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1. Racial justice
Discussions surrounding police brutality, mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline have all been brought to the political forefront as movements like Black Lives Matter fight to shed a much-needed light on what plagues the black community. This is the Civil Rights Movement of this era, and how any presidential candidate decides to address the issues speaks volumes to how interested they are in actually tackling these problems.
While both Democratic front-runners have been vocal about supporting prison reform, including putting an end to mass incarceration, reforming minimum mandatory sentences and ending the private prison system, Hillary Clinton’s connection to her husband’s Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act — which very well helped to spawn the era of mass incarceration when it was signed back in 1994 — calls into question the veracity of these recent claims. And Sanders isn’t innocent either, he voted for that bill too. Also, it should be noted that, while these candidates claim that integrating ex-convicts who are released back into society should be a main priority, there has been no succinct plan outlined by either candidate as to how precisely that would happen.
2. Voting rights
From America’s inception, attempts to thwart black access to political spaces by way of voting prohibition, has remained stubbornly constant. After black slaves won the right to personhood, and thus the ability to vote, Jim Crow Laws made black voting disenfranchisement legal by imposing various restrictions including literacy tests, poll taxes, property ownership requirements and grandfather clauses that made it practically impossible for many blacks to vote — especially those from southern states. Though these restrictions were challenged by the Civil Rights Movement, which put pressure on the federal government to protect the rights of African-American voters, many tactics used to suppress black voting are still used to this very day — like the voter ID laws that many argued were being used to disenfranchise minorities and the poor in the last 2012 election.
Our next president must specifically address ways to ensure that the black, minority and poor right to vote will be protected. If voted into office, Hillary Clinton announced plans to automatically register eligible 18-year-olds to vote and also bolster crucial provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Bernie Sanders also finds merit in restoring aspects of the Voting Rights Act. He also wants to automatically register voters and he believes Election Day should be made into a national holiday.
3. Subprime mortgage crisis relief
Across the United States of America, black homeowners were disproportionately affected by the foreclosure crisis that swept the nation like a hurricane back in 2007, taking more than 240,000 black homes with it. Multiple reports have now found that major banks were purposely giving people of color subprime mortgages, even to borrowers who would’ve qualified for better loans, resulting in major wealth losses for the black community when the entire thing collapsed.
Any presidential candidate hoping to gain black support must strongly support subprime mortgage crisis relief initiatives, which could potentially keep thousands of people from losing their homes. These initiatives would also offer services to those who have already lost their homes as a result of these discriminatory, racist and unfair banking practices.
While Bernie Sanders has taken a strong stance against the banking executives responsible for the 2008 crash, he has not laid out any specific goals to address the subprime mortgage crisis problem. In 2007, Hillary Clinton revealed plans to combat the effects of the financial crisis, calling for a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures and a five-year freeze on the interest rates of adjustable rate mortgages. However, neither of these candidates have adequately addressed how those who lost their homes to these unfair practices should be recompensed.
4. Reproductive rights
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women are five times more likely than white women and two times more likely than Hispanic women to have an abortion. One of the major reasons why? Money, of course. As already highlighted, poverty and income inequality remain rampant in the black community, making it incredibly difficult for black women to gain access to proper and consistent healthcare — and by extension, birth control.
While both candidates support women’s reproductive rights and even stress the importance of protected access to these resources for women, neither have specifically addressed the issues affecting black women.
5. The wealth gap and income inequality
The wage gap and wealth gap in America is abhorrent. Per the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics 2013 December Report, white men have a weekly median earning of $844 compared to $644 for black men. And black women have the lowest median incomes, earning $606 compared to white female earnings of $722. Conservative estimates put the wealth gap between white and black families at an astounding $100,000.
Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders advocate for an increased federal minimum wage — though each party supports different numbers ($12 and $15, respectively). However, neither have adequately addressed the race-based income and wealth gap.
6. The death penalty
Though only accounting for 12-13% of the population, black inmates make up 34.6% of the prisoners executed in the United States of America since 1976 and 41.69% of the current death row population. These racial disparities point to the deep-seated systemic race issue that plague both society at large and the legal/justice system.
While black people can be for or against the death penalty, the fact that black people are disproportionately executed compared to their white counterparts must be taken into account by our next president. Hillary Clinton currently backs the death penalty, while Bernie Sanders stands firmly against it, but neither candidate has addressed the racial disparities persistent in the punishment.