- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hillary Rodham Clinton beseeched voters Tuesday to confront the “deep-seated biases and prejudice” that she said many Americans harbor in their hearts as she pushed racial politics to the forefront of her presidential campaign.

The former secretary of state already had been aggressively wooing black voters but plunged headlong into the race debate following a shooting massacre last week at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

“Despite out best efforts and our highest hopes, America’s long struggle with race is far from finished,” Mrs. Clinton said in a speech at a church near Ferguson, Missouri, where violent protests erupted last summer after the shooting of a black youth by a white police officer.

“We need to confront the deep-seated biases and prejudices that still live within too many of us,” she said during a question-and-answer session with the mostly black audience.

As part of her attack on racism, Mrs. Clinton commended South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, for backing the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds.

“It shouldn’t fly there. It shouldn’t fly anywhere,” said Mrs. Clinton.

She first called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state capitol during her 2008 presidential run.

However, when she was first lady of Arkansas in the 1980s, her husband, then-Gov. Bill Clinton, singed a law designating one star in the state flag as commemorating the Confederate States of America.

Mrs. Clinton has not addressed that aspect of her past during her recent examination of American racism, though she did reveal to the crowd that she grew up in a white suburban neighborhood (in Illinois) and didn’t have any black friends until she went to college.

The former first lady, senator and top diplomat also applauded Wal-Mart for announcing it would remove Confederate flag merchandise from its shelves. Several major retailers also imposed a ban on products that include a Confederate flag, including Amazon, eBay and Sears.

Mrs. Clinton said that although the vast majority of Americas could pass a lie detector test if asked whether they were racist, that doesn’t mean they are not racists.

“We would say, ‘Of course not. I don’t have any prejudice or bias.’ But we do,” she said. “And we know we do if we really are honest with each other.”

The racism issue likely will help Mrs. Clinton build support among black voters, but she must choose her words carefully to avoid alienating white rural voters in swing states such as Virginia, said Democratic strategist David “Mudcat” Saunders.

“She’s got to be very careful,” said Mr. Saunders, who specializes in helping Democrats connect with rural and more conservative voters. “If she starts talking about lie detectors and puts a regional slant on it, that’s the only way it can hurt her.”

Mrs. Clinton began focusing on race relations early in the campaign, calling for justice reforms after race riots in Baltimore in April, when Freddie Gray died there while in police custody.

She has made several speeches on race since the shooting Wednesday that killed nine people at a Bible study meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white man with ties to white supremacists, has been charged with nine counts of murder in the attack.

“I’m hoping that there will be a lot more conversations like this across the country, where people sit across the table or in a living room or in [a] church basement and really, honestly talk [about race],” Mrs. Clinton said. “If you don’t have the conversation, everybody just acts like things are kind of OK. And they are not.”

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