a junior at Drake University who asked the question of the former Secretary of State. Anguiano’s question was arguably one of the stand-out moments of the evening. The prompt ushered in cheers from the crowd.
“I think it is hard when you are swimming in the ocean to know exactly what is happening around you so much as it is when you’re standing on the shore perhaps watching,” Clinton responded.
Clinton began her answer by citing the “wonderful” educational opportunities and other “great experiences” she had in her childhood. “I was born white, middle-class, in the middle of America,” the former Secretary of State said. “I went to good public schools. I had a very strong, supportive family. I had a lot of great experiences growing up. I went to a wonderful college. I went to law school.”
But it was until she was 11 years old when she said she had a strong understanding of just how “different” her life was. She shared her experience of babysitting children of migrant workers on Saturday evenings. Clinton only had time to cite one example. She detailed a childhood experience in which she was asked to babysit the children of migrant workers by her church in Chicago. Clinton explained that seeing the children interact with their parents showed her the difference between the kind of labor and societal pressures that migrants (and their families) are subject to, versus the kind of opportunities and resources her own family had that directed them towards upward mobility. While speaking, Jorge Ramos, one of the forum’s hosts, interjected and told the candidate that they had to move on to the next question.
Anguiano told Fusion after the event that she wasn’t pleased with the response to her question.
“I feel like she didn’t answer it.” She said that she was initially thrown off by Clinton’s anecdote and didn’t understand where Clinton was going with her story.
Brown and Black Forum moderator and Fusion anchor Alicia Menendez asked Clinton to “name one way in which you are not?” like my grandmother. Clinton responded, between laughs: “Well, you know, I’m obviously running for president. Not every grandmother does that.”
Anguiano called that response “ridiculous,” and criticized Clinton for not addressing the blog post’s shameless Latino-pandering.
“That showed me that she does not fully understand what white privilege is and how oppressed marginalized communities are in our society,” the university student told me. “I feel like I got more of a white privilege understanding from [fellow candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley] than Clinton tonight.”