… to re-emphasize a point that was dominating the national conversation until two weeks ago, Black Americans, while making up 12.5% of the U.S. population, account for 23% of COVID-19 deaths so far. While the exact mechanism by which one person dies from the disease and another is hardly effected is not understood, the COVID case and death disparities have exposed the way in which poverty and inequality exacerbates illness among Black and Brown people.
The conviction of a few White police officers isn’t going to address that kind of inequality.
But a progressive set of policies will. We’ve seen a recent example of that with the Green New Deal, as proposed by progressive members of Congress. It incorporates an intersectional view of social progress, in that it outlines that programs be directed toward stopping and reversing the historic oppression of people of color, reducing economic inequality, and weighing the effects of future policies on the most vulnerable front-line communities. The word “Green” would give the impression it’s all about the environment, and indeed, we’d have a much cleaner and sustainable nation if it were implemented. But we’d also find ourselves in a more equitable nation, especially if we started the process of transforming our economy with a Black New Deal.
It’s not a replacement for reparations for the enslavement of African people and the subsequent centuries of discrimination against their descendants, but it’s a step in that direction. And a New Deal that benefits Black America ultimately benefits all of America.
This won’t happen under Trump’s watch. Even Joe Biden, pragmatic centrist that he is, has acknowledged that the work of achieving racial equality would outlast his administration—but at least it shows he’s thinking long-term about the problem, and he did sign on to the initial Green New Deal proposal.
Racial equality is the great unfinished task of America. Smart people who have studied these problems have left road maps that can get us to solutions. We have the money—in our federal defense budget and in our militarized police forces. The missing element has always been political courage.
We’re seeing that courage in the streets right now. What we need next are the leaders who share it.