To Freedom

June 18, 2020

Commemorating the promise of equality on Juneteenth.

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

Juneteenth and the Fight for Justice

This year’s Juneteenth comes at a critical moment in our nation’s history; a global pandemic continues to disproportionately take Black lives and shutter Black-owned businesses, and protestors worldwide are condemning violent policing systems that have targeted Black communities since slavery. Just as emancipation was a delayed reality for the enslaved people of Texas, true equality is unrealized for Black Americans today, as Roosevelt Senior Fellow Sandy Darity and A. Kirsten Mullen explain in a Teen Vogue op-ed. “Today’s racial injustice and inequality, including the astonishing racial wealth gap, originated with the unfulfilled promise of 40 acres. The payment of this debt is feasible and at least 155 years overdue,” they write. “The goal is equality—if we act together. On this Juneteenth, in honor of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and all those memorialized by the movement for Black lives, let us collectively say enough is enough.”

  • A plan for reparations: On NPR’s Morning Edition, Darity describes the reparations proposals in his and Mullen’s new book, From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the 21st Century. “We feel strongly that direct payments must be a major component. We have talked about support for education, support for entrepreneurial activity, some resources that go to historically black colleges and universities. But the preponderance of the funds must go to individual recipients. And they must go in such a way that we, in fact, eliminate the racial wealth gap. That’s the big objective of the reparations project.”
  • The racial wealth gap: “Just one way to achieve justice, as I’ve outlined in a recent law review essay, is to focus on outcomes rather than means, with a focus on closing the racial wealth gap. For example, reparations could mean that the federal government could enlist several programs and agencies at once, intended to eliminate the racial wealth gap,” Roosevelt Fellow Mehrsa Baradaran writes for the American Prospect. “The racial wealth gap has deleterious effects on black communities in practically every domain: environmental impact, education, credit availability, housing, and policing. Thus, a response must be multifaceted.” Read on.

Centering Blackness

“Anti-Blackness is the foundational architecture of the rules that maintain racial oppression and economic exclusion today, so we need a new approach to reassess and reimagine the rules, policies, and narratives that uphold it,” Anne Price (Insight Center for Community Economic Development President), Jhumpa Bhattacharya (Insight Center Vice President of Programs and Strategy) and Dorian Warren (Community Change President and Economic Security Project Cochair) write for Medium. “Centering Blackness and the experience of Black people is a framework that allows for possibilities of redemption, reconciliation, and transcendence. It allows us to envision and build a world where anti-Blackness does not exist and work toward tangible solutions to benefit all Americans.” Read on.

Black LGBTQ+ Lives Matter

Last weekend, an estimated 15,000 people participated in the Brooklyn Liberation march for Black transgender lives—which are disproportionately harmed by police violence and health care discrimination and stolen by murders the American Medical Association describes as an “epidemic.” Until Monday’s historic Supreme Court ruling, they—and all LGBTQ+ people—could also be fired solely for their identity in more than half of US states. The prohibition of workplace discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals is a massive (and long overdue) leap forward for civil rights and worker power. Supported by the language of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it’s also a reminder that equality requires intersectionality.

10 Ideas for Student-Powered Change

This week, the Roosevelt Network released its 12th annual 10 Ideas student policy journal, which features the research and policy proposals of students across the country. As Roosevelt Network National Director Katie Kirchner writes in the journal’s opening letter, “the policies in this journal were written during the fall of 2019—before the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—but reflect an urgency that has only heightened in the time since their writing.” Among this year’s ideas: increasing legal representation for asylum seekers in Texas and people facing eviction in South Bend, Indiana. Read more.

What We’re Reading

The Supreme Court’s Landmark LGBTQ Rights Decision, Explained in 5 Simple Sentences – Vox

An American Spring of Reckoning – The New Yorker

COVID-19 Changed How We Vote. It Could Also Change Who Votes. – New York Times

The Case for Capitalizing the B in Black [feat. Roosevelt’s Anne Price] – The Atlantic

Activists Are Pushing to Make Juneteenth a National Holiday. Here’s the History Behind Their Fight – TIME

The Systemic Racism Black Americans Face, Explained in 9 Charts – Vox

It Didn’t Have to Be Like This – The Atlantic