It’s time for us to root out the racism that’s been part of this country since the very beginning. We must confront the question of whether America can fulfill its revolutionary promise and become a democracy that guarantees freedom and justice for all, or whether the price paid for the original sin of slavery and white supremacy must be unceasing misery, poverty, and death.
In his final book, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. confronted this question:
Ever since the birth of our nation, white America has had a schizophrenic personality on the question of race. She has been torn between selves—a self in which she proudly professed the great principles of democracy and a self in which she sadly practiced the antithesis of democracy. This tragic duality has produced a strange indecisiveness and ambivalence… causing America to take a step backward simultaneously with every step forward on the question of racial justice.
We see the antithesis of democracy in the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and David McAtee, in a pandemic that disproportionately infects black and brown communities, and in a White House that schedules a campaign rally in Tulsa, the site of white supremacist terror, on Juneteenth. Still today, we bear witness to an America that will shed blood to cling to power and privilege on the basis of race.
But we also see the democracy America could become in the many millions who march for black lives, each one carrying forward the torch passed on by revolutionaries, abolitionists, and the civil rights movements. After the Civil War, our forebears sought to reconstruct the foundation of the United States, to end the schism in the soul of our country and establish the social, economic, and political rights that a genuine multiracial democracy requires. As King observed, each step forward was met with backlash. White supremacists, having lost the Civil War, wielded violence and terror to end the work of Reconstruction.
Nearly a century later, the civil rights movement ushered in a Second Reconstruction. And again, the old America retaliated, circumventing the newly won legal protections against discrimination with dog-whistle racism, mass incarceration, and a gutting of public programs that all working Americans need to thrive.
Reconstruction is far from finished, so the work continues today. We are heartbroken that decade-after-decade, century-after-century, we witness our brothers and sisters robbed of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But we are still marching, buoyed not only by the legacy of the movements who came before us, but also by our love for our people who, in every generation, have brought us closer to redeeming that revolutionary promise: a true democracy of freedom, liberty, and justice for all who call America home.
It’s time for us to complete the work of Reconstruction and give birth to a new America that belongs to all of us.
Reconcile With Our History
...by establishing a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate, document, and assess the federal government’s role in America’s history of racism.
A federal investigation and commission modeled on the transitional justice approach in Germany, South Africa, and Rwanda.
The purpose of the Commission is to:
1. Foster a national conversation on our government’s history of racial discrimination and oppression,
2. Establish national memorials and curriculum standards to enshrine and pass on the truths of our history,
3. Create an accounting of the harm caused by our government’s policies,
4. Create a proposal for reparations that would rectify the harms that were caused by our government
Get Off Our Necks
...by shifting funding and resources from police departments, jails, and prisons to new agencies designed to protect public health:
- Provide federal matching grants for states and municipalities that create Crisis Care units of violence interrupters, social workers, and mental health intervention
- End military equipment transfer programs to local and state law enforcement
- Provide federal grants for school districts, universities, and other educational entities that break enforcement contracts with police to receive funding for restorative justice programs, violence interrupters and other mental health workers
- End qualified immunity and ban officers with use of force violations from future employment in other departments
- Use federal funds and standards to incentivize states and municipalities that shift funding from police departments to healthcare, wellness, trauma centers, drug and alcohol treatment programming, peer support networks, and training for healthcare professionals
- Dramatically reduce our jail and prison population by ending: the school-to-prison pipeline, lengthy sentencing and mandatory minimums, cash bail, onerous parole requirements, the war on drugs, new jail and prison construction, mass deportation, and the use of private prisons and detention centers
Let Us Breathe
All working people will be better off in an America that values black lives. Those who control our democracy and economy benefit from and exploit racism to keep working people divided against each other. If we’re too busy divided and afraid of each other, we can’t come together to create strong programs that take care of us and provide for our families. This is how racism is killing all of us in some way. Our nation has a cruel and underfunded social safety net because too many people don’t want their tax dollars going to help out someone who they think is different from them and “undeserving” of support.
Providing all Americans with the things we need to thrive will help defeat racism and defeating racism will protect policies that provide all Americans with the things we need to thrive. If all of our lives are valued, we can establish economic and social programs that take basic human needs off private, corporate-dominated markets and invest in every single person who calls this nation their home. When we all do better, we all do better.
- Medicare for All: Nearly one in three Black Americans aged 18 to 64 has overdue medical bills. In New York State between 2013 and 2015, 54 Black women died for every 100,000 births -- nearly four times the rate of white women. We need a universal, single-payer health care system that provides exemplary health care to every American regardless of income.
- Housing Justice: Too many people of color and working class Americans are being pushed out of the neighborhoods they grew up in. We need to invest in revamping our existing social and public housing and creating new units. We need to make it easier for municipalities and states to enact rent control. We need to enforce fair housing standards. We must end the racist and classist practice of exclusionary zoning that has prevented millions of Americans from securing stable housing. We must provide grants to first-time, low-income homebuyers who live in a formerly redlined community.
- Free College and Canceling Student Debt: Free college and canceling student debt would bring us closer to achieving racial and economic justice. This plan would cut the racial wealth gap for young Black Americans by more than 50%: from 12 to 1 to 5 to 1. We must make historic investments in HBCUs.
- Invest In Public Schools: In 2016, majority-minority school districts received $23 billion less in funding than majority-white districts in the United State. We must quadruple annual Title I funding for schools that serve low-income children and incentivize the development of community schools. We must guarantee free, universal meals. We must use Title I and other funding streams to incentivize school districts to integrate and end racial segregation in our schools.
- Green New Deal: We must enact a federal jobs guarantee by turbocharging to 100% green energy. The Green New Deal will bring jobs, business ownership, and wealth generation into communities left out of the original New Deal. It will also help confront the epidemic of environmental racism that leads to high rates of asthma in communities of color that are located by design next to harmful and polluting industries. We must dramatically expand the caring economy by hiring and raising wages for more teachers, nurses, care workers, and early childhood providers.
- Tax The Rich: A 2% wealth tax on Americans with a net worth of more than $50 million would tackle skyrocketing inequality, help pay for universal child care, canceling student debt, and providing universal public college and trade school. We must tax capital gains at the same rate as income for the top 1 percent of Americans. We must close tax loopholes for corporations like Amazon who are paying little or zero federal taxes.
- Expand Labor Unions and Social Security: Labor unions and social security protect so many low-income Black families across America. We must fight to expand labor unions and strengthen social security.
- Baby Bonds: The median white family today holds nearly 10 times the wealth of the median black family. If we provided all newborns a savings account with $1,000 and added up to $2,000 per year until the child turned 18, we would move tremendously in addressing inequality and the racial wealth gap in this country.
This is a living document that will evolve over time.