Ben Vient over at Msnbc once chronicled one aspect of the Clintons record in helping women and African Americans:
In 1994, President Bill Clinton received a letter from a White House visitor who noticed that none of the art that fills the presidential mansion was by an African-American. “Think about the impact that a tour of the White House has on African-American children, who travel great distances to see the home of our president, only to have it reinforced that they are invisible in many areas of America’s glorious history,” the letter read.
Soon afterward, in a move typical of Clinton’s dedication to diversity, Henry Ossawa Tanner’s 1885 oil, “Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City,” became part of the permanent collection of the White House. The painting depicts a landscape of whistling grass on white-hot sand under a pink sea of sky.
In unveiling Tanner’s painting, Hillary Clinton remarked that “talent always has the power to transcend prejudice.” Part of the legacy of both Clintons is that they gave access to diverse views that had previously been kept from the top levels of American government. The acquisition of Tanner’s painting for the White House is symbolic of the way Clinton was willing to use his power to appoint Cabinet and sub-Cabinet officials who expanded the visibility and power of minority groups.
John Jacobs, then president of the National Urban League, said shortly after the inauguration: “There’s a feeling that, for the first time in years, the nation has a leader who not only believes in diversity, but also is willing to champion it with youthful vigor and powerful communication skills.”
Jacobs’ early enthusiasm is shared somewhat by his successor at the Urban League, Hugh Price. “It’s a complicated picture,” Price said. “There were substantial accomplishments, and not trivial underachievement. The revival of our economy reached deep into our minority communities, deep into our inner cities, lowering unemployment rates among minorities dramatically.”
“Clinton’s appointments weren’t just symbolic, but showed a deeper understanding of the problems we face and an authenticity to his commitment to diversity,” Price said. “The appointments reverberated through the administration, influencing policy, allocation of resources and priorities.”
Hope is difficult to quantify, but there are numbers that reflect Clinton’s mantra of diversity: In Reagan and Bush’s 12 years in office, of the 545 federal judicial appointments, 65 were women, 22 Hispanic, two Asian American and 17 African American. In Clinton’s eight years, of 366 federal judicial appointments, 104 were women, 23 Hispanic, five Asian American, one American Indian, and 61 African American, including Clinton’s appointment last month of Roger Gregory, the first black judge to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
These changes, NOW’s Ireland notes, “don’t just come because of one person, but they don’t just come by the passage of time either.” Ireland, like others, will remember Clinton for his shortcomings, but also for ushering in government’s age of diversity, framing his legacy in part as one that “moved more people onward and upward.”
© 2007 MSNBC Interactive
By the way it is offensive to me in this article and many others that the gay rights agenda is grouped in with African Americans. I am against the gay rights agenda and support traditional family values. I think it is important that those of us who have fought for the equal treatment of African Americans not to allow the movement to be co-opted in terms of language and association.