We cannot achieve racial justice without addressing deeply rooted, historic conditions that have disenfranchised black people in this district, this state, and this country, excluding so many from opportunity and economic freedom. Paying lip service to “equality” will get us nowhere. We need to talk about black generational poverty, the racial wealth and opportunity gap, and the singular pressures put on black women and other women of color. We need to talk about how our party has taken black Americans’ vote for granted without offering constructive policies in return, let alone respect, and how our government has exploited black communities through laws that reinforce inequity.
That’s just to start.
We cannot be free until we reverse the damage. Nor can our democracy be true. This is why I support the resurrection of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign, and why I believe we must elect leaders we can be certain will represent the interests of people of different races, origins, genders (or non-), sexual orientations, religions, and incomes.
We can no longer allow the elected officials we trust to ignore systemic injustices, especially when the rest of them work tirelessly to keep deprivation, voter suppression, and discrimination in place. We have to change the way we think about poverty, about race, about labor, and about gender parity in this country. Few candidates choose to. When politicians say they are fighting for our “democratic values,” they are sidestepping questions like, “how do we ensure that poor black people aren’t poor in 20 years?” When politicians promise to prioritize the middle class, they are telling us that we must accept that a lower class, or poverty, has to exist at all. When politicians make 4-5% unemployment their economic goal and call that "full employment," they are telling us that they do not care about the millions of Americans who are without jobs. (Not to mention the underemployed and overemployed - working multiple jobs at disgraceful wages.) They are telling us, in each of these instances, that addressing racial inequality is not a priority.
Central to Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign - which was championed by the likes of Bayard Rustin and Bobby Kennedy - was an Economic Bill of Rights. This was, and is, a moral necessity. And it is the necessary first step toward addressing racial injustice. In the words of Dr. King:
"We are coming to demand that the government address itself to the problem of poverty. We read one day: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But if a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists."
We have to do better. We must organize at every level, shift the narrative, hold our leaders accountable, and vote out those who are not.