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Hillary Clinton on shootings: "We know there is something wrong with our country”

Clinton talks about the shootings at the AME Church on Friday.
Clinton talks about the shootings at the AME Church on Friday.
(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Hillary Clinton ended her speech on Friday with a quote from the Book of Galatians.

"Let us not grow weary in doing good. For in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart," she said in an address to the historically black American Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.

Clinton appeared at the church to talk about the tragedies this week — first the police killings of two black men, and then the fatal shooting of five police officers in Dallas.

She discussed how America should respond to the shootings, but she also tried to show that she understands the police violence facing black Americans at a visceral level.

There have been 123 African Americans killed by police in 2016 alone, and Clinton ticked through many of their names. She asked white Americans to imagine a black mother who thinks, "Please, God, don’t let anything happen to our baby." And she argued that change is overdue:

Let’s focus on what we already know deep in our hearts. We know there is something wrong with our country. There is too much violence; too much hate; too much senseless killing; too many people dead who shouldn’t be. And we know there is clear evidence that African Americans are much more likely to be killed in police incidents than any other groups of Americans.

Hillary Clinton: "Scripture tells us to incline our ears to wisdom"

Of course, like most other politicians responding to the shootings, Clinton also stressed the importance of recognizing the valuable work of the police.

"Police officers across the country are pouring their hearts into this work because they know how vital it is for the tranquility of America," she said. "They’re crying out, and we need to listen."

To that end, she announced a commitment to spend $1 billion in her first budget on research into new police training practices. She also vowed to start "working on this on day one" if elected to office, and said she’d convene police and community groups to "develop national guidelines on the use of force by police officers."

But Clinton said the policy goals wouldn’t be enough, arguing that "we need to do some hard work inside ourselves, too":

No one has all of the answers. We need to find them together. Indeed, that is the only way we can find them. Those are the truest things I can offer today. We must do better together.

Let’s begin with something simple but vital: listening to each other. For scripture tells us to incline our ears to wisdom and apply our hearts to understanding. ...

Ending the systemic racism that plagues our country – and rebuilding our communities where the police and citizens all see themselves as being on the same side – will require contributions from all of us. White Americans need to do a better job of listening when African Americans talk – talk about the seen and unseen barriers you face every day. We need to try, as best we can, to walk in one another’s shoes – to imagine what it would be like if people followed us around stores, or locked their car doors when we walked past.

"When heaven weeps, the church comes to attention"

Clinton herself did not draw an explicit contrast between her vision for racial progress in America and Donald Trump’s. But John Bryant — a senior bishop of the AME Church in Philadelphia — did.

Speaking before Clinton, Bryant said that the crowd outside the church was the largest he’d seen in decades. "They have come to hear the person we are depositing our hopes in, because we are at a place of great need," he said.

The shootings, Bryant said, have helped clarify the stakes of the election:

When I can hear the person say, "We want the country to be great again," I really do wonder, "When was it greater?"

Was it greater when blacks didn’t have the right to vote? Was it greater when we had to go through the back door rather than the entrance? Was it greater when we were welcomed into the kitchen but not the dining room?

We know police were gunned down this week. Police gunned others down. It’s been a rough week.

But when heaven weeps, the church must come to attention. ... We say to the nation we are ready. We will pray and we will work and we will plan until all of God’s children, rich and poor, black and white, uneducated and educated, will have a right to the tree of life.

Correction: Clinton quoted a Bible passage from Galatians, not Revelations.

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