June 02, 2020

Harris: We Have Yet To Fulfill That Promise Of Equal Justice Under Law

Full Video of Harris’ Remarks

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Tuesday joined Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), along with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), in addressing the ongoing protests for equal justice for Black Americans. Harris and the senators also made a point to condemn President Trump’s failure to meet the needs of the crisis, including his decision to tear-gas peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park in Washington D.C. for a photo op yesterday.

Key Excerpts:

  • America is raw right now. Her wounds are exposed. The reality of it is that the life of a Black person in America historically, and even most recently with Mr. Floyd, has never been treated as fully human.
  • The people protesting on the street are protesting understanding that we have yet to fulfill that promise of equal justice under the law. And there is a pain that is present that is being expressed in their constitutional right to march and to shout.
  • It is time that we say that bad cops are bad for good cops. It is time that we say that one should not be subjected to the indignity of being told to get on your knees and put your hands behind your head, simply because you are walking while Black. And it happens every day in America. There's not a black man I know, be he a relative, a friend, or a coworker, or colleague, who has not been the subject of some form of racial discrimination at the hands of law enforcement, not one I know.
  • This is happening at a moment in time, where we have a so called commander in chief, who also has the title of President of the United States, who I promise you will never speak the words Black Lives Matter. Well, they do.
  • It’s 30 years after Rodney King, and the chants and the marches and the songs are about the same issue that we were marching for back when my parents did in the 60s and when we did after Rodney King 30 years ago. So, now's the time to act.

A full transcript of Harris’ remarks can be found below:

HARRIS: Senator Booker said it. In the last couple of days, I've been saying America is raw right now. Her wounds are exposed. The reality of it is that the life of a Black person in America historically, and even recently with Mr. Floyd, has never been treated as fully human. And it is time that we come to terms with the fact that America has never fully addressed the systemic racism that has existed in our country. That's just a fact.

And so, the people protesting on the street are protesting understanding that we have yet to fulfill that promise of equal justice under the law. And there is a pain that is present that is being expressed in their constitutional right to march and to shout.

Like Senator Booker, I am a child of parents who marched and shouted in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. I would not be here as only the second Black woman elected to the United States Senate were it not for those folks who marched and shouted for justice. I would literally not be here were it not for those folks who took to the streets. My parents had their stories of how the police returned on the on the marches, but they still marched and it was their march that laid the path for me to be here today, to speak at this moment, and to speak to this moment.

And as a former prosecutor, a profession I chose because I also growing up the way I did knew how law enforcement had a long history of enforcing laws indiscriminately, and often based on race, and racism, that's why I chose to become a prosecutor.

And I can say, with full certainty that it is time that the leaders in this United States Senate, in this United States Congress, take action to reform a criminal justice system that for far too long, has been informed by systemic racism and by racial bias.

It is time that we say that bad cops are bad for good cops. It is time that we say that one should not be subjected to the indignity of being told to get on your knees and put your hands behind your head, simply because you are walking while Black. And it happens every day in America. There's not a black man I know, be he a relative, a friend, or a coworker, or colleague, who has not been the subject of some form of racial discrimination at the hands of law enforcement, not one I know.

And I'm talking about people at every level of life, including people who graduated, Harvard and Stanford and you name it. And the only thing that is common among them is that the color of their skin is black. That's why the people are marching in the streets.

And the reality is that racism in America is bad for everyone. Racism is bad for everyone. Racism against Black folks, and Latinos, and Asians, and our native brothers and sisters, it's bad for everyone. So, this is a moment in time where we have to address this. And we have to address it sadly, in the context of a pandemic, that has also laid bare, long standing disparities in our public health system, in our education system, in our economy based on race.

This is happening at a moment in time, where we have a so called commander in chief, who also has the title of President of the United States, who I promise you will never speak the words Black Lives Matter. Well, they do.

So, this is a moment in time where this co-equal branch of government has a responsibility to stand for the principles of those words that are etched in that marble building across the street, "equal justice under law."

And to do it in a number of ways, understanding that the policing issue is the tip of the iceberg. It is, underneath it is also these issues of long-standing racial disparities based on housing, based on education, based on public health. But right now, this is the moment in time to address the issue of policing.

And so, the package of bills that Senator Booker and I and so many of our colleagues are pulling together is specifically to address that, because it must be addressed. It is a pervasive issue.

And it's 30 years after Rodney King, and the chants and the marches and the songs are about the same issue that we were marching for back when my parents did in the 60s and when we did after Rodney King 30 years ago. So, now's the time to act.

Leader Schumer, I thank you for your leadership of our caucus and your leadership as a great American leader on an issue that has too long plagued us and that we have the power to address. Thank you.

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