Drowned Out by the Tea Party Hype: Progressive Voices

This past weekend, hundreds of experts on racial justice gathered to talk about how race will -- and should -- factor into the progressive agenda, the midterms and more.

Van Jones at the Facing Race Conference (Brian Palmer)
Van Jones at the Facing Race Conference (Brian Palmer)

The great myth about health care is that if we can just somehow close the economic gap for coverage, the racial gap will close. The research shows that [to be] wrong. So our conversation both around race and around nationwide health care has to be about how rising tides don’t in fact lift all boats, and how that has never been true in history. Doctors view patients from stereotypical lenses regardless of how progressive they may profess to be outwardly.

There is 15 years of research that shows the bio-cumulative impact of discrimination on [the black and brown body]. The fact that African-American women with college degrees have higher infant-mortality rates than white women who drop out of school after eighth grade [says a lot]. That isn’t about coverage. That isn’t about occupational status. That is about something else.

That is about race-specific injuries. We have to insist that the race-specific injuries that continue to exist be part of that conversation. I just want to make sure we’re connecting the dots between class and race and not assuming that one is the other, because they’re not. They’re connected, but they’re different. 

Rinku Sen on why the fight for racial justice and the struggle for justice for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community are linked:

We just completed the Better Together study, where we surveyed racial-justice organizations about how they deal with LGBT constituencies and issues. I think the first thing that really sucked me in about that study was that there are millions of LGBT people of color in our communities. If you are a racial-justice organization and you claim to support people of color, there are gay people, trans people and lesbians in that community. There are groups that say, well, we’re Asian, so we don’t work on gay issues. Or we’re an economic-justice organization and we don’t work on gay issues. Well, gay issues are Asian, economic-[justice] and criminal-justice issues.

The people who are most affected by “Don’t ask, don’t tell” are black women in the military. Whatever you think about the U.S. military, it is a key economic factor for people of color, and we have to be able to protect their rights. In almost every issue that a racial-justice organization works on — whether it’s police brutality, workplace discrimination or housing — I can guarantee that if you really studied it, LGBT people of color are among the most vulnerable people affected by it. It is the job of racial-justice organizations to take care of our people.

Lynette Holloway is a Chicago-based writer. She is a former New York Times reporter and associate editor for Ebony magazine.

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