READOUT: DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS FAMILY DISCUSSION ON RACE
Chairman Hakeem Jeffries and Vice Chair Katherine Clark convened a telephone meeting of the House Democratic Caucus at 4:00 p.m. ET. Members of the Caucus heard brief updates from leadership before engaging in a robust family dialogue about race in America, drawing on the insights of Bryan Stevenson and Robin DiAngelo and uplifting the lived experiences of Members from throughout the House Democratic Caucus.
In his introduction of Equal Justice Initiative founder and executive director, Bryan Stevenson, Majority Whip James E. Clyburn noted that Director Stevenson’s tireless work has brought stories and injustices, that would otherwise go unheard, to the forefront of our nation’s consciousness. Director Stevenson shared his perspective on the presumption of guilt, the dangers that Black people face and the importance of articulating this fatigue along with the truth about white supremacy, if we are to proceed with the repair of our culture, including the policing of our communities. Introduced by Vice Chair Clark, Professor Robin DiAngelo -- author of White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – illuminated the importance of recognizing that white supremacy and racism are at the foundation of our country. Dr. DiAngelo’s work reminds us that systemic racism is actively perpetrated by “nice” and “well-intentioned” people.
As Chairman Jeffries, Director Stevenson and others noted, the House Democratic Caucus stands on truly monumental shoulders in our fight for justice, including, and especially, Representative John Lewis. Rep. Lewis began the Caucus’ family discussion with a powerful reflection that while he may have “thought we were further… down the road to redeem the soul of America… we will get there. The winds are blowing; the great change is going to come.” Rep. Lewis also shared that in his years of leadership in the civil rights movement, he has yet to witness a movement like what he’s seen in the last few days: “people from diverse backgrounds coming together, bringing the good news, knowing that somehow, some way, we shall overcome.”
As Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated, the House Democratic Caucus is lucky to have the leadership of Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass. Chairwoman Bass highlighted that next week, the CBC will lead the introduction of legislation addressing police accountability. Chairwoman Bass also reminded us that “guilt, shame and embarrassment do not help move us forward,” and that as Democrats, we must be able to have these conversations. Chairman Jeffries added that “if we cannot have these conversations, as Members of Congress charged with changing things in our society, how can we expect others to do the same?”
The conversation centered on uplifting the lived experiences of Caucus Members, including Rep. Ilhan Omar, who represents the district where George Floyd was murdered; Rep. Debra Haaland, who reminds us that our nation was founded on the genocide of Native Americans; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, whose Houston district is where George Floyd was raised; and so many others. Members were encouraged to seek out the lived experiences of their colleagues, for example in this piece written by Rep. Antonio Delgado and this reflection with Rep. Joyce Beatty.
184 Members (78 percent) of the House Democratic Caucus participated in today’s family discussion. The Caucus is in recess until its next meeting on Monday, June 8 at 4:00pm ET. In the meantime, as protestors across the country continue to demand real change, Rep. Lewis reminds us to “be bold, be brave and keep your eyes on the prize.”
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