Bill Clinton has been revered by the Black community as the pinnacle of the U.S. presidency. He was funny. He was smart. He played the saxophone, so he had soul. The economy was great, so everything was great. It was summertime and the living was easy. He was “our” president before Barack Obama was elected and worthy of celebration. If he could run again he would get our votes, right?
So here’s the thing about that – he actually made things worse for marginalized people on multiple levels.
1. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (1994) – A policy put into motion by the Clinton Administration that prohibited military personnel from harassing or discriminating against LGBTQ service members and applicants. Yay progress! …except it wasn’t. Closeted service members couldn’t disclose any information about their relationships, families or other details that would reveal their sexual orientation to their constituents. This is because openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people were still banned from the military. Financial security, careers and livelihoods of LGBTQ soldiers were legislatively dependent on their silence.
2. Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (PRWORA) (1996) – A bill promoted to the public as major welfare reform, fulfilling Clinton’s 1992 campaign promise to “end welfare as we have come to know it.” Well, he kept his promise. Under PRWORA, any person convicted of a federal or state felony for a drug-related offense (which could happen in the event of possession, use or distribution), became ineligible for food stamps or cash assistant through Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).
Keep in mind that you can be arrested and charged for being at a residence where drugs are present, even if they’re not yours. Keep in mind how many companies require job applicants to disclose if they’ve been convicted of a felony. Keep in mind that felony offenders have difficulty getting housing because so many rental applications require proof of income.
If you’re not working, can’t feed yourself (or your family) and likely don’t have a home, you’ll most likely turn to illegal means of making money, increasing your chances of re-entering the correctional system. Factor in systemic racism and generational poverty – affecting everything from one’s education to income, food quality, housing and more – and you have the perfect storm for a Black and Brown targeted prison industrial complex.
Again, these are just two examples. As always, we recommend doing research. But hey, shout out to your fave Bill Clinton, right?
A History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Opting out of Federal Ban on Food Stamps and TAMF
A Lifetime of Punishment: The Impact of the Felony Drug Ban on Welfare Benefits
10 States Enforce Lifetime Food Stamp Bans for Drug-Related Felonies