August 9th, 2007
04:48 PM ET
3 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


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soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. lavelle

    I dont think its a question of seperation. However its a question that is needed to be asked. See unlike white American issues black issues that plague our cities continue to destroy our communities. Now being black enough is finding a way to connect with the people. Forigen policy,the iraq war, the economy are really issues that mainly whites can connect with and what remains important to them. In the black communities its Crime,Education,Poverty and until a presidential nominee speaks on fixing these issues that will always be a factor in the question of being black enough. The sad part though is that Barack Obama has touched on the importance of solving those problems from day one! As a civil rights major he knows the history of our people and what problems we need to solve that can some how change they dynamics our communities are ran. So yes is she black enough? I dont think so but it has nothing to do with the color of your skin. It has everything to do with having a plan to help our people turn the corner of our problems. And from this article I see no plan where as Obama has on but yet CNN refuses to talk about that. Go Obama 08

    http://www.BarackObama.com

    August 9, 2007 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  2. Robert B. Singleton, Philadelphia, PA

    Is Hillary Clinton "black enough?"

    She may as well be black. And it seems to irk people that there is little doubt that Clinton will get the majority of the black vote, the majority of the female vote, and the vote of many of those who are tired of Republican B.S., many of whom just happen to be black.

    Take the likes of P. Anderson posting above,

    "but it seems to be the black community who is creating their own division from the rest of America."

    It's just this kind of denial, this kind of, "Well, why can't black people see that they're part of us?", kind of denial that rings so false even on the ears of the speakers that keep the racial dimensions of the upcoming presidential election alive.

    I am a black man who is proud of not being a racist, closet or otherwise. But I'm not a blind man. I see the stark polarization of our society in the ghetto-ization of our major cities across the country. I see the disparity in jobs, housing, health care, education, income, and overall quality of life. P. Anderson sees it too.

    The Republicans and other front-runners of the white-flight movement haven't looked back since Reconstruction. They don't see the blight their concerted policies have left in their wake. They've had it their own way and only were aware of and attentive to their high-flying lifestyles, and the urgent necessity to maintain their distance from the rest of the world, meaning to maintain the status-quo.

    Now with Clinton and Obama starkly in their faces as a formidable force, it is they who most feel betrayed by the fact that despite all their back-room machinations, somehow a Female and a Black are sitting on the clubhouse veranda. How could it have happened? Again, call it surfeit of B.S.

    Well, despite all this ugly unmasking of deep-seated insecurities, Clinton and Obama are weathering the storm of racist backlash with decorous aplomb.

    The funny thing is that it won't be those moaners who will bring the Democrats, whether Clinton or Obama, or Clinton/Obama, to the White House, but,collectively, the American people, white, black and otherwise.

    I doubt, because of the historical racist undercurrents in this country, if Obama can win the White House alone. I know Clinton will win, with or without Obama. Clinton/Obama will be formidable, an impregnable force driven by the will of the people, especially those who will contend, "Hillary's black enough for me."

    August 9, 2007 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  3. Tricia M Charlottetown PEI

    Philemon, Flint, Michigan:

    So many it appears have to rely on one point to discredit Hillary Clinton's Character, her marriage. So, I Say that proves she must be a Great Lady when the only fault her nay sayers can seem to find are 1)her husband, and 2)her acceptance of him! Not a bad record I would say!

    In my HO, it takes but a weak soul and a quick jerk to turn heel and run when a marriage has problems. There are many of those people in our socities, hence the large divorce ratings!

    To have the courage to stay steadfast, to have the fortitude to work out problems, to have enough faith to believe that hard work will bring success, to have the strength it requires to forgive, to have the humility it requires to admit that you too are not perfect and every one deserves another chance, to have the level of Love and Responsibility required to put your child not yourself first, in my assessment, describes A GREAT HUMAN BEING. And that Great Human Being and Lady is Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    If she had opted to run vs. stay and rectify her marriage problems I wouldn't have an ounce of admiration for the woman. She is not weak or at fault for staying, contrary to the other nay sayers here. She has exemplified her Strength, Courage, and Determination to face problems head on and Win! I think those qualities are what makes a Great Leader not what justifies criticism! Giuliani walked out on two women and his children and in the process treated them with complete hostility and disrespect. He is a man I could never respect in any office, state, room or alley.

    GO HILLARY! You are to be admired not citicized. Few men could have ever walked where you feared not to tread!

    August 9, 2007 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  4. Buford Pusser. Knoxville, TN

    Is Politician X black enough to what? To understand the victim mentality and appreciate that if The White Man can't be blamed for everything, at least he can be forced to cough up large sums of money, call it "reparations."

    Why is it that 1.4 million "men of color" are in prison? Surely it has NOTHING to do with the fact that they were convicted of BREAKING THE LAW?

    I'll assume that these convicts were and still are "black enough" to know the difference between abiding by the law and engaging in criminal misconduct.

    Yes, please do call me a racist. I believe in the human race. Do you?

    August 9, 2007 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  5. Tricia M Charlottetown PEI

    ANONYMOUS:

    (Nice Name)

    You can have Giuliani I don't think there's anyone that will give you a cat fight over him! Not even his TWO Previous Wifes!

    "Republicans are targeting the main issues people care about" Huh?

    I don't recall reading that the majority of voters were FOR THE IRAQ WAR? I do recall reading the Majority of Voters are for SENDING TROOPS HOME.
    I don't recall reading much on a positive not regarding the current administration except the AMerican's Pleas for Impeachment.

    So I don't think the Republicans care about the Main Issues. But I do feel they'd have a chance at receiving higher ratings if they did!

    August 9, 2007 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  6. Framing Wizard Las Vegas, NV

    NOT EVEN CLOSE TO BEING BLACK ENOUGH OR TO THE STORY; BUT WOW!
    Wow! I have heard it all now! Like we really need free ninety free higher educations for college aged people who have not the ambitions too further their lives in the first place. Let’s put some more monkeys in the cage too generate billions of taxes too steal from the people, dream up some sorry ass excuses too drain the pockets of the US tax paying citizens (The People); once again! Ya right! What a great idea “Dodd”. Why not! What the hell! I know; why don’t we all just let all them illegal immigrants south on our boarders vote illegally? They get around any where they please now illegally! What the hell is the difference? Our US Government doesn’t give a flying rat’s ass what illegal’s are doing. But catch and find one white American with money breaking our laws or participating in an illegal act. Wow! Look out! The guillotine is falling!

    Dumbocrats: To whom are we hearing from now?

    A bunch of garbage on today’s network news broadcast when involving the political arena. When will these 2008 democratic candidates, start too listen up from the people and get the message? Democrat’s! Whom? Let the US give it a shot; too define that term democrat? I get it! You huge, flat headed, large eared, thick skinned, almost hairless, big footed mammals; a person who believes in and upholds government by the people (has fell into the Demo cracks); Advocate of rule by the majority; Our majority that is only now at a maximum of approximately 28% due too our failing education systems in our country with most of our children do not learn dick. With now a white American minority populist out of 262 plus or minus counties leading in the nation is drowning our economy by illegal immigration labor force is taking over by 51%. A person who believes in and practices the principle of equality of rights, opportunity, and treatment is absolutely absurd. You people call your selves the Democratic Party. More liken too an agouti, gouty and might as well be speaking with Afrikaans language when addressing the real issues and the people. When will the people hear you speak of finding solutions to the real pressing important issues that face our nation at present?

    RA Las Vegas, NV

    1. For any content that people post, you hereby grant to washington the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed. OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You don’t have too yell at ME!

    August 9, 2007 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  7. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    More to the point, is HRC human enough?

    August 9, 2007 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  8. Pete, West Chester, PA

    Well Said E. Caldwell best comment i've ever seen on CNN.com

    August 9, 2007 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  9. CMS, CA

    What is the "right" answer to this stupid question anyway?

    August 9, 2007 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  10. Sue Troy, Oh.

    I heard the question to Hillary, and I was appalled, you see it took over 200 yrs. for a woman to Vote her in America, the land of the Free, it took longer than that for a Black person to have equal rights under the law of freedom,. I was amazed, how stupid and how prejudice can this country be, I really thought we may be pass all of that crap and that we lived in the land of equallity and we stop looking that the color of a person skin, or if they are female or if the came from Mars,with purple spots and had antennas on their heads. Get real they are all people and if you like them for them if you do not then don't , but to make choice based on prejudice is simply WRONG, and those type of questions is exactly what brings up and breeds Prejudice. I hope now a Woman WINS, due to the fact that PEACE persides in countries who have a Female leader more than in countries who have Male leaders who are so pumped up on the Idea that women or someone w/a different color skin would be bad for them, again using prejudice, instead of their heart and head as to who would be better to lead our country.

    August 9, 2007 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  11. Jennifer, MA

    Comment on comments: "the majority of people on welfare in this country are white" – true, only because there are more whites in the country. A higher percentage of blacks are on welfare. Why are inner city schools such poor performers? There is the real question.

    Clinton will get the nomination and win the election because she is the most qualified out of all of the candidates of any party to run this country. What is sad is that race and gender still matter so much to so many people. We are truly a backward nation when it comes to progress on racial and gender equality and it is up to each one of us to make a change, not our politicians and not our institutions. Be the change you want to see.

    August 9, 2007 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  12. Destardi, Chicago, IL

    Are you people wearing blinders, or are really just that slow in reasoning skills?

    These people are politicians...and the media harps on them in any way they can. JUST as Mitt Romney has to appease different groups with the republican party, Hillary has to do the same...so STOP ATTRIBUTING "PANDERING" ONLY TO LIBERALS! EVERY Politician does it; stop exaggerating it. And if media outlets stop making things up, such as when Hillary was in the South, and it was reported she was using a fake accent, it doesn't help. WATCH THE CLIP..She's speaking normally, then for a short reading, she used inflection, then switched back to her usual dialect. Geez people. Where's the truth?

    August 9, 2007 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  13. Jeannie KT, Tampa, FL

    One caution to those who feel we should become color-blind or culture blind in selecting a president and presume that our schools can resolve the many remaining social challenges we face in living together as a nation of Americans: The Supreme Court recently delived a potential death-blow to 54 years of progress, since Brown v. Topeka, in achieving racial equality. During those years, we have learned that education plays a critical role toward achieving social justice, but we've placed on public schools a burden of social change that is impossible to deliver without the support of all other social systems including health care, housing, employment, etc. The Court's ruling could strip us (all of us - American citizens) of the single most important policy tool we have for accomplishing change.

    And, to young E. Caldwell in Philly(?), I would encourage you to review that stormy period of American history when "peace on the streets" became an effective strategy for achieving social goals. I must also add that if we can't find peace on the streets in America, I seriously doubt our ability to spread or impose "freedom and democracy" in other parts of the world.

    It is well-past time to ask candidates whether they can assume or at least understand the perspectives of all the constituents they represent, and particularly the consituents who have historically been disenfranchised. I'm encouraged to hear candidates who are willing to risk engagement in such frank and candid discussions of race and culture and, yes, (assuming the ability to engage in serious, critical discourse) religion. That, rather than the machinery and politics of consumption is, after all, the "stuff" of our country and our daily lives.

    August 10, 2007 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  14. SF, CA

    Someone said a strong woman would have left her husband for his mistake with Monica. I think people dont understand what strong means. To forgive and continuously face and remind a mistake takes more courage. Leaving is for cowards, which most Americans are right now, because they run away and divorce. Have the guts to resolve a lifelong relationship. I guess childhood education is missing: "to err is human, to forgive is divine".

    August 10, 2007 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  15. enko, fords, NJ

    This is a DISGRACE to the NABJ and a complete embarassment to those of us who are African American. Whose dumb idea was it to ask such a stupid question? What does it mean to be "black enough"? This is really RACIST frankly and i cannot help but wonder who in that auditorium would say they are "blacker" than any other black person. It is fine to ask if the candidates would champion the ideals or address the needs of the african american community – thats perfectly legitimate to ask.
    Interestingly enough, this question has come up because Obama (a BLACK MAN) is running for president.
    This is an insult to every black person to suggest that – as the phrase does – that there are blacks who are "blacker" than other blacks.
    Proponents of this racist phrase/idea erroneously view the civil rights movement as a badge of entitlement rather than a struggle for EQUAL RIGHTS for all. IN other words, they marched so that we do not have to, they exercised civil disobedience so that we do not have to, they demonstrated so that we do not have to. My point here is simple – the early leaders of the civil rights movements (NOT the like of Al Sharpton who has proven himself to be more of an opportunist than anything BTW) would look with JOY that finally a qualified black candidate has an equal shot at becoming the President of this country – not simply because he is black – but more importantly because he is critically examined by the exact same standards as all the other candidates and has proven his qualifications and ability to lead this country. The real civil rights leaders would cherish and adore this moment of accomplishment of a black candidate and not try to malign him.
    A perfect analogy is something Obama has talked about in the past. ie there is the Moses and Joshua generations. Indeed the Moses generations bore the brunt of the struggles and discrimination so that the Joshua generations would not have to !!
    There is something sinister here – somewhat of an inferiority complex, i think, where some black people would do everything to PULL DOWN other high achieving black people. Shame on you NABJ.

    August 10, 2007 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  16. Mrs. Edwards

    This "black enough," "woman enough" stuff is getting tiring. I guess it shows how unready the U.S. is to elect a minority president, so I suspect when all is said and done, the Dem nominee will be Edwards, which wouldn't be too bad, IMO.

    August 10, 2007 02:49 am at 2:49 am |
  17. Anne, Scranton, PA

    HMMMMM....
    I am challenged that this question keeps rearing its foolish head. Come on folks, don't you realize that this question is SOOOOO relative that it is irrelevant!
    I am a Black woman, Executive in a Fortune 500, and to my white counterparts I am Black "enough", to some, "too Black". However to the African Americans that work there, I am not considered part of the group. All of my life as a publicly conservative, highly educated and articulate person of color, my "Blackness" is questioned by Blacks and Whites alike. I think we all need to be asking the question:
    Am I AMERICAN enough to die for my country? To fight for what AMERICA stands for? To help any human being who is in danger? To make a personal commitment to Faith, Family and Freedom? And to support and defend those who make these personal commitments in defense of America? Including our elected officials? We all should be asking the question:
    Am I American enough to take the time to learn what the issues are so that I can intelligently make a decision in the upcoming elections to help make America a better place?

    August 10, 2007 03:13 am at 3:13 am |
  18. Mike, Tacoma, Wa

    You are right democrats do not ignore the plight of Katrina victims that made a big fuss about it after they did nothing before hand to get them out. Yes, the mayor of New Orleans was a democrat and no one called him anti-poor or anti-black when he did not use the city owned busses to get people out before the hurricane hit. The Governor another person who was responsible had the entire State National Guard he could have used to get people out before hand and didn’t. Not to mention that they knew the levies wouldn’t hold up to stronger hurricanes long before Katrina hit and did nothing about it. Now who do you really think is to blame the ones who screwed up the pre-disaster preparations or the ones who screwed up cleaning up the mess that resulted? And before you say it President Bush could not have gone in before hand without giving you another example of him ignoring the constitution.

    August 10, 2007 03:35 am at 3:35 am |
  19. jenifer, madison, wi

    Philemon, you're a hoot. If Hillary HAD left Bill, you and the others who simply hate her would say that she had no loyalty, she wasn't "following the Bible," she hurt their child, and blah-blah-blah.

    Do you also think David Vitter's wife should leave her lying, philandering husband?

    August 10, 2007 03:37 am at 3:37 am |
  20. Anne, Scranton PA

    HMMMMM....
    I am challenged that this question keeps rearing its foolish head. Come on folks, don't you realize that this question is SOOOOO relative that it is irrelevant!
    I am a Black woman, Executive in a Fortune 500, and to my white counterparts I am Black "enough", to some, "too Black". However to the African Americans that work there, I am not considered part of the group. All of my life as a publicly conservative, highly educated and articulate person of color, my "Blackness" is questioned by Blacks and Whites alike. I think we all need to be asking the question:
    Am I AMERICAN enough to die for my country? To fight for what AMERICA stands for? To help any human being who is in danger? To make a personal commitment to Faith, Family and Freedom? And to support and defend those who make these personal commitments in defense of America? Including our elected officials? We all should be asking the question:
    Am I American enough to take the time to learn what the issues are so that I can intelligently make a decision in the upcoming election?

    August 10, 2007 04:53 am at 4:53 am |
  21. Bill, Billville, La.

    Last line of the story. Very telling.

    "...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."

    A "group"?

    What was that "group"?

    Who was it composed of?

    What was/is its mission?

    Seems to me, the question that should have asked of said "group", was: "Was Chauncey Baily black enough for you"?

    Regarding the question to Sen. Clinton:

    Skin color (all hues) should be considered a mere physical feature. Like ear shape, or right/left handedness.
    Not a state of mind.

    Until everybody embraces the above concept , we'll continue to be subjected to endless inanities like Ms. Malveaux's question.

    August 10, 2007 05:02 am at 5:02 am |
  22. Michael Saint Louis

    I think I got sick when I read this article. "Are you black enough?" How atrocious. People, this is america. Civil rights are now constitutional, more than legal now. Racial interests are no longer the issue. The issue is whther you are american or not.

    I am appalled at the black leaders who asked this question. You act like your still being persecuted after decades. ITS OVER!!! If anything the african american community is getting MORE than other races. Affirmative action? Its sad that 4.0 GPA intellectuals are being denied good colleges, while 10 or so seats are always reserved for new black people, just for being black. So I say now and forever, trust me, your interest are more than met. She is "black enough" just like everyone else. Get over it.

    And the same applies for feminists. You have your equality too. So dont think for a second youll get even more if hilary gets in office. Such an act would be more unconstitutional than bush's war.

    August 10, 2007 05:24 am at 5:24 am |
  23. Sam Johnson, Las Vegas, NV

    Ridiculous question. I still haven't decided who to vote for yet, however, I have decided I will NOT vote for CLINTON. We have already had 8 years of her husband and 12 years of the Bush's. Do we really want to risk another 8 years of another CLINTON? That will make 28 years of CLINTON's and BUSH's. I have enough of both of these families!

    August 10, 2007 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  24. Anonymous

    Ask AL Sharpton. He said Bill was.

    August 10, 2007 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  25. Bryan okc ok

    Should we pick a president by shoe size, color of eyes or other attributes of the person? Why is color
    or sex an issue? I just want a president that is honest, able to do the job and realizes that he (president) is a hired temporary position answerable to the american citizans.

    August 10, 2007 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
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