By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA News Wire Contributor)
In 1994, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), who represents part of Chicago, was a freshman member of the House. On August 17, 1994, he voted “yes” for H.R. 3355, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, better known as the “Clinton Crime Bill.”
During a live ten-minute conversation with Tamron Hall on MSNBC in the middle of the day on April 13, Rep. Rush, a former Black Panther who is also a reverend, apologized for his vote 22 years ago. And he did it in dramatic style.
A verbal confrontation between former President Bill Clinton and activists who called the former President out for mass incarceration on April 7 in Philadelphia has put the spotlight back on the Clinton Crime Bill.
“Let me start off with this. I am ashamed of my vote. I sincerely apologize to my God. I apologize to my community. To my family. That was the worst vote, as I look back over the years, that I’ve taken since I have been in the Congress,” Rush said into the camera emotionally.
“My heart tells me and speaks loudly and clearly that that bill that was enacted was absolutely horrendous, catastrophic to my community,” Rush said. “I am not only apologizing for it I am ashamed of it. I am absolutely ashamed of it.”
Rush continued: “It was a vote that really was accompanied with a lot of hope that we would finally be able to deal with not only the issue of crime in our communities but that we would also be able to do this things and have those programs that deal with the other issues and problems in the community.”
Rush said that once implemented the crime bill focused too many resources on locking people up and not enough on rehabilitation and, “as a result we have devastated our communities, devastated our families and devastated our futures.”
“What happened with the crime bill with its implementation is that to many resources on locking them up but no resources on love and compassion and as a result we have devastated our communities, devastated our families and devastated our futures”
Rush went on to say that the crime bill and crack cocaine were the two worst issues and problems that the Black community “have suffered through in the last 50 years.”
“I absolutely apologize for voting for that bill,” Rush went on as he stood in the Cannon Rotunda on Capitol Hill as Hall listened quietly from a restaurant in Brooklyn, NY. Tamron Hall reported on crime in the city of Chicago for ten years.
“We have not accomplished anything other than further destruction of our communities,” he said.
Rush went on to say that he has been focused on the types of issues centered around economic development and jobs that would address the comprehensive issues around increasing economic development in African American communities. He also said Hillary Clinton should do the same.
“Investment in the African American community would be a great beginning for Hillary Clinton… I’ve endorsed Hillary Clinton and I fully expect Hillary Clinton to reverse the outcomes, the horrendous outcomes that befell the Black community since the passage of the Crime Bill,” said Rush. “I want her to not just repudiate it in words, but repudiate it in programs and resources. We have to bring more resources into the Black community.”
“The pressure on me and the pressure on the crime bill in terms of the Clinton Administration and the President pale in comparison to the pressure on our youngsters and families being destroyed and futures being abruptly ended,” Rush told NNPA News Wire immediately after the MSNBC interview. “And the lengths of the Crime Bill are responsible for the current mayhem and murder and violence that we are seeing right now, because it led the nation down a path and the nation hasn’t really addressed all the concerns we are confronted with now.
Lauren Victoria Burke is a political analyst and contributing writer for NNPA. Lauren also speaks on politics and African American leadership. She can be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @LVBurke.