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Bill Bradley on Civil Rights


Quest for racial unity is a defining moral issue

The quest for racial unity remains the defining moral issue of our time. It’s one of the reasons I first ran for public office. The work I did helping expand Medicaid for women and children who are poor, to raise the Earned Income Tax Credit, to reduce infant mortality, to assure child support enforcement, to protect federal aid to school districts that serve the poor, and to support every piece of civil rights legislation that came through the Senate all flowed from my convictions about racial unity.
Source: The Journey From Here, by Bill Bradley, p. 49 Aug 15, 2000

Whites should recognize “white skin privilege”

White indifference comes in many forms. It can be indifference to the suffering of others, or what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the silence of good people.” It can be indifference to the need for racial healing. It can also be the inability of whites to understand for no reason other than the color of their skin.

White skin privilege is the flip side of discrimination. While discrimination is negative overt, white skin privilege is negative and passive. It’s not something whites intentionally do. Rather it’s a great blind spot that most whites are unaware of.

When I was a rookie in the NBA, I got a lot of offers to do ads, even though I wasn’t the best player. My black teammates got none. I felt the offers were coming to be because I was white. That’s white skin privilege. If you’re white and your kids are stopped by police at night, you don’t fear they’ll be mistreated because of the color of their skin.

Source: The Journey From Here, by Bill Bradley, p. 55-56 Aug 15, 2000

The Christian right should not dominate politics

Q: Will you follow John McCain’s example and criticize the Christian right? A: I think that the far right has gone too far time after time after time on social issues and has tried to dominate this country with their particular viewpoint. I think it’s important to resist that. I’ve always resisted that. As a Senator I’ve never voted in ways that they wanted. And I would be very emphatic in saying that religion should not be a part of politics.
Source: Democrat debate in Los Angeles Mar 1, 2000

Stop discrimination against same-sex domestic partnerships

Q: Do you support California Prop 22? If passed, only marriages between a man and a woman would be recognized.

GORE: I oppose it. Under current California law, only marriages between a man and a woman are recognized. Frankly, I think that we should have legal recognition for domestic partnerships that have legal protections. I do not favor changing the definition of a traditional marriage as it has always been understood between a man and a woman. But this Knight initiative, Prop 22, is in part a kind of a mean-spirited wedge initiative and I just think it’s time for us to put this discrimination against gays and lesbians behind us. I think that it’s time just to leave people alone because of the way God made them and stop the discrimination.

BRADLEY: I don’t support the Knight initiative. Like Al, I don’t support gay marriage, but I do support domestic partnership legislation that would provide to gays and lesbians all the legal and financial rights that accrue to a state of marriage.

Source: Democrat debate in Los Angeles Mar 1, 2000

Civil rights are key to Supreme Court appointments

Q: What criteria would you use to select the new Supreme Court Justices?
A:I’ll have to be honest with the American people. I don’t think that I could select someone for the Supreme Court if I thought that there was one doubt in my mind that the person would turn the clock back on civil rights. The court has played a very negative role from time to time in moving our civil rights forward. In other cases, a very positive role. So I’d have to have that answered for myself before I made the appointment.
Source: Democrat debate in Los Angeles Mar 1, 2000

The US should acknowledge African-American suffering

Q. Do you think that reparations for African-Americans should be considered? A: It seems to me that what the issue raises is not just the issue of money, but the issue of acknowledging the contributions of African-Americans to this country’s history over its entire history. I think it is very important to do that. There are varieties of ways to do that: you could establish a commission.
Source: Democrat debate in Harlem, NYC Feb 21, 2000

Pull down Confederate flag immediately

Q: Do you support the NAACP’s boycott of of South Carolina until the Confederate flag is removed from their Statehouse? A: I’d pull it down today. I think it should be withdrawn absolutely. I think it’s an offense to our common humanity and it is not the future of this country. If we’re going to make progress on race in America, we have to change the conditions of discrimination and poverty and we have to change our hearts so that we can bring everybody along as our brother or sister.
Source: Democrat Debate in Des Moines, Iowa Jan 17, 2000

Affirmative action battles subtle racism

Q: Where do you rank affirmative action when it comes to any one you might have the chance to nominate to sit on the Supreme Court? A: I could never appoint anybody to the Supreme Court that I thought might turn the clock back on civil rights. I think of affirmative action & how overblown the criticism is. It’s the best of what America is. I think that we’ve made progress. But I think now things are a little more subtle. It’s not the school door being shut. It’s not the overt prohibition of going into a hotel. What it is now is you can’t go to a bank and get a loan. [It’s] the digital divide; [and it’s] doctors who won’t accept Medicaid payments. There’s a long way to go and until we get to that day we still need affirmative action.
Source: Democrat Debate in Des Moines, Iowa Jan 17, 2000

End racial profiling by Executive Order

Q: In Oneonta, NY, an elderly white woman was attacked in her home. She only saw one of his hands. The police went and questioned every single African-American man in town, old, young, middle aged, bald. Comments? A: I do not agree with it. We all know what driving while black is. This is breathing while black.... Racial profiling is particularly pernicious because we’re talking about people who pay their taxes, work hard, abide by the rules and they are plucked out because of our inability to see beneath skin color or eye shape or ethnicity in this country and stopped on a regular basis. If I were president, I would put an executive order in immediately that would end racial profiling in the federal government. I would work to get local police departments to keep data to be able to demonstrate that there was racial profiling. And then I’d sic the Justice Department after them to make sure they were going to abide by the law in which no racial profiling.
Source: Democrat Debate in Des Moines, Iowa Jan 17, 2000

Latinos should be on Supreme Court, but no commitment

Q: Will you take a pledge that you will appoint a Hispanic to the Supreme Court? A: One of the most exciting things taking place is the tremendous burgeoning, enthusiasm and optimism and confidence in Latino America, because they see that their futures can be realized through the political system of this country. That means that they should be appointed at the highest levels of our government and that includes the Supreme Court. No commitment today, but commitment that there are many who could.
Source: Democrat Debate in Des Moines, Iowa Jan 17, 2000

Rescind disenfranchisement if released felons keep straight

Q: The 14th Amendment allows the states to disenfranchise convicted felons. As a result, 1.4 million African-American males are unable to vote. Comments? A: There’s not question there’s unequal justice & that a generation of young African-American males are ending up in prison, in large part for nonviolent, first-time drug offenses. If someone is in on a nonviolent offense is able to go straight for 2 or 3 years, that person ought to be able to wipe his record clean and start the day anew.
Source: Democrat Debate in Des Moines, Iowa Jan 17, 2000

I’ve seen racism, and it must end

I made my living for 10 years paying professional basketball, traveling with a predominantly African-American group around the country. one of the things I learned is how much I will never know about what it is to be African-American in this country. But I saw some things that offended me. And I want people to know that I see things but you feel them. And discrimination is still there, racism is still there. And because I know and I see, I might not know as well as you, but I do know it has to end.
Source: Democrat Debate in Des Moines, Iowa Jan 17, 2000

Gays should have same rights as others, except marriage

Q: Where do you stand on the issue of discrimination on sexual orientation? A: I would propose adding to the 1964 Civil Rights Act the category of sexual orientation. I also believe that gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military. I think it’s very important that we push anti-hate crime legislation that is aimed at adding sexual orientation. I don’t support gay marriage. and we could achieve the same objectives by having a domestic partners act.
Source: Town Hall Meeting, Nashua NH Dec 18, 1999

Civil Rights Act & hate crime laws cover gays

At a meeting of about 30 gay and lesbian Democrats in Des Moines, Bradley said he would expand the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to cover homosexuals, and supported allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. He also said that he would make a campaign issue of [other candidates’] opposition to hate-crime legislation. “We simply cannot have gays be treated as a different category of person when it comes to violence,” Bradley said.
Source: New York Times, p. A20 Oct 17, 1999

Opposed to same-sex marriages, but won’t ban them

Bradley said gays should be protected under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He said he would not support a California ballot question that seeks to outlaw same-sex marriages, although he said he remains opposed to such unions.
Source: Boston Globe, p. A5 Sep 20, 1999

Posting Ten Commandments in schools seems unconstitutional

Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley believes the legislative amendment passed by the House allowing the posting of the Ten Commandments in schools may be unconstitutional. “It will have to be tested in the courts,” Bradley said Thursday of the Ten Commandments amendment. “My hunch is it’s unlikely to pass constitutional muster.”
Source: CNN AllPolitics “Mixed views” Jun 18, 1999

Race relations solution: Talk & be vulnerable.

Bradley says the most important issue facing the country is race relations. He backed Clinton’s effort to “mend, not end” affirmative action. Bradley says he can do better by “not being afraid to talk about the subject, willing to make yourself vulnerable on the subject, willing to make yourself misunderstood by all sides.” This view is consistent with Bradley’s upbringing in Crystal City [, a factory town in MO]. The town was filled with rich & poor rarely living more than a block apart.
Source: Boston Globe, p. A12 May 10, 1999

Racial unity is a defining moral issue.

“If I’m president... one of the things you’d better show is how your department or agency has furthered tolerance and racial understanding... For me the quest for racial unity remains the defining moral issue of our time.” Race relations have been a life- long interest for Bradley, whose basketball career led him to the intersection of black and white America. He refused to do commercial endorsements as a New York Knick, inpart because of discomfort about being hailed as basketball’s “great white hope.”
Source: Boston Globe, 4/21/99, p. A12, col. 4-6 Apr 21, 1999

In Senate, worked to safeguard rights of Native Americans

After I was elected senator, I did what I could to safeguard Native American interests, preserving the special tax treatment for treaty-guaranteed tribal fishing income, and protecting the Indians’ most valuable asset, their water rights through settlement of outstanding disputes on terms acceptable to them.
Source: Time Present, Time Past, p. 303 Jan 8, 1997

Amendment: political spending is not free speech

I would amend the Constitution to clarify that political money is not speech. Every state and the US Congress [could] limit spending in campaigns and contributions from any sources. I have been especially skeptical of Amendments that sought to limit rights. However, I am convinced that this amendment would protect rights by strengthening democracy. It would not limit the First Amendment, but would clarify that the right to buy an election is not a form of freedom of expression.
Source: Speech at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government Jan 16, 1996

Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA): Vote to prohibit marriage between members of the same sex in federal law, and provide that no state is required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Define 'marriage' as 'between one man and one wo
Bill HR 3396 ; vote number 1996-280 on Sep 10, 1996

Voted YES on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation.

Would have prohibited job discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Status: Bill Defeated Y)49; N)50; NV)1
Reference: Employment Non-Discrimination Act; Bill S. 2056 ; vote number 1996-281 on Sep 10, 1996

Voted NO on Amendment to prohibit flag burning.

Approval of a constitutional amendment which would prohibit desecration or burning of the U.S. flag.
Status: Joint Res. Defeated Y)63; N)36
Reference: Flag Desecration Bill; Bill S. J. Res. 31 ; vote number 1995-600 on Dec 12, 1995

Voted NO on banning affirmative action hiring with federal funds.

Vote to disallow any funds in the Legislative Appropriations bill from being used to award, require, or encourage any Federal contract, if the contract is being awarded on the basis of the race, color, national origin, or gender of the contractor.
Bill HR 1854 ; vote number 1995-317 on Jul 20, 1995

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