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Daily Archives: September 30th, 2015

Reposted from The Daily Kos

Warren gives remarkable and unprecedented speech on racial injustice and Black Lives Matter

by Josie Duffy

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren expressed her emphatic support for the Black Lives Matter movement and called for racial justice reform in a Monday, Sept. 28 speech at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United State Senate.

This was arguably the strongest and most supportive of any speech given by a politician since the inception of the Black Lives Matter movement, and emphasized the need for racial justice and equality, police reform, and voting rights.

Warren listed the ways that America has historically disenfranchised and discriminated against black people—through violence, economic injustice, and denying them the right to vote. She lauded the civil rights movement as a turning point, noting that it “pushed this country in a new direction.”

But, she said, “fifty years later, we have made real progress toward creating the conditions of freedom—but we have not made ENOUGH progress.”

I speak today with the full knowledge that I have not personally experienced and can never truly understand the fear, the oppression, and the pain that confronts African Americans every day. But none of us can ignore what is happening in this country. Not when our black friends, family, neighbors literally fear dying in the streets.

Most politicians and presidential candidates have long been hesitant to throw their full support behind the Black Lives Matter movement, expressing agreement in cautious and distant statements. Many on the right have used the movement as a way to stoke fear in the public, branding the movement for black lives as a hate group.But Warren has taken the most courageous stance of her peers, highlighting the inequality that persists in black America. Her goal is to force people—mainly white people, although she doesn’t say that directly—to critically examine the way that race functions across the nation.

“Listen to the brave, powerful voices of today’s new generation of civil rights leaders. Incredible voices. Listen to them say: “If I die in police custody, know that I did not commit suicide.” Watch them march through the streets, “Hands up don’t shoot” – not to incite a riot, but to fight for their lives. To fight for their lives.”

See more below.

Warren explicitly called for police reform, stating that “police are not occupying armies. This is America, not a war zone—and policing practices in all cities, not just some—need to reflect that.” Her support for de-escalation and increased community involvement in policing echoed what police reform and racial justice activists have been calling for.

Warren also identified voting rights as an area where justice had not yet been served, and addressed the laws passed by republicans that restrict or prevent people from voting. “It’s time to call out the recent flurry of new state law restrictions for what they are: an all-out campaign by Republicans to take away the right to vote from poor and black and Latino American citizens who probably won’t vote for them.”

She then identified the economic injustices that plague communities of color, from big banks and their predatory mortgages to wage stagnation and high unemployment among blacks. “Our task will not be complete until we ensure that every family—regardless of race—has a fighting chance to build an economic future for themselves and their families,” Warren said.

While Warren’s speech doesn’t use the phrase white supremacy, she also seems to hint at its role in the continued police discrimination, voter discrimination, and economic discrimination that stand in the way of many black people in America.

This is, undoubtedly, the most remarkable speech any politician has given on black lives, especially in the past year. Already it has been widely supported by police reform and racial justice activists, including Deray McKesson, who told the Huffington Post that “Warren, better than any political leader I’ve yet heard, understands the protests as a matter of life or death—that the American dream has been sustained by an intentional violence and that the uprisings have been the result of years of lived trauma.”

That being said, the fact that it is so unusual brings about yet another sobering reality. Warren tells the truth and asks for nothing more than equality, justice, and for America to live up to the virtues it claims to hold dear. In order to have a reflective and honest democracy, more politicians must do the same. Warren’s speech is both beautiful to read and yet troublesome in its isolation.

Yet Warren’s firm stance for justice and her demand for change indicate that the movement is working. This speech signals that even the powerful can recognize rampant racial injustice.

“This is the reality all of us must confront, as uncomfortable and ugly as that reality may be,” she stated. “It comes to us to once again affirm that black lives matter, that black citizens matter, that black families matter.”

Senator Warren ended the speech by invoking the late Sen. Kennedy and his fight for social justice.

“As Senator Kennedy said in his first floor speech, ‘This is not a political issue. It is a moral issue, to be resolved through political means.’ So it comes to us to continue the fight, to make, as John Lewis said, the ‘necessary trouble’ until we can truly say that in America, every citizen enjoys the conditions of freedom.”

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