Tuesday, April 23, 2024

TONY BEST: Clinton ‘sound choice’


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ANYONE WHO FOLLOWS the career of Eric Holder, the son of Bajan parents, could accurately have  written a part of Tuesday’s script in Philadelphia.

You would have known, for instance, that the pre-eminent lawyer, who is a partner in a prestigious law firm in the nation’s capital and whose name adorns a court complex in Barbados, would find a way to refer to his Bajan family and to do so adroitly to make an important point when he was invited to join the heavyweights who addressed the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

His address came the night after Michelle Obama, America’s First Lady, thrilled millions across America with an inspiring message about Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential standard-bearer in the November election.

Routinely, the man who became the first black person to serve as US Attorney General, speaks about his late father, Eric Holder Snr, who was from St Joseph and his mother Miriam Holder, an elegant lady with roots in St Philip. But 24 hours before President Barack Obama made his most inspiring speech at a nominating convention, Holder reminded the world about his Bajan-New Yorker brother.

“At a time when the bonds between law enforcement and communities of colour are frayed, when assassins target police in heinous attacks and peaceful citizens have to question whether Black lives truly matter,” the nation needs, “a president who understands the realities that I saw in my travels across our country as our nation’s 82nd Attorney General,” Holder told the cheering throng while extolling Clinton’s virtues.

What was essential, Holder added, was the absence of tensions between the professionals who valiantly risk their lives to serve while ensuring that everyone is treated fairly by the police.

“As the brother of a retired police officer, I am profoundly aware that an attack on a police officer anywhere is an attack on an entire society. So, it is not enough for us to praise law enforcement officers after they are killed. We must protect them, value them and equip them with the right tools, tactics and training when they are still alive. We must also come to realise that keeping our officers safe is not inconsistent with ensuring the goals in law enforcement treat the people they are sworn to serve with dignity, respect and with fairness,” he said.

Holder made out an emphatic case for a rebuilding of trust between the police and neighbourhoods.

But he didn’t try to sugar-coat the US justice system. He described it as being “out of balance”, explaining that one out of every three black Americans men would end up in jail in their life time; and that black defendants in federal courts receive sentences that were 20 per cent longer than whites. That should end.

“We need a president who will end over-incarceration,” he said. And Hillary was that person. 

As head of the US Justice Department, the Bajan New Yorker introduced sweeping reforms to the federal system, slashing its reliance on draconian mandatory prison sentences. The upshot: both the crime rate and the prison population fell for the first time in almost half as century.

“Despite the fiction and fear-mongering” one hears from Republicans and Donald Trump, violent crime has slumped since President Obama’s election in 2008 and “Hillary will go even further,” Holder said.

Barbadian Adrian Mapp, who is mayor of Plainfield in New Jersey, agreed. He said that as the elected head of the municipality that’s across the river from Manhattan, he oversees a police force that’s “doing an excellent job protecting the 50 000 to 60 000 people of his city”. He, too, believes Clinton is eminently qualified to deal with any imbalances in national justice system.

“I have confidence in Hillary,” said Mapp.

Tony Best is the NATION’s North American Correspondent. Email: Bestra@aol.com


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