Defend Black Life

June 5, 2020

The system won’t reform itself.

The Roosevelt Rundown is an email series featuring the Roosevelt Institute’s top stories of the week.


The murder of George Floyd, and the historic nationwide protests that followed, has given renewed momentum to the fight against anti-Black police brutality. Against the backdrop of a global pandemic that has exacerbated health, wealth, and housing inequities for Black people, the message is clear: We must dismantle the rules that devalue Black life. “To fight injustice is to confront it; to confront it, we must reckon with the choices, both implicit and explicit, of our past and present,” Roosevelt Managing Director of Communications Kendra Bozarth writes in a Roosevelt statement. “Inequality today—most notably being the loss, and too often the theft, of Black lives—is rooted in centuries of racial exclusion and disenfranchisement. And any effort to address the racial inequality embedded into our society must also account for the racial exclusion built into our economics, politics, and policymaking.” As Rutgers University professor Brittney Cooper said, “Immediate freedom is what we want. Gradualism does not serve us.”

  • Another angle: “We are at a pivotal point in our society where an optimistic outcome would be one where we bend towards justice—or we may bend towards something not akin to justice, like fascism,” Roosevelt Fellow Darrick Hamilton tells the Financial TimesRead on.

The Imperative of Reparations

“Ultimately, respect for Black Americans as people and as citizens—and acknowledgment, redress, and closure for the history and financial hardship they have endured—requires monetary compensation,” Roosevelt Senior Fellow Sandy Darity and folklorist A. Kirsten Mullen write in a new Roosevelt report. Comprehensive reparations paid by the US government, they argue, would give the descendants of enslaved people an inheritance that was properly theirs all along. And there are American precedents for reparations, including 9/11 and Sandy Hook victim funds. Read more, and listen to Darity discuss protests, police brutality, and COVID-19 on WUNC’s Tested.

Rewrite the Racial Rules

Overcoming structural racism means changing the policies that uphold it. Dive deeper with recent Roosevelt research and analysis.

Don’t Fixate on the Racial Wealth Gap: Focus on Undoing Its Root Causes by Anne Price

The “Double Gap” and the Bottom Line: African American Women’s Wage Gap and Corporate Profits by Michelle Holder

How the Black Panthers Paved the Way for New Progressivism by Naomi Zewde

Structural Racism Is Exacerbating the Coronavirus Pandemic for Black People—Especially Black Women by Kendra Bozarth and Angela Hanks, for Ms. Magazine

Will We Face Depression-Era Job Losses? Let’s Not Find Out by Angela Glover Blackwell and Darrick Hamilton, for the New York Times

What We’re Reading

[Roosevelt’s] Joseph Stiglitz Says Government Stimulus Programs Have Failed American Workers – CNBC

Hourly Employees Should Be Represented on Walmart’s Board of Directors [by Roosevelt’s Lenore Palladino] – CNN

The Anger Behind the Protests, Explained in 4 Charts – Vox

The Double Standard of the American Riot – The Atlantic

How Curfews Have Historically Been Used to Restrict the Physical and Political Movements of Black People in the US – Washington Post

11 Things to Do Besides Say “This Has to Stop” in the Wake of Police Brutality – HuffPost

An Essential Reading Guide for Fighting Racism – BuzzFeed News