The Democratic presidential candidates were asked by CNN’s Don Lemon what racial “blind spots” they each possess during Sunday’s debate in Flint, Michigan.
“Being a white person in the United States of America, I know that I have never had the experience that so many people in this audience have had,” Hillary Clinton said.
Flint is almost 60 percent black.
Clinton spoke about meeting with the mothers of Sandra Bland, a black woman who died in police custody in Texas, and Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old who was fatally shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Florida.
“I will do everything that I can to not only do the best to empathize, but to tear down the barriers of racism that are in the justice system and education and health care system,” the former secretary of state said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) echoed that he could not pretend to understand the experience of black Americans.
“You don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto and to be poor,” he said, a comment that raised eyebrows among viewers who thought the senator was characterizing all black Americans as impoverished.
“You don’t know what it’s like to be hassled when you walk down the street or get dragged out of a car,” Sanders said. “I believe as a nation in the year 2016, we must be firm in making it clear: we will end institutional racism and reform a broken criminal justice system.”