When we think about black history, we rightly use it as an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of African Americans to our nation. We honor scientists and entrepreneurs, artists and activists, public servants and individuals from all walks of life. We remember centuries of heroes who have broken down barriers of inequality — from those who shed blood for abolition and civil rights to today’s young people who made the election of Barack Obama possible and who continue to assert the fundamental truth that our black lives matter.
But we cannot be content with simply recollecting on the progress we’ve made. Black History Month is also an opportunity to recognize that our journey toward racial equality is far from complete. It’s a chance to confront the fact that the echoes of slavery still reverberate throughout our society.
Despite our great forward strides, systemic discrimination persists in our nation. We
see it in courtrooms and classrooms, in doctors’ offices and job interviews, at traffic stops and awards ceremonies, in the air we breathe and the water we drink. And we see it in the places we can and can’t live due to residential segregation. For far too many people, the American Dream remains out of reach.
Our people understand that Trump and his corrupt White House are not looking out for our communities. We’ve seen this in every aspect of his presidency — from his efforts to keep people of color away from the ballot box to his policies that take away resources and health care from people who need it most. It pains me every day that our children have to watch the president of the United States on live television peddle racist lies and give a platform to white supremacists.
And in perhaps the most egregious offense of them all, his education secretary continues to fight for the status quo of inequality by weakening our public schools and threatening the intellectual growth of our children. By pushing cuts to federal education and nancial aid, Betsy DeVos is effectively keeping our black daughters and sons locked out of a brighter future.
That’s why the best way to honor our black history is not to simply celebrate the progress of the past, but to continue fighting for a brighter future. From Detroit to New Orleans to Atlanta, we’ve got to combat the relics of injustice that remain. And we must continue to expand opportunity and seek equality for the black communities that are failed by this administration every day.
That’s what the Democratic Party is doing every single day. We’re working to elect leaders who truly represent our communities and fight for the issues that matter to us. And as the Democratic National Committee’s Black Caucus chair, I know that African-American voters have long been critical to these efforts.
Just look at what happened two months ago in Alabama. Black voters proved once again why they are the backbone of our party. They turned out in record numbers, not only to reject an unapologetic racist, but to build a better future for all Alabamians by electing a true leader in Doug Jones.
Our victory in Alabama is yet another example of what happens when we invest early, organize in our communities and lead with our values. The DNC knows black voters are a force to be reckoned with at the ballot box, and that’s exactly why we invested nearly $1 million to help mobilize Alabama’s African-American, millennial and faith communities.
We provided transportation to the polls for students at a number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and engaged communities through calls, door knocking and digital outreach. And we deployed dozens of our own staff and volunteers to Alabama to work with black leaders and organize voters.
Without question, Black voters are the reason Democrats won last year, and we’re the reason Democrats will keep winning in 2018.
If we want to protect our rights at the ballot box, we need to organize with Democrats. If we want to meaningfully reform our criminal justice system and law enforcement practices, we need to organize with Democrats. If we want to ensure that health care is a right, that we raise wages, create good-paying jobs and build an economy that works for everyone, we need to organize with Democrats. If we want to ensure our kids have a shot at a future on par with their white schoolmates, we need to organize with Democrats.
As proud black Americans, that’s how we honor Black History Month and that’s how we should continue to push for equality. That’s how we make a difference. That’s how we carry on the struggle to form a more perfect union.