2016 Brown & Black Democratic Presidential Forum

2016 Brown & Black Forum

Did Hillary Clinton blow the white privilege question?

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Hillary Clinton’s attempt to unpack her white privilege failed to convince everyone during the Iowa Brown and Black Forum on Monday.

The Democratic presidential hopeful was asked pointblank by a Drake University student to say what white privilege means to her, and to “give an example from your life or career when you think you’ve benefited from” white privilege.

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.”

She said that she “knew [she] was a lucky person” growing up, but didn’t begin to connect that luck with a sense of race or wealth privilege until she had two experiences—the first of which happened when she was 11.

“My church asked if some of us could babysit for children of migrant workers,” Clinton said. “I remember going out there [to the outer, more rural edges of Chicago], and I thought, ‘Well, [these children are] very different from me, and they’ve had different experiences. But they’re just little kids.”

Before Clinton could detail the second experience that sparked her understanding of white privilege, moderator and Fusion anchor Jorge Ramos told her that they would have to move on to the next question.

Thalia Anguiano, the Drake University junior who asked Clinton the question about white privilege, told me that she was “a little disappointed” by the candidate’s answer.

“I feel like she didn’t answer it,” Anguiano told me on the phone following the Forum.

The Law, Politics & Society and Communications double-major explained that Clinton “started pretty good” by detailing her personal history, but went off the rails when she described babysitting for migrant farmers on the outskirts of Chicago. The Drake student said that her initial reaction to the anecdote was: “I don’t know where you’re going with this.”

Anguiano’s faith in Clinton’s understanding of white privilege further dissipated when the candidate responded to a later question that referenced her disastrously conceived, culturally insensitive blog post listing “7 Ways Hillary Clinton Is Just Like Your Abuela.”

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.”