August 9th, 2007
04:48 PM ET
8 years ago

Sen. Clinton, are you black enough to be president?

Clinton addressed the NABJ Thursday.

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (CNN) – “Are you black enough?” was the question put to Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton during a panel discussion sponsored by the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Presidential Forum Thursday.

The question was initially raised by Les Payne, the retired Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist from Newsday, in regard to whether Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, was “black enough” – a question the African-American White House hopeful has often been asked. So when it came time to open up the Q&A session with Sen. Clinton, the moderator, CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, lead with the question, eliciting laughter – including that from the Senator – and some applause from the audience.

Specifically, Malveaux asked: “Are you black enough to sustain the kind of support that you got from your husband, and what makes you the better candidate over a black man in representing the issues regarding African-American community?”

“I want to represent all of America. I want to be a president for everyone. I am tired of all these false divisions,” Clinton told the crowd. “I have to earn everyone’s vote and nobody should expect that I take you for granted.”

Clinton went on to say, “I’m going to be very eagerly courting your votes, looking for ways that we can work together, and as I said in my opening remarks, putting forth an agenda as president that I cannot accomplish without a broad base of support.”

Before the Q&A, Sen. Hillary Clinton spoke for eight minutes, and in her opening remarks, she said it was time for America to have a national conversation about the plight of 1.4 million men of color who are in the nation's prison system.

"That's the conversation that I want to have," she said. "It's a conversation that I believe in."

Sen. Barack Obama, who will address the audience tomorrow, has said previously that this is a national crisis that needs to be addressed.

Clinton didn’t take long to connect with her audience.

Recognizing the two female candidates running for president of the National Association of Black Journalists, Clinton referred directly to them, saying, “However this election turns out, Madam President has a wonderful ring to it." Barbara Ciara, managing editor and anchor at WTKR in Norfolk, Virginia, and Cheryl Smith, executive editor at the Dallas Weekly in Texas, are running for the position.

In an effort to connect with her audience, Clinton also took a moment to recognize the late author James Baldwin, and the death of Chauncey Bailey, the Oakland Post editor who was gunned down last week, allegedly by followers of a group he was investigating.

- CNN contributor Roland Martin

Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. Ryan, New York, NY

    What characteristics are required to make one "Black enough?"

    At least Clinton's answer was better than the question. Well done, there, Suzanne.

    August 9, 2007 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  2. Providence, RI

    Bill Clinton was the first black President, because he really cared about black people. If Bill cared about black people, I assure you, Hillary will do the same. She will be black enough to be first black female President, because she will care about all including African Americans...

    August 9, 2007 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |


    August 9, 2007 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  4. james

    i'm sure they are both " black enough" to be president the real issue is neither one is qualified , also what if someone asked obama if he was white enough to be president that person would be fired ,

    August 9, 2007 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  5. James, Phoenix AZ

    Does it really matter?? If Hillary gets the Democratic Nomination and not Obama... what is the African American community going to do – vote republican?


    Why attempt to hold Hillary accountable to "your concerns" when in the end you will begrugingly give her your vote?

    August 9, 2007 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  6. E. Caldwell Philly, PA

    As a black young male, i am really embarrassed to see this type of dialogue transpire on a Presidential election platform. These canidates arent running to be the head of the NAACP. They are running for the Presidency of the United States. There is a very huge difference. I applaud both Hillary and Obama for not really sinking into this non sense. The problems in the black community are not going to go away because the President is black, or a President likes black people like Bill did. In my city under a "Black" mayor our city is now crowned the murder capitol of the nation. We lead the race on black on black crime. The black community has to start taking its own initiative to solve its own problems. I do not want a President, nor will i vote for a President, black or white who is going to neglect his or her job, which National Security, The Economy for all, and foriegn policy, so that he or she can hold peace on the streets rallies. I'm all for change in the black community and i believe it can be done. But if having black Mayors, and Gov, and Senators don't make a change, why would having a Black or "down with black" President make a change in the Black Community. I really hope we do a better job of not making this about race.

    August 9, 2007 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  7. florida

    I believe if Obama was not running with Mrs Clinton she would have a better chance, the black people love her husband and they love Obama also,

    August 9, 2007 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  8. Matt, Austin, Texas

    This is just like Hillary, always trying to please everyone, too afraid she might piss someone off by taking a real stance. You can't make everybody happy, Hil, no matter how hard you try.

    August 9, 2007 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  9. Steve, San Francisco, CA

    Clinton Edwards ticket...anyone?


    August 9, 2007 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  10. P. Anderson, Seattle, WA

    I think it's a shame that African Americans are even asking such a question. Why do they insist on separating themselves from the rest of us? Clinton talks about "false divisions", but it seems to be the black community who is creating their own division from the rest of America.

    Regarding the "national crisis" of the huge number of black men in prison, the root cause is lack of self esteem, self respect, and personal responsibility. African Americans have been provided many advantages over the last few decades, but few seem to grab on to the opportunities available. We need to divert the welfare money going to the "under privileged" and spend it on only one thing – education of the "under privileged".

    Once given the undeniable opportunity of obtaining an education, if they choose to turn their back on it, then they can't continue to blame everyone else for the dis-proportionate number of blacks in prison.

    August 9, 2007 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  11. David, Salinas, CA

    A silly question.

    What is clear is which political party is best for black America.

    None of the democratic candidates for president would have callously ignored the plight of Katrina victims while throwing away trillions on a useless war and tax cuts for the rich.

    Imagine spending all those oil profits on social programs...

    August 9, 2007 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  12. Middle TN

    I can only echo the person from philadelphia. I find this whole topic of questioniing embarrassing as a black person. Bill Clinton was not the first black president, nor would his wife be one. I do not plan to vote for anyone because of race but I definitely do not plan to vote for someone pretending to be another race to get my vote.

    August 9, 2007 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    I, like so many others, are SO sick of the race and gender card being played by liberal democrats like Hilary and Obama. They can be as black and as female as they need to be. I plan to vote for the person who is "American Enough" to deal with our many problems. While miserable democrats wallow in pandering and card playing of race, gender, and sexual orientation, the Republicans are gearing up for another White House win because they know how to play the "money card" and the "protection against terrorism card". So even though I am a registered Democrat, I plan to vote for Giuliani. Many large cities have Mayors who are "black enough" and in spite of this crime soars, and the trash heap contiues to grow. Ever been to Atlanta, Newark, or Washington,D.C.? So the "black politician will do black people right" thing is a bunch of total crap.

    While Demorcrats pander to special interest groups, Rebublicans are targeting the main issues people care, their wallet, the war, terrorism... get real Democrats

    August 9, 2007 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  14. Jesse Saltsburg, PA

    JOHN EDWARDS IS OUR MAN AND WILL PULL OUT A CLOSE ONE IN IOWA. As a moderate, he's my man. We don't want Hillary's corporate, NAFTA outsourcing, luggage as our rep. It's a disgrace to the Traditional guard leaders of what the Democratic party to many stands for and that is the working peoples party. Hillary and her agenda centers on letting the illegals in, and a host of other issues that are insignificant compared to the war and the economy. Obama is inexperienced. JOHN EDWARDS IS OUR MAN AND WILL WIN IOWA. His wife, Elizabeth will make a great first lady, and will behave much better than Bill.

    August 9, 2007 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  15. James, NY, NY

    The racial politics need to end. We are all first and foremost Americans. If people concentrated a little more on that instead of whether they are African American, Hispanic American, Mexican American, or whatever they claim then maybe this big old melting pot would start working again.

    Normal Americans are tired of the racial agitation. I don't hear Bill Cosby, Ms Rice, or Colin Powell running around talking about the man keeping him down. But if you talk to Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton guys like Barry Bonds and Mike Vick are just getting a bum rep because they are black. Not because they did something wrong.

    August 9, 2007 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  16. Lisa Marie Bronson, New Jersey

    To the person who feels that African-Americans have been given "many advantages" over the years:
    In Harlem, where I lived until last year, there was not one elementary school I could send my daughter to that had above 60% of the children performing at grade level in reading and math. So I sent her to a high-performing, mostly white school on the Upper West Side, where parents were able to raise $150,000 a year in private money to supplement their children's supposedly public education. Advantages, anyone?

    Black men with a high-school degree have a higher unemployment rate than white high-school dropouts, so clearly education alone is not the answer. As long as the average employer would rather hire a white dropout over a black graduate, African-Americans will need all the "advantages" they can get.

    And by the way, the majority of people on welfare in this country are white. Do your research instead of assuming the stereotypes the media feeds you are accurate.

    August 9, 2007 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  17. Greg, Phoenix, AZ

    She would campaign as a pink or purple person if that would get her more votes.

    August 9, 2007 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  18. Jay, Charlotte NC

    I am also an African-American male and I just want to say on my mind in reference to ryan and especially P. Anderson. CNN, media outlets, and I'm sure other people will comment to this question "Are you black enough?" and what does it mean. While I do somewhat disagree with this being asked to Hillary and Barack, but I do also understand why it should be asked. On one hand, these candidates are running for ALL of America which I do agree with. The problem is though, some politicans take the "Black Vote" for granted counting our group as just numbers to get elected and not the real issues that happen in neighborhoods like mine. To me, the bottom line isn't whether the candidate is black or not. If that was the case, I would have voted for Alan Keyes or supported Condaleeza. I would probably see it the same way for Latinos between Bill Richardson and Alberto Gonzales. Being black enough don't necessarily mean if you came from the hood or if you really struggled. It means actually caring and attempting to create better opportunities (n i don't mean upping welfare P). If we wanted more welfare to use as a crutch, we wouldn't be hustling legally or illegally to create our own futures(I understand if you don't understand why this happens). It could mean giving second chances for jobs for people who were incarerated or better education opportunities for our kids. So, in essence, being "Black enough" is part of the concern, but also using your position as a President to help people in all places, Black, White, Latino, etc. is essential.

    August 9, 2007 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  19. Philemon, Flint, Michigan

    The question should not be, "Is she Black enough," but should be, "Is she woman enough?" I say, "No," because a strong woman would have had the fortitude, the courage, to leave and not accept or encourage bad behavior from a lying, philandering husband. Rather, the actions of then Mrs. Clinton, reflect a lack of courage. Rather than seek office on her own merit, she has continued to use the good will of a husband who has repeatedly humiliated her.

    August 9, 2007 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  20. Myron, Honolulu, HI

    “Are you black enough to sustain the kind of support that you got from your husband?”
    I think Bill will support Hillary regardless. The only race they are concern themselves with is the Presidential Race!

    And {run on sentence}

    “What makes you the better candidate over a black man in representing the issues regarding African-American community?”

    Is there a black man running?

    Funny a White Woman may in fact do more for the Black Community than this “Black man”.

    August 9, 2007 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  21. Brad, Columbia, SC

    "Issues" like this always make me wonder... what is the threshold required for someone to qualify as being (fill in ethnicity)?

    Obama's father was black; his mother was white. Obama is universally referred to as "African-American."

    So I guess "half black" is synonymous with "black." What if you were "a quarter black"?

    Personally I see no appeal in making a big deal out of a person's ethnic background; clearly the media and plenty of people do, however.

    Not to be controversial, but it seems there is interest within the Africa-American community to "claim" Obama. Given Obama's 50/50 racial makeup, would it be equally legitimate if whites sought to do the same?

    Why should Obama have to pick a side?

    I'm not trying start a s#!%storm here - just genuinely curious about this.

    August 9, 2007 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  22. CMS. California

    David wrote, "Imagine spending all those oil profits on social programs…"

    David, That would be socialism. If you are really interested in living in that situation, I'm sure Hugo Chavez would welcome your defection.

    August 9, 2007 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  23. Quentin Green, Tempe, AZ

    While Senator Clinton claims she wants to represent the whole of the American public, where was she for the employees of Wal-Mart when she was on the board. If she is going to do so well for our general populous why have Wal-Mart employees endured such dire consequences? We must keep in mind that when she had a controlling hand in one of the largest private employers in the world she did nothing to improve the working conditions of many minimum wage workers. Why would now be any different?

    August 9, 2007 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  24. Lerette Waco, Texas

    "And by the way, the majority of people on welfare in this country are white. Do your research instead of assuming the stereotypes the media feeds you are accurate."

    For the record the white race represents 220 million of the population in America only 2% of the white race is on welfare. The black population is around 36 million and around 35% plus are on welfare. You need do your research, thank you. The same with most on here I am also tired of this race card B.S.

    August 9, 2007 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  25. Lynnea, Minneapolis, MN

    People need to wake up. The Democrats have a history of courting the Black community - saying all the right things, with the right emotion, receive our vote, but once in office they do not represent our interests. What makes Hillary any different from Bill? Yes Clinton has put more Blacks in the White House (not in a maintenence capacity) than any of his predecessors, however, what impact has that had on the Black community as a collective? Black men and women still lead the nation in HIV/AIDS contraction; unemployment; underemployment; infant mortality; single parent households and the like. I am sick and tired of political dynasties like Bush, Kennedy, and, more than likely, Clinton running Washington. I am tired of politics as usual. Yes, Obama may be inexperienced, but at least he's hasn't fully succumbed to the special interest groups and lobbyists. And as far as his racial authenticity is concerned, he is about as Black as the next Black man. Just because Obama does not have the rhetorical skills of Al Sharpton, does not make him any less Black. We cannot use flash as an indicator of Blackness. If that were the case, then the country would have gotten behind Flava Flav for President.

    August 9, 2007 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
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