Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman (D) talks about the county's vaccine rollout and making the tax code more progressive. And D.C. Councilmember Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) talks about disparities in the District's vaccinations and how the pandemic has affected plans to bring a hospital east of the Anacostia River.
Last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests highlighted significant racial injustices, not just in policing but across nearly every institution in American life. From housing to transportation to education, our systems reflect and perpetuate long-standing racial biases.
Now, lawmakers across the region and the country are putting forth bold ideas to tackle systemic racism. A legislative proposal in Maryland would advance a Black Agenda –– a package of bills aimed specifically at addressing racial inequality. And another local leader recently announced she is co-founding Our Black Party, a new national organization focused on people of color.
What is a Black agenda? And what are local legislators doing to address systemic racism?
This is a broadcast of the audio from our Kojo In Your Community event on February 16, 2021. Kojo will not be taking live calls or social media questions during this show.
Produced by Richard Cunningham
- Rashawn Ray Associate Professor, Sociology Department, University of Maryland and Fellow in Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution; @SociologistRay
- Candace Hollingsworth Former Mayor, City of Hyattsville; Chief Organizer, Our Black Party; @justlikecandace, @OurBlackParty
- Adrienne Jones Speaker, Maryland House of Delegates (D)
KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned in to The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5, welcome. Earlier this week we held our latest Kojo in Your Community event via Zoom. The topic, How are Local Leaders Addressing Structural Racism? It's part of our Kojo Connects series this month focused on race and social justice. WAMU Reporter Jenny Gathright assisted me by moderating and sharing the questions from the attendees. A quick programming note, our next Kojo in Your Community will me on March 16 and will feature special guest Jose Andres. You can find details at wamu.org/events. So go online and register now. And a reminder, today's show is pre-taped so we won't be taking calls during the broadcast. Enjoy.
KOJO NNAMDIThe writer and activist James Baldwin wrote, "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced." The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers and the protests that followed focused first on the issues in our criminal justice system. But it also became quickly apparent that bias and racism are deeply embedded in all of our institutions, healthcare, housing, education, transportation.
KOJO NNAMDIOur systems put people of color at a disadvantage creating disparities in nearly every aspect of personal public and social life. Many local lawmakers and officials are proposing ways to change the systems that perpetuate racism, but it's a massive and complex challenge. Joining us now is Delegate Adrienne Jones. She is the Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates. Madam Speaker, thank you for joining us.
ADRIENNE JONESThank you for having me.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Candace Hollingsworth, National Co-Chair of Our Black Party, the Former-Mayor of the City of Hyattsville, Maryland. Candace Hollingsworth, thank you for joining us.
CANDACE HOLLINGSWORTHThank you for having me.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Dr. Rashawn Ray who is a Fellow at The Brookings Institution, Professor of Sociology and Executive Director of the Lab for Applied Social Science Research at the University of Maryland's College Park. Rashawn Ray, thank you for joining us.
RASHAWN RAYThank you.
NNAMDII'll start with you. We hear the term structural racism a lot these days. Can you define it?
RAYSo when we talk about structural racism it's really the ways that racism permeates our policies, our laws, our rules and the regulations that govern us. One thing we know from sociologists such as Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, who is a professor at Duke University and a former president of the American Sociological Association is that we don't need racists necessarily in order for a systemic racism or structural racism to impact our society.
RAYSome of the ways that we've seen this historically and currently one really good example is red lining. We know that red lining is a system in play that leads to people who live in predominantly Black neighborhoods being given less access to resources whether that be health resources, whether that be work opportunities, whether that be grocery stores. And we've seen the way even that this has played out during COVID-19 with people having less access to be able to get to a hospital.
RAYAnd I think one big point here, we could take cities like Baltimore or Washington D.C. And I've done this in my analysis. And take a map say from 2020 or 2010 and overlay it with the map from 1910 and we basically see that Black people and white people have lived in similar places and that the income disparities that existed then are the same ones that exist today.
NNAMDICandace Hollingsworth, you were as I said earlier you were the Mayor of Hyattsville, Maryland. In other words, you were in charge. You were the boss. But were there nevertheless examples of structural racism that you witnessed and how it affects people in their daily lives even during your tenure?
HOLLINGSWORTHOh, absolutely. And we can't be naïve enough to believe that just, because we have certain leadership of a certain complexion or that because we have majority of residents who might be progressive leaning in their politics. You're still talking about a democracy that is representative of the voices of people. And we know that we all carry with us that legacy of our four fathers, whatever that legacy might be. And it shows up in many ways. It shows up in PTA meetings. It shows up in advocacy actions. It shows up in opposition to development or support for development. It shows up all around us. And many times they are the very benign ways or ways that we assume are benign that can actually have a very real impact on a person's life.
HOLLINGSWORTHAnd that's why in elected office especially when we're talking about the role that local leaders can play in addressing systemic racism it's really important that as, you know, myself now former elected official, but for those of us who are in positions of power that we always ask ourselves, will what I'm doing exacerbate a problem even more. And so we have to use the process of undoing and also a process of making sure that our actions don't end up creating another situation down the line.
NNAMDISpeaker Jones, as a society, we're just beginning to discuss the issue of structural racism. But for those who experience this on a daily basis, these issues are not new. What was it like for you? When and how did you become aware of the biases and racism underpinning so many of our institutions and is that one of the reasons you decided to run for office in the first place?
JONESThat's a good question. I've been in office over 20 some years. But it became very apparent over the years and how we as a people, you know, Black, brown people were being treated or not treated. And it wasn't until I had the opportunity to try to do something about it when I became speaker that that was one of the first things that I wanted to deal with. And that's why we had put out the racial Black agenda and racial and economic justice agenda as a series of bills that address the areas that need to be worked on in order to make us more fair no matter what our economic status was. I just wanted to make sure as a people that we could be successful.
NNAMDIHow long has this Black agenda been percolating in your head?
JONESWell, probably over the years, because growing up I was in, you know, name calling we received or being looked at -- I found out -- and I'll give you a quick example. I worked for Baltimore County for a number of years and I just learned from my former boss, who happened to be white, that I was left out of certain meetings that they attended, because I wasn't allowed to go. They had these special, you know, retreats that people go to. It was at like a country club and I just learned a couple of years ago he shared that with me.
JONESHe said, I never told you. I didn't want to you hurt, you know that type of thing. And these things were going on all along. And things like that and name calling and how you couldn't do certain things that has sort of been percolating throughout the years until I got to this point that, okay. You're in a position to do something about it. You know, along with some key people who also are bright minds in this area. We're going to get this done and get it done right.
NNAMDIDr. Rashawn Ray, there was a time when Richard Pryor the late comedian used to say a crucial question is, "How long will this so and so go on?" What I'd like to talk about is how long it has been going on. We hear about the 1619 project, but how long? Where and how did these underlying structures and systems come to be?
RAYI mean, that's a great question. And I mean, in the American context, we have to be very clear that our country was founded on racism. Last year I had the chance to interview Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and he said that America was born with a genetic birth defect on the question of race. I really like how he put that, because it suggests the ways that we need to continuously work at it.
RAYAt the University of Maryland when I teach courses on race, one of the things that I tell my students is a sentence that's very, very important for how we think about race. That the social construction of race -- because when we talk about race and racism it's often times about the social construction of it, the way that people think that it manifests, the way that people think that it matters for biology and culture and the like. So the social construction of race based on the falsification of the science of race meaning where it comes from that if we then justify in our minds that people are biologically or genetically or culturally different then it justifies the racial gaps that we exist.
RAYSo social construction of race based on the falsification of the science of race leads to the exploitation of race for economic gains. So we know that when we think historically and I'll just highlight a few very important points for people is that of course, people know about slavery. And of course people always think about the 1619 project. It's a phenomenal place to start. Oftentimes people point out 1865, slavery ends. We have the 13, 14, 15 amendment.
RAYOne thing that people leave out is what happened in 1876 and 1877, which is really where we started to see the end of reconstruction that what happened at that point was that northerners, the part of the Union, pulled out from the South. That essentially put in place Jim Crowe laws that started to affect not only the South, but that sent a ripple throughout the rest of our country. The other major point dealt with what happened at the end of World War II or kind of during World War II.
RAYBut when the stock market crashed in 1929 that President Roosevelt had to do something, a stimulus if you will, to build back up America. Its unemployment was going through the roof. Mind you, unemployment as bad as people say that it was then, there are cities, particularly predominantly Black cities like Detroit and Baltimore that actually have higher rates of unemployment right now during COVID than people were experiencing during the Great Depression. It's just important to put that in context to how bad things are economically for people right now.
RAYBut part of what happened at that point is we had a series of new deal policies that focused on the GI bill and Social Security. Two quick points there. Social Security left out two occupations. It left out domestic work and farm work. Seventy-five percent of Black people in the South worked in those occupations. When it came to the GI bill, you had white veterans and Black veterans like some of my relatives and ancestors probably others on here as well, who went and fought in the war, but when they returned, they were given disparate resources.
RAYSo part of what the GI bill did was it essentially created the middle class that we know to exist today. It gave people grants to go to college, send their children to college, to be able to have grants to put down on homes, to startup businesses. All the things that we say make the middle class today. Black veterans did not receive those funds. So these policies were mandated federally, but implemented locally. This is the reason why we have so many HBCUs to this day that continue to thrive with not a lot of resources.
RAYThe bottom line is that these policies impacted 8 out of 10 American families. So it's not solely about slavery even though that's where it started in the American context, but there are repeated examples of the way that -- the ways that systemic racism continues to impact our society to this day.
NNAMDIIt's my understanding, Jenny, that we have heard from someone.
JENNY GATHRIGHTYes. We have a question from Victoria who is coming to us from D.C. Victoria asks, "I feel strongly that we all need to participate in this action, but I sometimes don't know where to start. What can an ordinary citizen do?"
NNAMDIWell, Candace Hollingsworth, you used to be a mayor, but now you are quote, unquote an "ordinary citizen." So what advice would you give to that person?
HOLLINGSWORTHSo I think especially now there's always this urgency around, I got to do something. I got to do something." And in the doing feels like it has to be a production of some sort in that it has to be giving to some external or other party. When in reality the very world that we live in for all that is good and for all that is not is a result of ordinary actions -- is a collection of ordinary actions. And so even an ordinary person -- for me, I think I like to talk about folks who in our city, who want to get involved at least being civically engaged. Start there.
HOLLINGSWORTHStart with knowing who are the folks that are in office right now. Get a sense of what they believe is important. Get your needs and the needs of the folks that you want to advocate on behalf, get those in front of them, because you are a constituent. And I think we often minimize the power that constituency has.
HOLLINGSWORTHIt also means broadening your knowledge and challenging yourself about the ways that even your own bias and racism shows up. At what points are you willing to trade on whiteness? At what points are you willing to accept, you know, racism in its smaller ways in order to benefit you and your family? Start there. Those are places that I think are sometimes most important because it gets to the heart of attitudes. It gets to the heart of the ways that we behave in society when we're put right next to another person. I have so many examples where there are people that will say one thing and do quite another when their hand is forced. And I think it's time for folks to show up in the ways that they talk about publically privately as well.
NNAMDIYou are the President and Co-Founder of Our Black Party. What is Our Black Party and what is the idea behind creating this new national party?
HOLLINGSWORTHSure. So I am one of the founders. There are five of us on a steering committee, National Co-Chair along with Dr. Wes Bellamy out of Charlottesville, Virginia, and we established Our Black Party in early summer last year as a way to help advance the Black political agenda. And so we see our role as being very clear in local -- particularly local and state offices where we're able to provide for elected officials and for regular citizens, who are interested in seeing policies that support what we're talking about this evening. Seeing those policies pass at every level of government.
HOLLINGSWORTHWhat we often see and what we often see in communities that Black elected officials, any elected officials honestly, they're afraid to stand up and speak for a Black agenda. And so we're hoping that Our Black Party will be an organization that is able to power that to give folks the gumption that's needed so that we have not only the people and the mandate, but that we're also able to provide the money. We don't want folks to feel like they have to negotiate on the backs of Black folks in order to retain their seats. We want people to see that Black people have a source of power in the political system and that we're ready to wield it not just for presidential elections.
NNAMDIWhat would be the relationship between Our Black Party and the Black agenda that Speaker Jones is advocating? I'm going to ask this to you both. But first I'll start with you, Candace Hollingsworth.
HOLLINGSWORTHYeah. So like Speaker Jones said, she reached out to me in my role as mayor to get input on the Black agenda as it was crafted. And our role with Our Black Party is to work -- and we're in the process of developing state networks across the country prioritizing the 11 states with the highest population of Black folks and concentration of Black folks in the country. Starting with those 11 states, Maryland is one of them. And paying attention to what the needs are for those community members.
HOLLINGSWORTHWe cannot assume that those of us who are in, you know, a national position are able to talk about, yes, this is what's needed in Maryland. This is what's needed in Mississippi or in Georgia. Mississippians know what Mississippians need. Georgians know what Georgians need. And it's important that we empower residents with the ability to know, okay, what exactly are they saying with this particular legislation.
HOLLINGSWORTHAnd when people who are bold enough, like Speaker Jones, are able to put forward legislation that we can say, okay, let's get folks to help advocate and push for that, because she or he will need to have that support and the manpower behind them to say, I'm not coming by myself. There's a lot of people behind me who support me in doing this and I'm not doing it on an island.
NNAMDII'd like to hear from you on this issue, Speaker Jones. What can a Black party like Our Black Party do for your Black agenda?
JONESBlack Party was very helpful in some of the tenements that's part of this Black agenda. Case in point, minority women represent less than five percent of board members in the U.S. We have people who are out there that would be excellent candidates. And they know a lot of times they have not been reached out to. So then we would welcome them. And also when we have nine pieces of legislation that are tied into the agenda, it would be good if they could testify, lend their story, because there is nothing better than having the individuals and said, this is what I experienced. This is what will be helpful in going forward for other people. And so they would be what I would characterize as the expert testimony.
JONESYou know, oftentimes we hear about that Annapolis and in Congress, and I think that when I first talked about it there were a lot of individuals saying, you know, I wish I had this years ago or when I was growing up. And now I'm in this place and I wish I had that. I would have been in another place. So we're going to have these bills that are going to be -- you know, on the website we can communicate with individuals. But it will be helpful to hear how it would affect directly on persons who've been through what some of these bills are trying to relieve.
JONESNothing is better than having the person who's been through it. And they can talk first hand because they've been through it. But there's a lot of people out there willing to reach out and saying, How important. I'd like to be able to see this, because they have not heard about this that is happening in the State of Maryland or coming out of Annapolis.
NNAMDIJenny Gathright, we have a question?
GATHRIGHTWe do. And this kind of goes along with the idea of a national Black party. This person didn't provide their name, but is wondering the panelists' thoughts on the need to create a national Black union to truly hold systems accountable for repairing the harm of white supremacy. This person says Democrats, Republican, NAACP, etcetera are not pushing with the urgency that we need. Our needs are being sidelined again. And they've seen enough talk.
NNAMDIRashawn Ray, as you answer that question, how have lawmakers and activists tried to address structural racism in the past? And do you see this current moment when we're talking about a Black agenda and Our Black Party, do you see this current moment as different?
RAYYou know, I think this current moment is different. And I think it's different for a couple of reasons. Part of what we saw in 2020 was a combination of pandemics really endemics that have been affecting the Black community for quite some time, health disparities, police brutality, underemployment, and so obviously they came together to combine to really highlight racial disparities across the board.
RAYOne of the things that I always talk about is that structural conditions undergird preexisting health conditions, and really undergird racial disparities, those structural conditions being the way that we think about housing, the way that we think about work opportunities. The fact that Black people are over represented not only when it comes to who was fired and let go during COVID, but also individuals who are working frontline jobs in occupations that are hardest hit by COVID-19.
RAYAnd obviously when we talk about police brutality the simple stat that Black people are 3.5 times more likely than whites to be killed by police when they're not attacking or have a weapon. So historically, I mean, we know that there have been a lot of pushes for this, right? One big one and big miss that America made was following the Civil War where General Sherman came out with field order 15 and essentially said, "look, we need to make amends to make this right. We need to pay reparations. Free Black people need to receive 40 acres and a mule." That's where that came from.
RAYWell, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. That was pulled back. Not only was it pulled back, but slave owners not only got their land back, but then they got money back for lost wages, for lost property. That property being Black people, and what was one of the primary places that engaged in that activity? Washington D.C. So when we think about this as a whole, part of what it boils down to is what does a Black agenda look like? And part of it is what is one of the biggest things that can be done?
RAYWell, in our region, not just in Congress, but also in the State of Maryland with the Harriet Tubman Community Investment Act in the State of Virginia where the Virginia legislators passed a bill requiring universities to grapple and deal with the fact that enslaved people were sold help build their institutions, and were sold to pay for their endowment similar to Georgetown all the way up to Princeton.
RAYBottom line is this. This is about truth and reconciliation and restitution. And part of thinking about restitution is if we really want to end systemic racism we have to not only have a serious conversation about reparations, but that that's actually something that we need to implement and pass to deal with the racial gap that exists today. I'll end with very, very important stat. In 1860, Black people's physical bodies were worth $3 billion, just our bodies. We're not talking about the products we produced. We're not talking about any of that.
RAYOur physical bodies were worth more than the railroads and the factories put together. We fast-forward to today -- actually right before COVID, because it's gotten worse. But when COVID hit, the racial gap in wealth was 10 to 1. White people had 10 times the amount of wealth that white people did. And having a college degree like many of us do on here doesn't do much to deal with it. White college graduates have seven times more wealth than Black college graduates. It's not about hard work. It's not about whether or not you pull yourself up from your bootstraps. It's about the historical and current legacy of systemic racism and it plays out and affects all of our lives.
NNAMDIJenny Gathright, any more questions?
GATHRIGHTYes, we do have one. This one comes from Louise from D.C. who says, "You know, some people suggest that when we do this work, we need to shift away from giving all of it to people of color, because placing this responsibility on the shoulders of those who have been victimized is problematic." These people say that white folks need to take this on since they're the source. So, Louise wants to know what the panelists' thoughts are on this.
HOLLINGSWORTHSo, that's an interesting question. I appreciate it, because I've also watched a bit where folks say, you know, get your people. (laugh) That's what people say, you know, those are your folks. You need to take care of your people. And it is true. I do think that when it comes to educating yourself on the way that racism and systemic racism shows up in society and the communities where you live, it's your responsibility.
HOLLINGSWORTHWhen it comes to finding out what you can do, that's your responsibility. But I do believe very deeply that it is important for black folks to take the front seat in our politic future, because there are limits to progressivism. We've seen it. We see it today, where, (laugh) you know, I'll give a quick example. One of the last pieces of legislation that I wanted to pass before I left office was to restrict how high our parking citations could escalate.
HOLLINGSWORTHSo, you know, you get a parking ticket, you forget about it. It can end up being, you know, four times the amount that it was originally supposed to. All right. That's a typical thing that you see. So, I wanted to restrict how much it could escalate. And it was so interesting to watch my colleagues who I love and work with, and love dearly, try to figure out exactly how much we can actually charge someone for a 75-cent violation. And to watch people actually propose, well, maybe we could keep the fee, but let's have people work it off.
HOLLINGSWORTHSo, we know (laugh) there are limits to even the folks who consider themselves the most progressive. And so, in that sense, I think it's important for black folks to say, no, this is what we want when it comes to our political future, our political identity, which includes all of the ways that we live. Because we know that blackness, in itself, is political. Our education, healthcare where we live, where we work, and we spend our dollars, it's all political.
HOLLINGSWORTHAnd so, it's important for us in that sense to have to take the front seat. And for others, if you want to be an ally, if you want to support those efforts, to really listen and follow clear instructions and follow directions and trust the leadership of the folks who are saying (unintelligible). And so, I think it's being able to navigate both of those worlds and put ego in the appropriate places, when necessary.
NNAMDIWell, Speaker Jones, if you are to make sure that a black agenda passes in the Maryland General Assembly, you are obviously going to need the votes of some of your white colleagues in the General Assembly. How do you go about persuading those white colleagues, especially those who may not have a profound knowledge of black history, that what you are doing and what they need to be doing is, in fact, the right thing for everybody?
JONESFor one thing, not education. And the bills that are associated with this agenda are all sponsored by black caucus members. And they're in various committees, and we have somewhat of a progressive group, that I don't think there would be any problem getting these bills passed. We have a majority Democratic House, and they already were asking what they can do, or they know someone that this, you know, would help them.
JONESSo, I had that leverage, because when we meet weekly with the caucus, you know, they have their marching orders. So, they have that leverage in terms of that, and so it won't be a surprise. Like I said, we already got lined up who the members will be, and they are -- you know, and their respected committees. So, I think that's, you know, I can convincingly say these bills will pass.
NNAMDIWell, I do understand that the legislative process does not necessarily move forward on the basis of education, but on the basis of negotiation. So, I do accept that. But, Jenny Gathright, we have another question?
GATHRIGHTWe do. We have a couple follow-up questions from folks in the audience about Our Black Party. Artheretta from Northern Virginia says, thank you Our Black Party co-founder Candace Hollingsworth. I just joined. How will this party support the current reparation movement? And Tamar from Silver Spring wants to know how they can join the Our Black Party.
HOLLINGSWORTHYeah, so people can certainly -- and thank you, Artheretta, for signing up. You can visit us online at www.ourblackparty.org/join. And so, thank you for that. And when it comes to reparations, we absolutely support reparations in this country. Of course, at this moment the action item that we have is supporting the wonderful congresswoman in passing HR40.
HOLLINGSWORTHAnd at the same time, I think there are other areas where we can be powerful to help support reparations movement. And that is amplifying the work of economists like Dr. Derrick Hamilton and Stephanie Kelton who talk about modern monetary theory in the ways that we can actually finance these types of bold initiatives at the federal level that previous conversations have been handcuffed by the conversation of economics and how we pay for it.
HOLLINGSWORTHAnd so, I think when we do both of those things together, it helps make the path towards realizing what reparations can look like a little bit easier. Is it a heavy lift? Absolutely, but it is one that we believe is necessary.
NNAMDIRashawn Ray, what are your thoughts on creating a separate party as in Our Black Party? What might it add to the political landscape and, at the same time, what are some of the challenges it will face?
RAYI mean, I think it's great. I mean, anything that I think that Candace Hollingsworth is doing and her and her colleagues, I think it's phenomenal in terms of highlighting what the issues are, and then figuring out what are some of the policies to address it. You know, oftentimes, we got to think, when people have been involved in politics and add other roles, they know where the gaps are. We heard that earlier, about a really good example about tickets.
RAYI mean, we have to think that Ferguson -- which, of course, was the prelude to Michael Brown being killed -- was about tickets, was the disparate ways that black people are being stopped as they roll through Ferguson, being ticketed to actually pay for some of the things that that municipality needed. And so, when we talk about a black party, when we talk about a black agenda, we really need it in the sense that we have to ensure that representation is there. And simply because something is focused on one particular group, doesn't mean that other people can't join in.
RAYFor example, I mean, when things are focused on gender disparities, I'm very supportive and want to play a prominent role. Because one thing I know, as a man, is that the reason why patriarchy and sexism continues to maintain itself is because of oftentimes the symbolic and real ways that men are able to maintain domination over women.
RAYPart of that is recognizing the roles that we play in society. And I think that white people in our country have the ability to do that. We have, in this moment, where people are facing a racial awakening. And part of that racial awakening is what they can do. Part of what they're doing right now is being educated. That's what I call being a racial equity learner.
RAYThe next step is how do you become an advocate. For most of us, when we get off of an event like this, we're sitting around a table -- and most of the people sitting around our tables look just like this. And we have to do what my grandfather always taught me to do, which is to not sit there and allow our silence to be our acceptance. We have to speak up when we see something wrong. We have to say something, partly because the next generation is listening to us. They're watching us. They mimic us.
RAYAnd this is the reason why whether we're talking about policing or healthcare, we continuously see racial disparities repeated, because we have this narrative in our country about color blindness that, if you simply don't pay attention to it, that means that it's not happening. Well, it is all around us, and all of us are impacted by racism. It just depends on which side of the coin we're on, the part where we're marginalized or the part where we're privileged by it.
NNAMDIJenny Gathright, any more questions?
GATHRIGHTYeah, we have a question from Wendy, who's coming from Southeast D.C. And Wendy wants to see some real examples of change. So, she asks: How can we make real progress combating systemic racism? Our country was founded on racism, and there's a huge amount of power and money and momentum designed to keep it in place. Can you share examples of successes in dismantling systemic racism, or efforts underway that can lead to real change?
NNAMDISpeaker Jones, that's what the black agenda is all about. Can you give some examples of successes?
JONESThe agenda was -- we just announced that, so the bills have not been signed into law, as yet. But I'm very sure that they will be, but some of our areas have to do with housing and getting tax-free savings accounts for first-time homebuyers. These are bills that our caucus members will be introducing.
JONESAnd some of the things that we are asking, you know, that is when your listeners can chime in, because we're looking for getting those individuals. And people already have been sending in their bios to us. And we're following these corporations through the Office of Minority Small Business Affairs and Commerce on data composition of their wards. As it relates to health, we have declared racism as a public health crisis. And we're looking to have health equity and bias training for our doctors, nurses, etcetera in that field of practitioners, in an effort to work to lower black maternal mortality rate.
JONESSo, there's a myriad of areas that can benefit the community, but we also need to hear from those who say, "I may have that skillset." Because we want to make sure that we're not eliminating anyone that, you know, that's the perfect person in this area. So, we're just trying to make sure that the word gets out. And particularly after these bills are, you know, signed into law and this session, before we end, and our session ends in April.
NNAMDIWell, Candace Hollingsworth, some people might say, well, back in the '60s, we had the Civil Rights Act. We had the Fair Housing Act. And, of course, we had the Voting Rights Act, and that all of those things led to changes. Black voters played a key role in November's election, as well as in the runoff in Georgia that decided the Senate majority. What struck you in this election about the black vote?
HOLLINGSWORTHWhat struck me most about the black vote this election was how much it was talked about. (laugh) I mean, let's start here. But in what it delivered, I was incredibly proud of organizing communities in Georgia and across the country for not just a groundswell of newly registered voters and those who actually, you know, went out to vote, but folks that went out to vote in a pandemic, stood in lines, (laugh) you know, and were willing to do -- and trusted a system that we have full proof of how badly it behaves for black folks.
HOLLINGSWORTHAnd yet we still believe that this is the way that we can -- that we saw democracy as a tool to get what we needed. And in that case, the thing that we needed was to have Trump out of office. I loved, and I was incredibly proud of the way the organizing was and just getting folks to vote. It was also educating folks on the importance of a runoff election.
HOLLINGSWORTHI think so many people expected those numbers to plummet to a degree that the incumbent senators would be able to walk back into their seats. And yet because of not just having folks on their rolls and knowing that they needed to vote, they had the public opinion on their side, where folks felt that this was the thing that we needed to do, and we had a role to play in it. So, that's the thing that I'm proud of.
HOLLINGSWORTHThe thing that I'm looking forward to, however, is where we don't have to be in a position where we're trying to decide between candidates that we didn't necessarily like. I'm looking forward to us being able to be active participants in midterm elections and active participants in the presidential primary season, as well as some very important and pivotal mayoral and gubernatorial races in 2021. I think this is a great start and a great opportunity for black voters to use the momentum of Georgia and the 2020 elections to really demonstrate the power of the black voice, of black agenda and black politics.
NNAMDIJenny Gathright, we have another question?
GATHRIGHTYes. We have a question about this new administration that we just voted in. Clarks asks: Do you think the Biden-Harris Administration will be more open to reparations?
RAYI think so. So, I think there's a few things going on. The first thing -- and Candace just highlighted it -- one thing that we know about President Biden throughout his several decades in office is that he's quite responsive to his constituents, and he realizes who has put him in office. I mean, some of the analysis that I'd done -- not just about Georgia, but, of course, that was huge -- of Pennsylvania, Michigan, is that black people turned out in droves. And we saw that democracy was working potentially better than we've ever seen it working. And it's interesting to think about how much better it can get.
RAYBut, yeah, I think so. So, the first thing we've seen is that Biden has assembled, the most racially diverse Cabinet in American history. That is not by mistake. That's purposeful. It's not just about Vice President Kamala Harris. It's about a series of picks. I mean, once the Department of Justice gets in place, not only is that about race. It's also about gender. It's highly diverse.
RAYI mean, we could look at other places from HUD. We can think about education. We can think about the Department of Defense. The list could go on and on. The second thing is about his racial equity of executive orders, where he's really put that in place. And one thing we know is that V.P. Harris, when she was a Senator, was quite supportive of HR40 and raising that up on the Senate side, that now Senator Cory Booker is doing. And, of course, this is happening this week, where there's a hearing on HR40. I was able to submit written testimony for that.
RAYAnd so, I do think that there is quite a bit of momentum, particularly in the House of Representatives. I think the votes are basically almost there. We know in the Senate that Democrats control the tiebreaker -- of course, having to deal with the filibuster and those sort of things. But I definitely think that Biden will be supportive. And I think, in this regard, it's going to primarily come from V.P. Harris, who's going to push that.
RAYI mean, we know that reparations is a big deal. We know that voting is a big deal. We know that criminal justice reform is a big deal. But these are things that people who put Biden in office expect for him to deliver upon.
NNAMDISpeaker Jones, we've heard a lot about criminal justice reform in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and many others. What does defunding the police mean to you? And how does your agenda enforce police accountability?
JONESIn terms of defunding police, that was not part of, you know, the agenda because I don't think people fully understand what that is. And I would say that what we need is funding in terms of mental health service and other areas instead of the public having to call the police on some of these cases that these individuals wind up being killed.
JONESBut, in our agenda, it's just commonsense reform. We had over 100 people who testified, a great deal of them -- at the public hearing, a great deal of them were mothers who lost sons. But, you know, we also had law enforcement, to be fair, you know, to get both sides. And none of those hearings touched on about defunding. But it is something -- the two bills that we have, as it relates to the working with Police Reform and Accountability Act. And one of the first major things is repealing the Law Enforcement Officer's Bill of Rights. But although at the same time have a statewide accountability framework for disciplinary process.
JONESThere are some who want to have the chief doing it and, you know, we didn't want the police policing themselves. And we want to have more open meetings for all our trial boards, including civilian voting members, because we want not just, again, having police policing themselves. And particularly the police-involved shooting that also results in death, we want independent investigation, not, you know again, them policing themselves.
JONESBanning use of chokeholds and neck restraints and banning no-knock warrants and prohibiting search warrants from being executed without clear and convinced evidence and establishing statewide use of force statutes and penalties for violations. These are just some of the key highlights. But it is important that this does get passed. You know, there are some who, you know, they wanted to do another bill, but I think that in looking at it, I think the bill that's going to do what we want to achieve as a result of the charge that I had of the workgroup that met this summer.
NNAMDICandace Hollingsworth, where does Our Black Party come down on the issue of improving police accountability?
HOLLINGSWORTHSo, for that, there's -- hopefully folks are familiar with the BREATHE Act, which is a piece of legislation that is currently being proposed by Movement for Black Lives, which goes a lot further than the Blacks in the Future Action Fund, Black Agenda 2020. It goes a bit deeper, because it is not just about police accountability. It's about reshaping our vision for public safety, and public safety becoming a real community responsibility, not in the hands of a particular entity that we all know was established for certain reasons many centuries ago.
HOLLINGSWORTHBut, anyway, so, for us, it is about making sure that we underscore in every conversation around the black agenda is how we build out our black party. And that community self-determination is always priority, where communities are able to say this is how we want to be governed and support those communities in that work.
HOLLINGSWORTHAnd so, for us, we do believe that reallocation of resources to the areas where communities need it most. We agree with what Speaker Jones had said about making sure that we are able to have multiple lines of support in a community for dealing with a variety of issues, and that we don't rely or see law enforcement as the key to that, that we as neighbors, we as public officials, that we are all responsible for the safety of our communities and that we take an active role in that.
NNAMDIJenny Gathright, any questions?
GATHRIGHTWe have a comment from Francis, who says: Engaging white people is a distraction. They don't feel it and they don't care. A better way is to connect black people in the Diaspora with continental black people and form alliances. So, Francis is wondering how the panelists respond to that.
NNAMDII'll start with you, Rashawn Ray.
RAYI mean, look, I mean, I think part of what happens is people have a lot of frustration and people have a lot of rational, collective memories that speak to what racism has done in our country and what it continues to do. I tend to take the perspective that the more that we have bringing people together to try to make the type of change that we see is important.
RAYYes, there were a lot of people, particularly white people, who voted for Trump, and there was a large segment of people who stormed the Capitol aiming to maintain white supremacy, but there were also a lot of white people who opposed that. Part of what we need is for them to oftentimes talk to their friends and their family members, because we don't sit at tables with them. And so, part of that is important, that I think that we all have a role to play. But I also understand the importance of continuing to educate and empower black communities.
RAYAs we think about a movie that just recently came out, "Judas and the Black Messiah," part of what made Fred Hampton such a threat is that he was about unity. He was about using education to unify. And, oftentimes, that unification becomes quite scary to the status quo, and, quite frankly, scary to people who want to maintain white supremacy. So, I think that we all have a role to play in this process, but I definitely get the perspective that, oftentimes, we need to continue to empower the people who have been most marginalized in society.
NNAMDIJenny Gathright, we have another question about black solidarity?
GATHRIGHTYes. We have another comment, someone who didn't give their name, says: It seems like if non-blacks join the black party, it will be co-opted again, and the focus will be turned to multicultural issues. How would we avoid this in the black party?
HOLLINGSWORTHSo, I'm assuming that question is for me. (laugh) So, I think it's important for folks to recognize that we -- when we talk about black agenda or what most people are more comfortable saying is a plan for racial equity, we are comfortable saying black agenda, because that is what we were established for. And there are other organizations that are established for a purpose of, you know, advancing progressive policies that help, you know, a broad swell of people. Because, as I said on the show before, there is not a single thing in the black agenda that does not benefit everyone.
HOLLINGSWORTHAnd yet, we establish -- although those organizations exist, we establish our black party because we know the limits are set forth in progressivism. We know the limits of multiracial coalitions. James Baldwin spoke about it (laugh) years ago. Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton talked about it years ago. We know that these coalitions -- when you join a coalition with an entity or group where you are not the predominant, you know, or the priority voice, your priorities and your needs will be swallowed up.
HOLLINGSWORTHAnd so, this organization, while welcoming allies, while needing the support and the fervor of those who are not black, is black-led, it's black-centered, and it's for a black agenda. And so, I think it's important that we acknowledge that that is a core value and that that is part of the mission in why we need this.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Dr. Rashawn Ray is a fellow at the Brookings Institution, professor of sociology and executive director of the Lab for Applied Social Science Research at the University of Maryland College Park. Rashawn Ray, thank you so much for joining us.
RAYThank you so much for having me.
NNAMDICandace Hollingsworth is the national co-chair of Our Black Party and former Mayor of the city of Hyattsville, Maryland. Candace Hollingsworth, thank you for joining us.
HOLLINGSWORTHThank you for having me.
NNAMDIAnd Delegate Adrienne Jones is the speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates. Madame Speaker, thank you for joining us. We've been wanting to get you on this program for a long time.
JONESThank you for having me.
NNAMDIThank you all for joining us. We hope you'll continue to engage with us on this topic via our social media channels. We'd like to say thank you to our wonderful engineers, the Kojo Show team, especially Ingalisa Schrobsdorff and Richard Cunningham, (unintelligible) in marketing and events, and to the rest of our colleagues at WAMU for taking the show on the virtual road. We're especially grateful to WAMU's Monna Kashfi and Diane Hockenberry for their support. And thanks to you all for joining us. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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