BOSTON — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Tuesday that white Americans need to be asking what they’re doing “every day to dismantle a system” that has favored them at the expense of Black people for generations.
“We cannot simply be allies. We must be anti-racists,” Warren said.
Warren addressed the protests that have been raging for days in cities across the country on a call with business leaders from the New England Council. She had joined the council to discuss her priorities for the next round of coronavirus relief from Congress.
Slated to begin not long after she spoke, protest groups were gathering near Franklin Park and on Boston Common to demand justice for George Floyd, the unarmed Black man killed in Minneapolis while in police custody, and to call out police brutality.
“What’s happening is the result of racist violence and white supremacy that continues to plague this country and we need to be frank about this,” Warren said. “The racist violence that killed George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and far too many Black men and women, it’s not new in America and we as a nation, and as a human family, have some serious soul searching to do.”
Warren did not mention President Donald Trump’s response to the protests, or his insistence that he would deploy the military if states can’t keep the peace on their own. Instead, the Cambridge Democrat called for a justice system that “focuses less on locking people up and more on investing in communities so that we can lift people up.”
She also said racial disparities in health care, education, employment and housing must be rooted out.
“I believe that this is a moment when white Americans must look with all justice loving people and come together to ask what we’re doing every day to dismantle a system that has benefited white people while undervaluing and harming Black people,” Warren said.
Among the priorities Warren listed for the next phase of financial relief from Congress, support for state and local government landed high on her list.
“The next package must, I underline must, include financial support for states and municipalities, something the entire Massachusetts delegation and I are completely all in and fighting for,” Warren said.
Warren described the situation facing states as two-fold: a loss of revenue and added expenses to react to COVID-19.
“They’re in the worst of all situations. I’m talking to mayors around Massachusetts who say their first line of layoffs could be 20 percent of their workforce. When you’re in an economic depression or recession, the last thing you want is local government laying people off,” Warren said.
She also listed her “Essential Workers Bill of Rights,” which includes hazard pay for frontline health workers, and support for higher education, research, mental health and a $50 billion child care “bailout” as critical to helping the economy recover.
“What we’re trying to do is stabilize the child care market,” Warren said. “The way I see it, child care is critical infrastructure, just like transportation, and we should think of it that way. Parents can’t go back to work without reliable and affordable child care and without emergency funding much of the child care centers, many of them are going to close their doors not just temporarily, but forever.”
Many of Warren’s initiatives found their way into the latest $3 trillion House relief package, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called a “totally unserious bill.”
“We need to make sure that Senate Republicans come to the table and we need to make sure this next package includes the kinds of values that are essential to helping working families,” Warren said, without being specific about how Democrats could make that happen.
Warren also said she was prepared to fight McConnell over voting by mail, though she hoped Democrats and Republicans could come together on what she said should be a bipartisan goal of making voting safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
State lawmakers are preparing to vote this week on a package that would direct Secretary of State William Galvin to mail applications for 2020 ballots to vote by mail to every registered voter this summer.
Warren said there’s money in the House relief package to support state efforts like this, as well as to help finance the Post Office.
“If we have to fight Mitch McConnell on it in the Senate then we will fight him on it, but we need to have that showdown and we need to have it now because we need those procedures in place yesterday, not delaying until after the November election is over,” Warren said.