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Hillary Clinton to journalists of color: “I want you to hold me accountable”

The Democratic nominee offers a rare Q&A with journalists.

It looks like Hillary Clinton is turning a new leaf with the general election by doing something she rarely does: talking to journalists.

And even more remarkable, the conversation focused on one of the most important issues of the moment: race.

The Democratic nominee hasn’t held a formal news conference in more than 200 days. But on Friday afternoon, Clinton broke the mold, engaging in a Q&A with black and Latino journalists at the conference for the National Associations of Black Journalists and Hispanic Journalists in Washington, DC.

"I want you to hold me accountable, because the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been in our lifetime," Clinton told the audience. Her Republican rival, Donald Trump, was also offered an opportunity to speak but declined.

Clinton’s remarks and the questions she received were tailored to the concerns of black and brown communities. She spoke about systemic racism, noting youth unemployment rates plaguing African Americans and Latinos and the importance of investing in black- and Latino-owned small businesses.

"For me, these aren’t just systemic issues," Clinton told the audience. "These are a part of a long, continuing struggle for civil rights."

Historic inequalities paved the way for existing racial wealth gaps in the US. Redlining practices targeting black communities have deprived entire neighborhoods of their economic viability for generations. A 2015 report by the Century Foundation found that more than one in four African Americans lived in concentrated poverty, compared with one in 13 white people. Meanwhile, white families have six times as much wealth as black families, and the poverty rate for black people (27.2 percent) is almost three times that of their white counterparts (9.6 percent).

Additionally, unemployment is far higher for black people, and always has been higher compared with white people, by at least 60 percent, since data collection started in 1972. And while the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the national unemployment rate at 4.9 percent in July, the African-American and Latino unemployment rates were 8.4 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively.

And while Clinton promised comprehensive immigration reform, Lori Montenegro, a national correspondent for Telemundo, asked frankly how Clinton would work to not inherit the title of "deporter-in-chief."

"As I have said, we are not going to be deporting hardworking people and break up families," Clinton responded. In the speech prior to taking questions, she also noted she would close private detention centers and proposed an Office of Immigration Affairs for the White House.

Clinton has promised comprehensive immigration reform within her first 100 days in office. As Barack Obama’s presidency has shown, that promise may be difficult. Nonetheless, Clinton remained hopeful.

"We need to build an economy and a future that every American can be proud of and be a part of," she said. "An economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. That will be my mission as president."

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