Equality for All

Our country has a long way to go to fulfill our Constitution’s promise of equality for every American.

From the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor to the stunning statistics that show Black, Latino and Indigenous Americans are dying at two or more times the rate of white Americans from COVID-19, it’s clear that these communities continue to face discrimination and systemic racism across every area of life, including in our economic, health care, criminal justice and education systems.

Patriotism means recognizing our country’s failings and working to fix them. We all need to commit to addressing long-standing racial and economic inequities in America. Doing so will be an ongoing effort, but here are some places we should begin.

Closing the Wealth Gap

The average Black family possesses roughly one-tenth of the wealth of the average white family, and the average Latino family possesses only slightly more wealth than the average Black family. This inequity is a moral and economic failing that we need to correct. To begin to do so, we need to:

  • Expand the use of Rep. Jim Clyburn’s 10-20-30 Plan to fight persistent poverty and invest in our most impoverished communities
  • Invest in minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs with a targeted federal fund and with loan forgiveness for minority college graduates who start businesses after college
  • Increase home ownership for Black, Latino and Indigenous families by increasing access to banking systems via postal banking and other means
  • Make home purchasing more affordable for first-time buyers with tax incentives
  • Protect the economic assets and rights of our country’s most vulnerable populations by strengthening our consumer protection agencies
  • Reduce racial segregation and housing discrimination by strengthening and enforcing HUD rules that tie federal funding to reducing racial segregation and housing discrimination laws that prevent redlining
  • Establish a national commission to study the ongoing economic effects of redlining nationwide, identify affected communities and recommend solutions

Reforming Our Criminal Justice System

Equal rights before the law are one of the foundations of our country. From disparities in police killings to discrepancies in sentences for drug use, it’s clear that our justice system treats people differently on the basis of their racial and ethnic backgrounds. To make our system more equal, we should:

  • Invest in mental health responders who can help in a greater number of emergency situations with federal grants for local and state law enforcement
  • End cash bail so that poverty is not criminalized
  • Honor Breonna Taylor with a ban on no-knock search warrants in federal drug cases and incentives for local communities to do the same
  • Ensure that when citizens’ rights are recklessly or knowingly disregarded by law enforcement, the Department of Justice can investigate
  • Create a federal ban on strangleholds and chokeholds and encourage communities to create new police training programs that emphasize de-escalation and address racial bias
  • Facilitate local and civilian accountability for law enforcement with federal grants for the creation of community oversight boards
  • Incentivize local and state governments to use independent investigations after every deadly use of force by law enforcement
  • Stop the flow of excessive offensive military equipment to police forces
  • Create a national police misconduct database
  • Modify qualified immunity so that it does not provide a blanket defense for law enforcement officers’ wrongdoing
  • Reduce the use of mandatory minimums in cases involving non-violent drug offenses and make it easier for those currently incarcerated on non-violent drug offenses to earn early release

Investing in Equal Schools

Our education system remains unequal in terms of resources and opportunities, so it’s not surprising that outcomes are not equal either. To close these gaps, we need to:

  • Close the estimated $23 billion funding gap between majority white and majority non-white school districts with federal support
  • Provide federal grants that help our poorest school districts invest in infrastructure updates so that every child goes to school with working HVAC systems, clean water, functioning internet and high-quality computers
  • Guarantee every child receives a high-quality early education by providing universal access to free pre-K or Head Start
  • Create a 21st century equivalent of the Federal Aid Highway Act for broadband access to ensure every Kentucky student has the ability to learn from home
  • Increase funding to HBCUs across the country so that they can provide even more affordable education and help expand the Black middle class

Protecting and Expanding Voting Rights

The fight for equal voting rights should not still be needed, but this year’s Court decisions and long lines in Georgia and Wisconsin make it clear it is. To continue the fight for true equality in our democratic process, we need to:

  • Nominate and approve federal judges and justices who have proven track records of protecting voting rights
  • Pass H.R.1 into law to make voting registration and voting itself easier for all Americans and to ensure former felons have the right to vote
  • Pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore key protections against racial discrimination and disenfranchisement from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that the Supreme Court struck down, and rename it the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act
  • Expand federal financial support for voting access during the pandemic and afterward
  • Establish nationwide no-excuse mail-in voting in all elections to ensure that everyone can vote easily and safely

Creating Health Care Equity

The coronavirus has made it clear just how inefficient and inequitable our health systems are. We must urgently:

  • Close the uninsured gap between white Americans and communities of color with an affordable public option, expanded Medicaid access and a lower buy-in age for Medicare
  • Begin addressing the high rates of mortality for Black mothers with investments in community health organizations that serve communities that often lack access to other health resources
  • Improve access to high-quality, healthy food with federal support for local and state initiatives
  • Increase the accessibility of telehealth
  • Protect people’s health and children’s development by identifying and addressing infrastructure failings that allow lead and other dangerous chemicals into water and homes
  • Combat environmental inequity with strengthened and enforced federal rules protecting minority communities from health hazards and with federal funding for needed clean-ups of toxic sites in neighborhoods across the country

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Education

PAID FOR BY AMY MCGRATH FOR SENATE