Resisting the Rollback: CBC Congressional Priorities in the Trump Era
Rep. Cedric Richmond
United States Congress
2nd Congressional District, Louisiana
Over the course of the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald J. Trump posed one question to the African-American community time and time again: “What do you have to lose?” In fact, African Americans have a lot to lose under a Trump administration, as demonstrated by his personnel decisions, budget blueprint, and stated policy agenda. From appointing an attorney general with a hostile record on issues of justice, equality, and civil rights, to proposing massive cuts to programs of critical importance to the most vulnerable in our communities, this president has made it clear that he intends to roll back the progress we have made in recent years, particularly under the leadership Barack Obama, our nation’s first Black president.
But we are not going back.
As chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), I stand on the shoulders of civil rights giants who fought and died to get us where we are today. To honor their sacrifice, we must keep up the fight. The CBC will continue to serve as the “conscience of the Congress,” a role the Caucus has played since its founding almost 50 years ago. During the 115th Congress, we will focus on engagement, entrepreneurship, and equity.
Members of the CBC collectively represent some 78 million Americans, including 17 million African Americans. Together, we give them, and other vulnerable communities, a voice in Congress. Since the election of President Trump, we have heard from countless constituents, friends, and family members concerned about how this administration will impact their daily lives—their voices must be heard by this administration and its allies. That is why the CBC will host events on Capitol Hill, such as forums, briefings and roundtables, to provide a platform for those whose concerns would otherwise go unheard. Equally important, members of the CBC will engage communities where they are, in the districts we serve and beyond. For example, we recently launched a national tour of Historically Black Colleges and Universities called “CBC on the Yard.” This will present a unique opportunity for members and millennials to learn from one another. The goal of the tour is to listen, engage, and mobilize the next generation of Black leaders. The CBC will prioritize engagement to marginalized communities to better represent the millions of Americans who feel they do not have a voice to champion their interests in Washington.
To prepare for the future, we must understand our past. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched on Washington more than 50 years ago, he was not just fighting for freedom and equality. He also marched for jobs. Sadly, the economic disparities we faced then are the same ones we face now. The racial wage and wealth gaps in America are worsening, with Black Americans at levels of net worth that are 1/10 the net worth of white Americans. To advance the Black community in the 21st century, we must finally address these historic economic disparities and create opportunities to lift all Americans out of poverty and into the middle-class and beyond. That is why the CBC will work with organizations like the National Urban League to promote Black entrepreneurship and business development. Black entrepreneurs have higher levels of wealth and wealth mobility than Black non-entrepreneurs. Creating opportunities to start and grow Black businesses will not only help those entrepreneurs, but will also help the African-American community through job creation and increased revenues. The CBC will fight for economic justice for disadvantaged businesses and the workers they employ to continue the legacy Dr. King passed on to our generation.
The Constitution guarantees every man, woman, and child equal protection under the law, but the civil protections this document affords to all Americans are not afforded to Black Americans equally. We have come a long way from slavery, Black Codes, Jim Crow, and Bloody Sunday, but African Americans continue to face racism and discrimination that result in disparities across a wide range of issues, from equal access to a quality education, to police brutality and voter suppression.
The CBC will continue its decades-long mission of forming a more perfect union by fighting for justice and equality for all Americans. The CBC will continue to fight to expand, not restrict, access to the ballot for all Americans. The CBC will continue to fight to reform our criminal justice system from end-to-end, including policing reform, prisoner reentry support, and every facet in between. The CBC will continue to fight for major investments in the public school system to ensure every American has equal access to a quality education. The CBC will continue to fight for workforce development training that prepares hardworking Americans for the economy of the future. The CBC will continue to fight for principles of humanity and decency that require every American to have access to affordable, quality healthcare. And the CBC will continue to fight to ensure that anyone, and everyone, living in America has equal access to clean air, water, and soil.
For almost 50 years, members of the Congressional Black Caucus have been at the forefront of issues of critical importance to African Americans, from economic empowerment, to justice and civil rights. Our collective efforts have echoed through the halls of Congress and brought progress and change to millions of Americans. Together, we will remain in the struggle and continue the work of those who came before us by presenting bold solutions to advance Black families in the 21st century.