Like many, I was both angry and sad when I learned that provisions of the Safe Communities Act were not included in the final budget deal.
These provisions would have protected due process, prevented local and state law enforcement agencies from enforcing federal immigration law, and blocked any registry on the basis of race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, nationality, citizenship, ethnicity, or age.
In the wake of this loss, I’m enormously grateful to two dear friends, Dr. Ousmane Power-Greene and Dr. Vijay Prashad, for joining me in a discussion about racism and xenophobia and how we battle it at the State House.
We spoke for just under two hours. Our conversation was rich and far reaching and I’m compelled to share a few important highlights:
- Vijay opened the conversation noting the gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the threats we all face due to chronic disenfranchisement, especially within communities of color. Our conversation prompted me to draft my own thinking on voting rights at the State level. There’s a tremendous amount we can do, including passage of legislation this session mandating Automatic Voter Registration.
- We discussed our schools and the funding challenges they face, which disproportionately burden and undermine students from chronically poor or low-income families. Ousmane and Vijay also raised the many ways that students of color are disproportionately suspended and/or disciplined and the connection to the school to prison pipeline in the Commonwealth.
- And toward the end, our conversation led us to a place where Ousmane talked about a new edict for those like me seeking elected office. We called it the “You can’t throw your hands up in the air and pretend you don’t have power” mandate. What that means is that everyone in or seeking elected office must use the power of their office or race to the fullest. We can’t side step or punt our responsibility to act. These times demand that courage and single focus. And they demand that we enter government hell bent to make it work in the best interest of every single person, not just a narrow few. And, most importantly, it demands that we never yield to fear.
This is our revolution from within.