In a Sunday speech on racial inequality, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called for broad policing reform — including de-escalation training and body cameras for all police officers — and likened the current Black Lives Matter movement to the civil rights movement that won black Americans the right to vote in the 1960s.
"None of us can ignore what is happening in this country. Not when our black friends, family, neighbors literally fear dying in the streets." Warren said. "This is the reality all of us must confront, as uncomfortable and ugly as that reality may be. It comes to us to once again affirm that black lives matter, that black citizens matter, that black families matter."
In the address, a copy of which was provided to The Washington Post prior to her delivery, Warren draws direct parallels between the civil rights movement and the current anti-police-brutality movement, and it sought to link issues on economic inequality with systemic racism. She traces racial economic inequality, citing inequities in the housing system, as well as decrying restrictions to voting rights.
"Economic justice is not — and has never been — sufficient to ensure racial justice. Owning a home won’t stop someone from burning a cross on the front lawn. Admission to a school won’t prevent a beating on the sidewalk outside," Warren declared. "The tools of oppression were woven together, and the civil rights struggle was fought against that oppression wherever it was found — against violence, against the denial of voting rights and against economic injustice."
Warren's address, delivered at the Edward Kennedy Institute in Boston, was perhaps the most full-throated endorsement to date by a federal lawmaker for the ongoing protest movement, and it drew immediate praise from some of the most visible activists.
"Senator Warren's speech clearly and powerfully calls into question America's commitment to black lives by highlighting the role that structural racism has played and continues to play with regard to housing discrimination and voting rights," said DeRay Mckesson, a prominent activist who said he hopes to meet with Warren to further discuss racial injustice. "And Warren, better than any political leader I've yet heard, understands the protests as a matter of life or death — that the American dream has been sustained by an intentional violence and that the uprisings have been the result of years of lived trauma."
Born out of the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., after the police shooting of Michael Brown last summer, the current protest movement has upended the efforts of Democratic presidential candidates to reach out to black voters. The three candidates have faced protests and interruptions at some of their campaign events. Both former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have met with some of the most visible activists, and former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mckesson have agreed to meet soon.
The activists have called for a host of police reform measures, including body cameras, de-escalation training, special prosecutors in cases of police killings and a review of police union contracts.
"It is a tragedy when any American cannot trust those who have sworn to protect and serve," Warren said. "This pervasive and persistent distrust isn’t based on myths. It is grounded in the reality of unjustified violence."
This is exactly what we needed to hear from Hillary, Bernie and O'Malley, and haven't so far: somebody in the Democratic Party finally admitting full stop that police violence against black lives is part and parcel of America's continuing structural racism, racism designed to denigrate those lives as something less than American, less than human, somebody finally saying police are the problem, and not blaming the victims of this deadly brutality.
The most important part of Warren's speech was separating economic justice from racial justice. Hillary Clinton and especially Bernie Sanders still refuse to separate the two, still buying into the proven fallacies of black respectability politics, that black people have to "act a certain way" in order to somehow avoid structural racism that exists all around us, that we have to be "one of the good ones" or we somehow deserve getting shot and killed by police, and that if we "behave" that we'll somehow not be singled out for summary execution.
If Senator Warren finally forces the Democratic candidates to confront this fantasy head on and put the blame on the nation's police departments, to start national police reform, that will be a start. She at least understands this and more importantly isn't afraid to say it. There need to be more white voices saying this.
If she announced her candidacy, of the Democrats running I'd be very inclined to support her.