Americans, Let's Talk -- And Act -- On Race and Justice

08/08/2013 12:00 pm 12:00:43 | Updated Oct 07, 2013

We knew the verdict was coming; still, the reality of it was a punch in the gut for millions of Americans who hoped that George Zimmerman's killing the unarmed Trayvon Martin would end with conviction. Instead, the "not guilty" verdict led to a roiling public conversation about the case. Many young people in particular realized that they were not safe; that racial profiling can and does affect them.

What is to be done? As a Democratic activist, I think it's important for my party to go on record as ready to talk and to act on race and justice in America. That's why in two weeks, when the Democratic National Committee meets for our fall meeting, I will submit the following Resolution:


WHEREAS the American people responded positively to President Barack Obama's call for dialogue after the Trayvon Martin tragedy regarding "the history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws -- everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws to ... the sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different;" and

WHEREAS, as the president said, "precisely because law enforcement is often determined at the state and local level ... it would be productive for the Justice Department, governors, mayors to work with law enforcement about training at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists;" and

WHEREAS, states and local governments should pursue racial profiling legislation such as then-State Senator Obama passed in Illinois, to collect data on traffic stops and other police actions and train police departments on how to think about potential racial bias and in making needed changes; and

WHEREAS, we have built bipartisan coalitions before to help reduce disparities in criminal drug laws and have seen those coalitions succeed with the Fair Sentencing Act signed by the president in 2010; and

WHEREAS, we support examining state and local stand your ground and other self-defense laws to see if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case rather than diffuse potential altercations; and

WHEREAS, too many people of color in America are subject to racial bias and, as columnist Eugene Robinson has observed, too many African American men believe that "our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent;" and

WHEREAS, with thousands of families including Trayvon Martin's we are beginning to see a substantive conversation on race and justice in our homes, communities, schools and places of worship; and

WHEREAS, as House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said at the Congressional Black Caucus Conversation on Race and Justice, "we believe in helping to expand civil rights in our community and protecting voting rights for all, to expand the reach of opportunity for every American regardless of race, to realize the ideal of equality, which is our heritage and our hope;" and

WHEREAS, we know that in order to reinforce all America's children we must eradicate the systemic bigotry against children based upon race, color, creed, nationality, gender, sexual orientation and identity, and economic status as we work to form a more perfect union;

THEREFOR BE IT RESOLVED that the Democratic National Committee support efforts at police data collection, ending racial profiling, assessing self-defense and stand your ground laws, and promoting more effective data-based solutions to crime and its root causes; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Democratic National Committee are ready to act on race and justice in America and recommend that all Americans answer this call to end racial profiling and ensure liberty and justice for all regardless of race color creed nationality gender sexual orientation or identity or economic status.

I hope you'll join me in these ongoing efforts -- and if you have colleagues on the DNC, please ask them to support the resolution. If you are an independet or a Republican, this cause is yours as well. Join or jumpstart these needed conversations so that we can make progress toward equality for all. Techies, start your crowd sourcing - we can aggregate facts and seek data-base solutions. We must not let the important work of reducing discrimination, advancing opportunity, and ending racial profiling pass us by.