I recently raised a handful of questions about racial inequality and injustice, but stopped short of offering my ideas on how to move forward. Here are seven reforms that I think are imperative to pursue.
Above all, stop killing black people. Stop brutalizing black people. Stop persecuting black people. There is no “reform” needed here. Brutalizing and killing black people are conscious acts that white Americans must stop doing. White Americans need to get their shit together and change their behavior.
From there, I also would address the following, mostly in this order.
- Voting rights. Vigorously promote the right (the obligation!) to vote and make the very act of voting easy and convenient. As a resident of Colorado, I use mail-in ballots in every election and have every confidence that my ballot is safe and my vote is counted. Voting is both the minimum level of participation in our democracy and also its most fundamental idea. Vote up and down the ballot from local officials and tax questions to president.
- Universal health care. We must end the notion that an American must work in order to have decent and affordable health care. Good health has to be recognized as a basic human right that is accessible to every American regardless of work status. The pandemic has cast a harsh light: lose your job and you may lose your good health and maybe even your life.
- Criminal justice reform. We lock away too many people and offer too many incentives for private companies to make money through prisons. If mental health and social services were more widely available, then perhaps some of the prison problem would be eased. Decriminalize marijuana and revise sentencing guidelines.
- Unions. You and I have little if any bargaining power compared with massive corporations. Collective bargaining and unions bring the power of the “many” to the negotiating table. The gig economy is great, but companies end up with too much power and gig workers end up as easily replaceable parts. As part of the bargain, most unions themselves must be reformed so that they aren’t run by crooks.
- Housing. In addition to health care, housing for low-income Americans is a second fault line that is fracturing during the pandemic. We are on the brink of what may be a massive increase in homelessness due to the combined impacts of unemployment and the expiration of moratoria on evictions. Many people may be forced out of their homes and into the streets, exacerbating our already shameful problem of homelessness.
- Re-energize social services. We need a return to the notion that not every problem is solved by a police response. Mental health issues and social service agencies need to be adequately funded so that properly trained professionals are able to respond to situations that are not law enforcement in nature. When a fire breaks out, for instance, police play a secondary role and redirect traffic and keep curious onlookers away. It’s the professional fire fighters who put out the fire. Social service professionals need to be given a greater role and then allowed to do their jobs.
- Address income inequality. Multiple reforms are needed to address the income inequality that is driving too many people into poverty even though they work multiple jobs. Unions, tax reform and universal health care all are tools that can and should be used.
These steps won’t solve all of the problems that have accumulated through decades and centuries of systemic racism. They do, however, seek to remove some of the anxiety and stress that people all across our society are feeling.
As health care is extended, as housing opportunities are improved and as corporate power and greed are addressed and reversed, then we can rebuild a foundation for a society that is more equal and more just.
And, above all, white America needs to stop brutalizing and killing black people.
What do you think? Join the conversation! firstname.lastname@example.org
I took this photo of the moon and clouds as seen from my house.