Racial Injustice a Top Priority at Texas Democratic Convention

In this file photo, Senator Warren discusses the next coronavirus relief bill via video conference on April 30, 2020. (Courthouse News Service/ Thomas F. Harrison)

SAN ANTONIO (CN) — Heavyweight Democrats took the stage on the fifth day of the Texas Democratic Party’s first-ever online convention, where leaders including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren put a spotlight on racial injustice.

“We know that our country is still a work in progress, and we have got to fight, and Texas Democrats: Justice is on the ballot in 2020,” said Kamala Harris, California’s junior U.S. senator and former presidential candidate, during her brief pep talk for Texas progressives. “And it is Texas Democrats who are gonna help win this election. You know how to do the work of turning red into blue.”

Racial injustice was front-and-center for Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts’ senior senator who also sought the Democratic presidential ticket.

“The pain, the frustration, the trauma that black people are experiencing and have experienced for generations is real. As a nation, we have some serious soul-searching to do,” Warren said.

“Racial disparities persist in wealth, education, employment, housing, healthcare — and, at a time when Covid-19 is disproportionately killing black Americans and black businesses are disproportionately going under, it can feel as if this is the way things have been and always will be. But we are not without hope,” she said.

Warren called upon fellow white Americans to “dismantle racism.”

“I also want to be thoughtful about the responsibility that I and others have as white Americans in this moment. The idea that communities of color alone are responsible for fighting against racism every single day is both misguided and can have dangerous consequences,” Warren said. “At a time when racist injustice tears us apart and a global pandemic threatens our lives and our livelihoods, it is up to us to take action, to heal our nation and to save our democracy.”

Joaquin Castro — the U.S. congressman whose identical twin brother was another contender for the Democratic nomination before Joe Biden became the presumptive nominee — also remarked on police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.

“History will have the final say and verdict on this period, but there are few times in American history where the nation collectively takes a look at itself, its character and its conscience,” Castro said. “Let’s be clear: the nation together, just about a week ago, witness a murder. We witnessed a man be stomped for almost nine minutes despite the fact that a crowd of Americans were telling a police officer to take his foot off of George Floyd’s neck.”

Castro’s comment echoed the scroll of text that kicked off the convention Friday afternoon: “We must stop shielding law enforcement from accountability, put an end to over-policing in Black neighborhoods, and stop criminalizing poverty,” read the Texas Democrats’ Facebook Live stream.

Castro wondered aloud why Floyd’s death prompted widespread protest and congressional action.

“I believe that what has changed is that we can no longer live in ignorance,” Castro said. “All of us are essentially social documentarians. But the question is, will we be in an age of action? … Can we do something to end qualified immunity, to demilitarize the police, to bring true transparency and accountability to our policing system?”

Floyd’s death featured heavily in Pelosi’s remarks at the end of the night, too.

“We come together at a very difficult time for our country. Across America, peaceful protesters are grieving for the murder of George Floyd and all the innocent Americans killed in a pattern of racial injustice and police brutality,” Pelosi said. “As we pray for the family of George Floyd, we pray for healing in our nation and healing must begin with real leadership backed up by real action.”

Pelosi also emphasized the strategic importance of the upcoming election for U.S. progressives.

“This election cycle presents an opportunity for Texas Democrats. To continue strengthening our majority, House Democrats are targeting six seats in Texas where Republicans are running for the exits,” Pelosi said.

Hakeem Jeffries, chair of the U.S. House Democratic Caucus, was a rousing cheerleader for Democratic leadership Friday.

“We want to move the country forward; others are trying to turn back the clock,” Jeffries said. “Democrats will rise to the occasion because we believe in a country that provides for the poor, provides for working families, makes sense for the middle class and stands up for senior citizens.”

During her remarks, Warren also shared four broad policies to enhance election safety and access to the ballot during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the senior senator, the federal government and states should stop purging voters and offer online voter registration; allow mail-in ballots, extend polling hours and offer 30 days of early voting; combat disinformation and shore up election security; and provide election infrastructure to states and help maintain sanitary polls.

In addition to the high-profile speeches, representatives and experts hosted panels Friday discussing strategies for flipping the Texas House of Representatives and sessions interviewing congresswomen and the Democratic leaders of the state’s House and Senate.

The Texas Democrats’ virtual convention kicked off Monday with a number of panels on health care policy. The convention, which draws to a close Saturday evening, has also honed in on voting rights, liberals’ strategies for activating minority voting blocs and their plans for ending mass incarceration.

Biden is slotted to address the Texas Dems on Saturday, the last day of the convention.

“Together we can deliver a better future with affordable healthcare for all Americans, with job security for every hardworking family and with a strong democracy that works for the people,” Pelosi said. “Onward to victory.”

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